Integrating Accessibility into the ICT Development Lifecycle: A Comprehensive Guide

October 5, 2023


In today's digital age, accessibility is not just a legal requirement but a moral imperative. The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) development lifecycle presents numerous opportunities for embedding accessibility into digital products. Inspired by the W3C Accessibility Maturity Model, this blog post aims to provide a detailed approach to integrating accessibility into each stage of the ICT development lifecycle.

Requirement Gathering: Setting the Foundation

Why It's Important

The requirement gathering stage sets the tone for the entire project. It's the phase where you outline what you aim to achieve in terms of accessibility.

How to Implement

  1. Draft Accessibility Policies: Create policies that align with WCAG 2.1 Level AA standards. These policies should serve as a guide throughout the development lifecycle.
  2. Identify Assistive Technologies: Specify the types of assistive technologies your product aims to support, such as screen readers, voice recognition software, and braille displays.
  3. Stakeholder Involvement: Involve key stakeholders, including users with disabilities, to ensure that the requirements are both comprehensive and practical.

Design and Prototyping: Visualizing Accessibility with an Accessible Brand Guide

Why It's Important

Design is where your accessibility goals start taking a visual form. At this stage, an accessible brand guide can serve as a cornerstone, ensuring that all design elements not only align with your brand but also meet accessibility standards. This is crucial for creating a cohesive and accessible user experience from the get-go, avoiding costly changes down the line.

How to Implement

  1. Create an Accessible Brand Guide: Before diving into design prototypes, establish an accessible brand guide that outlines the accessibility criteria for all visual elements, such as color contrast ratios, text sizes, and fonts. This guide should be in line with WCAG 2.1 Level AA standards and serve as a reference for all team members.
  2. Color and Contrast: Use the brand guide to ensure that all visual elements meet the minimum contrast ratios. This is not just about aesthetics; it's about making sure that users with visual impairments can easily interact with your digital assets.
  3. Text Size and Fonts: Refer to the brand guide when selecting text sizes and fonts. Ensure that text can be resized without loss of content or functionality.
  4. Keyboard Navigation: Design with keyboard navigation in mind. The brand guide should specify how interactive elements like buttons and links should appear when focused, ensuring they are easily navigable using keyboard commands.
  5. Consistency Across Teams: An accessible brand guide ensures that different teams, whether they are in-house or outsourced, are on the same page when it comes to designing accessible elements. This is particularly useful when scaling or updating digital assets.

By incorporating an accessible brand guide into the Design and Prototyping stage, you not only standardize accessibility features but also make it easier for different teams to collaborate effectively. This approach ensures that accessibility is seamlessly integrated into the design process, setting the stage for a truly inclusive digital experience.

Development: Translating Design into Code with an Accessible Component Library

Why It's Important

The Development stage is where your accessible designs are translated into functional code. At this juncture, an accessible component library can be a game-changer. It serves as a repository of pre-coded UI elements that meet all accessibility standards, ensuring that developers don't have to reinvent the wheel for each new project or page. This significantly reduces the likelihood of accessibility issues arising later, thereby minimizing rework.

How to Implement

  1. Create or Adopt an Accessible Component Library: Before diving into coding, consider creating or adopting an accessible component library that aligns with your accessible brand guide and WCAG 2.1 Level AA standards. This library should include a variety of UI components like buttons, form fields, and navigation menus, all designed with accessibility in mind.
  2. Semantic HTML and ARIA Roles: Use semantic HTML tags and ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) roles as specified in your component library. This ensures that the structure and functionality of your website are easily interpretable by assistive technologies.
  3. Evaluate Before Implementation: Before rolling out any component across multiple pages or projects, rigorously evaluate its accessibility. Make sure it complies with the guidelines set in your accessible brand guide and component library.
  4. Cross-Functional Collaboration: Developers should collaborate closely with designers and QA testers to ensure that all accessibility features are implemented as intended. This cross-functional approach is emphasized in the W3C Accessibility Maturity Model and is crucial for the successful implementation of accessibility features.
  5. Version Control: Keep your component library updated. As accessibility standards evolve, your component library should too. Version control ensures that all teams are using the most up-to-date, accessible components.
  6. Documentation: Document the accessibility features of each component in the library, providing guidelines on when and how to use them. This not only serves as a useful reference for developers but also ensures consistency in implementation.

By leveraging an accessible component library and rigorously evaluating components before widespread implementation, you can significantly reduce the amount of rework required later. This approach aligns well with the W3C Accessibility Maturity Model's emphasis on measurement and documentation, allowing for a more structured and efficient development process. It ensures that accessibility is not just bolted on but is an integral part of your development lifecycle.

Deployment and Maintenance: Ensuring Long-Term Accessibility

Why It's Important

Once your application is live, the journey towards maintaining accessibility is ongoing. New content, component changes, and third-party plugins can introduce accessibility issues if not carefully managed. This stage is vital for ensuring that your application remains compliant with evolving standards and continues to offer an inclusive user experience.

How to Implement

  1. Review All New Content and Component Changes: Every time new content is added or existing components are modified, a review should be conducted to ensure they meet accessibility standards. This is where your accessible component library and brand guide become invaluable, serving as a reference for maintaining consistency.
  2. Regular Audits and Third-Party Plugin Reviews: Conduct regular accessibility audits to identify any new barriers. This includes reviewing third-party plugins, which can often introduce accessibility issues. Make sure any new plugins align with WCAG 2.1 Level AA standards and are compatible with the assistive technologies you aim to support.
  3. Regression Testing: Whenever new functions are introduced, it's crucial to perform regression testing to ensure that these changes haven't broken any existing accessibility features. Automated testing tools can be particularly useful here, but manual testing should also be conducted for a thorough review.
  4. Ongoing Assessment: Use the W3C Accessibility Maturity Model's framework for ongoing measurement and documentation. This will help you keep track of your progress and make data-driven decisions for continuous improvement.
  5. User Feedback Loop: Keep an open channel for user feedback, especially from those using assistive technologies. Their insights can be invaluable for identifying areas that may need improvement.
  6. Update and Version Control: Just as your component library should be regularly updated, so should your live application. Ensure that you have a robust version control system in place to manage these updates without affecting the overall accessibility.

By adopting these practices, you can ensure that your application remains accessible even as it evolves. Regular reviews, audits, and testing are not just best practices; they are essential for maintaining a truly inclusive digital environment. This approach aligns perfectly with the W3C Accessibility Maturity Model, which emphasizes the importance of ongoing measurement and assessment for continuous improvement.


Integrating accessibility into the ICT development lifecycle is not just about compliance; it's about creating digital products that are inclusive and equitable. By adopting a structured approach inspired by the W3C Accessibility Maturity Model, organizations can ensure that accessibility is not an afterthought but an integral part of the development process. This not only results in products that are compliant with standards like WCAG 2.1 Level AA but also fosters a culture of inclusivity and continuous improvement.

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