Accessibility is all about providing people who have impairments with equal ability to access information, products and services. For developers, accessibility means providing websites, web tools, and software interfaces that are designed and coded so that people with impairments can use them.
ADA = Americans with Disabilities Act
National Association of the Deaf v. Harvard; NAD v. MIT
On November 8, 2019, NAD and individual Plaintiffs C. Wayne Dore, Christy Smith and Lee Nettles reached a settlement with Harvard University requiring a robust regime of captioning for its publicly available online content. (Full Story)
While the universities tried to dismiss the cases originally, in 2019 the plaintiffs and Harvard reached an agreement. The settlement required the University to add high-quality captions or transcripts to all of the video and audio content available publicly online.
The agreement included videos that are live-streamed and content on third-party platforms like YouTube. Harvard also was responsible for the Class Counsel’s motion for $1,575,000 in attorneys’ costs and fees.
Just about every business has an online presence these days, however, not all are paying close enough attention to how people with disabilities experience their website. As of 2020, The Internet hosts more than 400 million active websites.1 Any of those websites that do business in the United States are legally required to provide equal accessibility to all people following Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
With the realization that accessibility compliance is a great advantage for your company and customers, and with the increase in ADA activist lawsuits across the country, it is important to have a clear understanding why web tools and applications should be compatible with assistive technologies used by people with impairments. Some of the most common ways of meeting compliance are making sure screen readers, Braille terminals, screen magnification and speech recognition applications have clean access to your systems. Other ways would be to meet expectations for subtitles and captioning when needed. In this article we will cover why accessibility is important, compliance standards, WCAG guidelines, ARIA guidelines, and validation and screen reader tools.
The Current State of Accessibility
• 97.8% of home pages had detectable WCAG 2 failures
• 85% had low contrast
• 68% were missing alternative text for images
• 58% had empty links
• 52% were missing form labels
• 33% were missing document language
• 25% had empty buttons
These are all significant barriers to accessibility. The good news is that most of these items can be discovered using free tools. And once found, such problems are easy to fix. Correct them and you’ll be well on the way to web accessibility.
Developers also fall short on accessibility. A recent Front-End Tooling Survey of 3,005 developers found that when it comes to accessibility testing:
• 63% of developers don’t use any validation tools (they just review their code)
• Only 22% use a color contrast checker
• Only 15% use a screen reader for people with vision issues
• Only 9% use WAVE, the leading validation tool for accessibility
Set Accessibility Compliance From The Beginning
Start with accessibility compliance up front, rather than trying to retrofit it later. This will save you time and money.
Good document structure is critical for screen readers, SEO, and even for users who don’t have impairments. Be mindful of how you organize headings, page regions, ARIA landmarks, and tab/focus order.
Always use proper HTML5 syntax and controls—they are your first line of defense. If you can’t find an HTML5 element or attribute, then go to ARIA and other accessible means. The website https://www.html5accessibility.com lists which new HTML5 features are accessibly supported by major browsers.
Five Points To Consider:
Keep Headers In Order
Keep Regions in Order
Tabs Should Move From Top To Bottom
The Most Robust Tool For Automation Validation
We recommend WAVE as the most robust tool for automated validation. However it’s important to do both automated and manual validation and testing. Many issues won’t be caught automatically, such as:
- Inaccessible dropdown menu
- Insufficient visual cues
- Inaccessible CAPTCHA
- Inaccessible form validation
- Inaccessible modal window
- Inaccessible carousel
- Missing accessible table markup
- Missing abbreviation tags
- Image with incorrect/inadequate text alternative
- Link not visually distinct
- Reading sequence not meaningful
- List not marked up as such
If you publish these types of errors, they won’t be accessible to users with impairments. Manual testing, in addition to using the tools, will ensure all errors are caught.
For screen reader technology, we recommend NVDA, which is free and quite reliable. If your users use a different screen reader, such as JAWS or Voiceover, then use that one. Keep in mind:
- Screen readers are linear – the default is top to bottom, left to right. They will read the DOM and the HTML in the order it is presented.
- Screen readers have many configuration settings and customization options.
- Visually impaired users are adept at listening to accelerated readouts and memorizing keyboard shortcuts.
When testing for screen reader, try doing it without using your mouse (only your keyboard). To experience it fully, use a blindfold!
The Fastest Way To Build Software Is “Right” The First Time!
Understanding your industry is one thing. Understanding the technology you are using is another. When you read studies that tell you that 75% of projects are doomed from the beginning, it has to make you pause before signing your name to the outcome.
Consider letting our proven professionals take a look at your project. They’ve seen what can go wrong and know how to avoid costly errors.
We build custom software from start to finish. We plug into your environment with the proven expertise you need for us to work independently or in co-development. And, we bring the soft-skills that make the task enjoyable, and the experience to leave your team stronger and ready to take over.
We Bring You…
Soft-Skills For A Winning Experience
Sometimes the most critical person in the room is the one with a calm voice and the knowledge to select the right words. Bringing a development team together or presenting a clear concept for stakeholders can make all the difference between success or failure. Intertech consultants are at the top of their field. They navigate challenging decisions, guide with a confident voice, and know when to get out of the way.