With the Internet becoming a central fixture to most lives over the past two decades, accessibility on the web has come to the forefront with consumers and lawmakers recognizing that the digital world should be just as accessible and inclusive as the physical world.
Understandably, we’ve seen increasing regulatory and legislative developments that mandate an accessible web worldwide. In the U.S., for instance, we have Section 508, which was updated in January 2017 to require that any products the government buys are assessed against accessibility criteria and any software or websites made by the government meet that criteria.
Companies who fail to comply with accessibility standards face a number of consequences: those that don’t comply with Section 508 are susceptible to losing out on major government deals, while those that don’t meet the guidelines set forth in the Americans with Disabilities Act could be the target of a legal action – in fact, we’ve seen website accessibility lawsuits increase 177% in the U.S. from 2017 to 2018.
Why Adobe’s Accessibility Org is Adopting the CCF
While accessibility and security appear to be worlds apart, they’re actually quite similar from an engineering perspective. Like security, accessibility cannot be an afterthought and should be baked into every product from the beginning – this requires a certain expertise that often isn’t found on every product team.
One of the core projects for our security team is Adobe’s Common Controls Framework (CCF). To create CCF, we analyzed and rationalized more than 1,000 criteria and requirements for the most common security certifications, turning these into a set of security processes and compliance controls that our product operations teams can easily implement to protect our infrastructure, applications and services. It has been an immensely successful project, offering a framework and system for security to become part of the process for product teams across the company.
Now, accessibility can take advantage of this model to help ensure it too is part of the process, allowing us to execute against our accessibility goals more quickly and seamlessly.
How It Works
As we integrated accessibility into the CCF, our first action was to fold the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) into the framework. The World Wide Web Consortium produced the WCAG 2.1 in cooperation with hundreds of individuals and organizations around the globe in an effort to create a shared standard for web accessibility for people with disabilities. WCAG 2.1 is, for the most part, considered the gold standard as it addresses all current accessibility regulations.
By including WCAG 2.1 in the CCF, we’re providing a clear mechanism for executives and teams to benchmark and understand our accessibility compliance status and evaluate priorities. This mechanism coexists with security, helping ensure that accessibility is considered alongside our other most critical requirements.
Taking it a step further, the accessibility team also works closely with product teams to assist with audits, issue prioritization, design reviews, and engineering training and consultation.
What Else We’re Doing And What’s Next
Meeting the requirements of WCAG 2.1 is a big step forward, but it is just the beginning. Adobe believes that good design has the power to change the world, and that couldn’t be truer in the case of accessibility.
To help ensure that accessibility is built into products from the very beginning, we’re doubling down on accessibility and inclusion within our design organization so we can continually address more requirements that support users with disabilities earlier in the development process, enhancing accessibility for UI component libraries to help ensure that engineers can more easily address accessibility requirements.
To that end, our design organization has also introduced several mandatory training programs:
- By the end of 2019, everyone in the design organization will take a hands-on course in identifying potential accessibility issues, in addition to other issues that can exclude people from using our products equitably.
- Experience designers will be trained to document and advocate for their inclusive design decisions in their deliverables to product teams.
- Design researchers will be trained to ensure that our user research methods are more inclusive.
We intend to release our inclusive design curriculum publicly early next year, so other companies can learn from the work we’re doing in this area.
We’ve built a strong foundation in accessibility, but we’re far from finished. Adobe is changing the world through digital experiences – and for the accessibility and inclusive design teams, making those experiences available to all is our guiding goal.
Head of Accessibility