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Spring Cleaning for Accessible Content

It is springtime in Minnesota. Which means we reached a high of 88° one April afternoon, then it snowed just days later. Despite the wildly fluctuating weather, I feel the urge to purge. I’ve tossed piles of junk mail in the recycling bin. Winter sweaters will be moved to storage (soon, I hope). Other items will be given away via our local Buy Nothing group. I may not go the full Marie Kondo method with my tidying, but controlling clutter in my physical space makes me feel better, mentally. You know what else sparks joy for me? Accessible content!

Self-portrait holding a lit sparkler in the darkness with the light illuminating my face

Recently, WebAIM released their annual report on the most popular 1,000,000 home pages on the web. 96.3% of them detected WCAG 2 failures. And that’s just what automated testing found. Manual testing would likely reveal many more.

Across the one million home pages, 49,991,225 distinct accessibility errors were detected—an average of 50.0 errors per page

The WebAIM Million

Many of those pages may not be relevant anymore and could be retired. Or portions of their content are likely out of date. Clean it up! Disability and accessibility expert Sheri Byrne-Haber has a great post about this:

Sometimes the best way to make something #accessible is to get rid of it.

I wrote an article about this a while back – the very first thing accessibility leaders should think about when tackling remediation is “do we need this at all?”

– Do we need this graphic / table?
– Do we need this CAPTCHA?
– Do we need this 17 year old inaccessible report that no one ever opens
– Do we need a press release on the election of someone to the board that is no longer on the board?

Don’t pack all your content indiscriminately and move it over to the new accessible template. Go through a cleanup first, and just bring the valuable content over that your users still need.

Sheri Byrne-Haber on LinkedIn

There’s more on her website. Her blog post Starting a new accessibility remediation project? outlines helpful “approaches and prioritization that will make your end goal of an accessible website easier and cheaper.” As someone who has been involved in many, many content migration projects, I fully back this approach. The most successful ones only ported what was still purposeful. Content that has been removed doesn’t need to be remediated. Unnecessary content is a distraction. Inaccessible content can be a blocker. Slimming websites down to the essentials will reduce cognitive load, making them more usable for everyone. Ditch that carousel no one clicks through. Get rid of that busy graphic. Embrace the joys of minimalism.

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