The Web Accessibility Directive places the responsibility for accessibility on the public sector website owners – so they in turn must require the market players to offer accessible solutions. That’s why the procurement of authoring tools becomes so important if we aim for an accessible digital environment that is of benefit to everyone, particularly older adults.
Authoring tools are all around us, but when it comes to public sector websites, the content management system, CMS, may be the most important part of the equation. The CMS can make a huge difference when it comes to accessibility and therefore it is extremely important to choose a tool where functions and templates don’t create accessibility problems themselves. That sounds self-evident, however quite a lot of the tools do produce inaccessible code, particularly when the author creates complex items such as tables and forms.
However, there is another part of the CMS that is often forgotten, even though it is almost equally important: the potential of the tool to support web authors to do the right thing.
In two parallel EU-funded research projects, (FEAT and Cluster), Funka has developed accessibility features for authoring tools aiming to make it hard or impossible for the web authors to make mistakes in the first place. To use the tools for automating, prompting, informing and guiding the authors towards accessibility is much more efficient than constantly training them, testing the content and remediating mistakes afterwards.
Of course, training is important and raising knowledge and awareness when it comes to accessibility is crucial, but the sheer number of web authors who need to be trained and kept up to date throughout public sector in the EU makes it clear that training alone won’t do the trick.
The results of the projects are on the one hand a set of accessible CMS templates with built-in accessibility support, using Episerver as the model although they can be used in any tool. On the other hand, a set of accessibility features that have been test implemented in Drupal, Joomla, Umbraco, Plone, SiteVision and the editor Tiny MCE, to ensure feasibility in any technical environment. The results are free for anyone to use and further evolve.
These templates and features have the potential to greatly improve accessibility across member states and sectors. Now it’s your turn! Use the procurement process to demand your ICT supplier to offer built-in accessibility to support your web authors. Content creators shouldn’t have to be accessibility experts. The tools should serve you – not the other way around.
Make accessibility by default an award criterion, or even a minimum requirement. We know that there are market players out there providing this, so why not use it? The more built-in accessibility you ask for, the more market players will make sure to keep up or develop even better solutions.
Pushing the market towards accessibility by default in CMS has disruptive potential. Considering the enormous purchasing power of the public sector, we can make this happen, together.
Chief Research and Innovation Officer, Funka
Cluster project website: https://accessibilitycluster.com/
FEAT project website: https://www.funka.com/Feat/