Website Accessibility, Part 3: Remediate or Rebuild?

December 5, 2017
blog author


Content Marketing Manager

To​ ​fix​ ​or​ ​not​ ​to​ ​fix,​ ​that​ ​is​ ​the​ ​question….​ ​if​ ​you​ ​don’t​ ​mind​ ​my​ ​shameless misappropriation​ ​of​ ​the​ ​famous​ ​Shakespearean​ ​quandary.  

It may seem like a somewhat simple question, but it is a more serious consideration for most companies. As the earlier blogs in our website accessibility series highlight, this is not just a passing topic, but an ongoing concern for website development and developers.

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Imagine you are buying a house, with critical accessibility needs for one of the residents: do you make the necessary changes to the home, which you may like enough to consider, or do you build a home with such considerations in the blueprint?

This is, on a virtual level, the same dilemma.

Whether it is costing or branding, there may be a plethora of reasons why a business may agonize over updating or recreating their website, with advantages to be considered in both cases.

Sometimes, starting from scratch, building and developing from the ground up seems like the preferable option, ensuring that website accessibility elements are seamlessly merged into the foundations of the site. But it’s not as simple as that, evidenced by the fact that some companies prefer to repair rather than rebuild.

Well, think of it simply: if you have to meet with a specified criteria, does that make your replace or rebuild decision any simpler…

Here are the basics before you decide on remediation or a shiny new site:

  • You MUST ensure your website design follows a consistent navigation scheme across all pages, and that the menus or other navigation mechanisms are located in the same place

  • You MUST provide a page title that describes the topic or purpose of the page

  • You MUST provide structural headers to convey the structure of your page.

  • You MUST provide a text based equivalent if non-text web content is integral to understanding the editorial content (video, audio etc.).

  • You MUST ensure that all functionality is available using the keyboard alone

Also key to remember, is that there are minimum standards, additional requirements and the more desired level of website accessibility features.

So, will repairing your existing site merely meet the minimum, and potentially mean constant redevelopment, or will it be more fiscally sound to start from the ground up?

In the case of two of our clients, the University of Phoenix and University of California, it boiled down to how far from the desired accessibility their sites were.

Clearly, these elements alone provide a development dilemma, which is what has become so proactive with website accessibility compliance. Drupal 7 was designed to support the development of sites that comply with WCAG 2.0 and ATAG 2.0, and the Drupal accessibility community is deeply involved in adopting best practices in Drupal 8, both in the first instance and as they evolve.

For example, within Drupal,org, the accessibility team continues to identify, and work on improving accessibility barriers, resolving them swiftly and committing the improvements.

Having identified and resolved a number of issues in the core code of Drupal 7, the Drupal community have raised website accessibility awareness, both within and beyond their own development community. They have even added some additional support for Rich Internet Applications, by adding some WAI-ARIA support.

There have been many improvements to both the visitor and administrator sides of Drupal, denoting the commitment to website accessibility, especially:

  • Search engine form and presentation

  • Drag and Drop functionality

  • Color contrast and intensity

  • Adding skip navigation to core themes

  • Image handling

  • Form labeling

  • Removing duplicate or null tags

Again, though there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution when deciding whether to repair or rebuild your website, these considerations must be factored in.

Ultimately, there will only ever be two options in terms of  meeting website accessibility standards: repair and renovate your existing online furniture, or get a whole new design, and release a whole new website.