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Prioritizing Accessibility Issues

There are many ways to prioritize the issues found during your last accessibility audit…matrices, formulas, comparisons...all kinds of methods. Your organization may already have a process in place. If not, this blog post is for you. This post can help you get started in creating that prioritized list by using these three approaches:
  • Low-hanging fruit
  • The WCAG standards
  • Your website users

Low Hanging Fruit

Around 2016, when I was working in higher education and just getting started in the accessibility field, I came across Accessibility U on the University of Minnesota website. One of the best resources on that website is the information on the 7 Core Skills. These are easy to understand, implement, and can mean the difference between a good and a bad website experience for your users. That’s why I included them in this post. The seven core skills are:

  • Alternative text
  • Contrast
  • Headings
  • Links
  • Lists
  • Tables
  • Video and audio

Just like Accessibility U encourages its users to get started in accessibility by learning and using the 7 Core Skills, I encourage you to use these seven attributes as the first phase of prioritizing your accessibility issues. 

The WCAG standards.

Next, prioritize your accessibility issues based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) level your organization conforms to. By following these guidelines, you can identify and prioritize specific accessibility issues based on their level of impact on users with disabilities. 

To help you determine the impact level of each issue, take a look at how Deque defines impact levels:

  • Minor - Considered to be a nuisance or an annoyance bug. Prioritize fixing if the fix only takes a few minutes and the developer is working on the same screen/feature at the same time. Otherwise, the issue should not be prioritized. Will still get in the way of compliance if not fixed. Should be very infrequent.
  • Moderate - Results in some barriers for people with disabilities, but will not prevent them from accessing fundamental features or content. Prioritize fixing in this release if there are no higher-priority issues. Will get in the way of compliance if not fixed. Should be fairly common.
  • Serious - Results in serious barriers for people with disabilities and will partially prevent them from accessing fundamental features or content. People relying on assistive technologies will experience significant frustration as a result. Issues falling under this category are major problems, and remediation should be a priority. Should be very common.
  • Critical - Results in blocked content for people with disabilities and will definitely prevent them from accessing fundamental features or content. This type of issue puts your organization at risk. Prioritize fixing as soon as possible, within the week if possible. Remediation should be a top priority. Should be infrequent.

Talk to and test with your users!

A surefire way to determine which accessibility issues are causing the most pain and frustration for your users is to talk and test with your users. 

Having users describe to you or being able to observe how users with disabilities interact with your website can identify specific accessibility issues that are impacting users the most. User testing can also help identify accessibility issues that may not be immediately apparent based on the WCAG alone.

Prioritizing accessibility issues is an iterative process. It should be done regularly throughout the development process and again after the website is launched to ensure ongoing accessibility compliance.


Maggie Vaughan, CPACC
Content Marketing Practitioner