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WCAG In A Nutshell
Ask any project manager if a production bug blocking twenty percent of users completing purchases should be fixed and the likely answer would be likely be “Yes please – and you’re fired.”
But ask the same manager if they want to put WCAG testing in scope and often they are reluctant, providing responses like, “we’re already spending a bunch on browser and device testing.” or “just do a bit at the end.”
Yet in so doing, you may very well be excluding a greater percentage of users from your site.
The Real World
Examples of accessibility are present everywhere in the world around us - public buildings with wheelchair access ramps, designated toilets and disabled parking spots to name but a few.
It’s part of modern consciousness that we realise there are people with different needs in society and ensure where possible that we provide amenity for them.
But that’s the physical world.
Surprisingly, in the realm of technology, a sector where “new” is often everything and adaptability to change is paramount, we don’t have an equivalent provision for disabled users. Websites that are easily consumable by people with disabilities are something of a rarity. In fact, in 2011, a CAST survey of Australian websites revealed that 98 percent were not WCAG Level 2.0 compliant.
Well, What Is WCAG?
Aside from being an acronym that rolls off the tongue like a cat choking on a fur ball, WCAG stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. There are three levels at which you can meet criteria:
Level A – the most basic web accessibility features
Level AA – deals with the most common barriers for disabled users
Level AAA – the highest level of web accessibility
These guidelines provide testable statements that are technology agnostic and have graded error levels.
WCAG has four overarching principles that work hand in hand to enhance disabled users’ access of your site:
1. 1 Provide text alternatives for any non-textual content so that it can be converted into other forms people need, such as large print, braille, speech, symbols or simpler language.
1.2 Provide alternatives for time-based media. (Video, Podcasts and so on.)
1.3. Create content that can be presented in different ways (for example simpler layout) without losing information or structure.
1.4 Make it easier for users to see and hear content including separating foreground from background.
2.3 Do not design content in a way that is known to cause seizures. Flickering of around three to sixty hertz a second can invoke these.
4.1 Maximize compatibility with current and future user agents, including assistive technologies. By user agents we mean browsers across an array of devices.
Love All The People
It’s statistic time. Get ready for the bullet points.
Just under one in five Australians (18.5% or 4 million persons) reported having a disability in 2009
Almost 12 million Australians have one or more long-term eye conditions, based on self-reported data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2011–12 National Health Survey (NHS). This includes:
1.3 million with astigmatism (blurred vision)
882,000 with presbyopia (farsightedness)
450,000 with colour blindness
371,000 with cataracts
196,000 with macular degeneration
131,000 with blindness (complete and partial)
That’s a heck of a lot of people.
Add in those with hearing difficulties, motor skill impairment and cognitive issues and you have a group numbering in the millions that may encounter problems using your site in any meaningful way.
WCAG Is Win / Win
WCAG is great for social responsibility but it also makes solid business sense to avail your services to a sizeable sector of potential market. Globally Fifth Quadrant Analytics found that the disability market sector represents an annual disposable income of $1 trillion—and $544 billion in the US alone.
It’s the epitome of a win/win scenario and return on investment. By making your site WCAG compliant, you’re enabling customer take-up you would otherwise be excluded from.
Rethink Your Personas & Solutions
Information technology used to be pretty much guys and girls wearing bad rayon shirts in dusty cubicles coding in silence with the occasional manager walking past on the way to afternoon golf.
Now, marketing has integrated into tech offices, manifesting as a main driver for software goals. Read beyond the executive summary of many documents and you’ll find a lot of user personas aimed at targeting software to a specific audience’s need, typically reading something like this:
(Note: tongue firmly in cheek)
“Project Manager John is 45 and has two teenage sons and enjoys walking his Irish Setters on the weekend. John has a high degree of computer literacy. His life would be complete if only he could find a banking experience that was simple and easy to use.”
But one persona you should be coming across yet most likely aren’t is something like this:
“Cat owner Sophia, 75 has been a loyal customer with Banks Are Us for thirty years. Having recently developed macular degeneration, she wants to continue using online banking with Banks Are Us using screen reading technology.”
Your customers are getting older. It might be time to change with them.
Who Does WCAG And When?
In an ideal world, one where Melbourne has a pleasant winter, kookaburras never pinch your sausage rolls and where French fries have antioxidant superfood powers, WCAG would be a line item for discussion in any project kick-off meeting, permeating the software development cycle as a global consideration.
Let’s pretend …
Plan your pages to be accessible from the outset. Primarily this task falls into the lap of developers who can test pages as they code so the controls and functions they create will work for disabled users too. As much as we talk about WCAG Testing it all begins with WCAG Coding and developers need to be briefed on the framework before commencing.
From there, proceed as per your normal process with sprint based verifications.
It’s much better taking WCAG into consideration as development progresses than assessing on product completion and having to refactor code close to release.
Do bear in mind however that WCAG relies on content presentation so if you have a large amount of content to populate after code and test phases have completed, allow another iteration to perform a final assessment and correction if required.
What Are The Benefits Of WCAG Testing?
We’ve touched on many of the benefits of WCAG throughout but let’s sum up and throw a few more into the mix for consideration.
- You open the gates to users who couldn’t previously use your site increasing market reach and potentially share.
- You build social confidence in your brand.
- Your SEO optimisation improves as it's easier for search robots to consume.
- You gain competitive advantage over those who have not implemented WCAG standards.
- You’re helping people with older technology and slow connections utilise your site.
Once again: You’re helping people.
How Does Bugwolf Do WCAG?
Bugwolf employs a three-part process to perform WCAG testing. Initially we determine the WCAG and alert level the client wants to achieve. From there we use browser plugins such as the Wave Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool to report on the status of every page in the nominate site, capturing video of the analysis along with the provision of written reports.
Depending on requirements, we may run each page through a WCAG tailored html validator to flesh out any critical code errors.
Finally, in order to ensure full coverage, we perform a manual verification of each page against the relevant WCAG level checklist. Clients have full visibility of results and can utilised them to move towards their desired level of compliance.
Start WCAG Testing With Bugwolf
If you’d like to run WCAG testing, we’d be glad to help.
Bugwolf helps you audit your digital assets in accordance with WCAG compliance. We do this by providing flexible, on-demand access to professional UAT teams.
Existing Bugwolf clients are invited to conduct their own gamified WCAG challenges on demand. To find out more, speak to your Testing Director.
If you are new to Bugwolf and would like to learn more about how to get started, the quickest and easiest way to find out more is to Request A Free Sample UAT Audit.
How to Meet WCAG 2.0: https://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG20/quickref/
Understanding WCAG 2.0: https://www.w3.org/TR/UNDERSTANDING-WCAG20/
Wuhcag - Web accessibility for developers: https://www.wuhcag.com/web-content-accessibility-guidelines
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