Content accessibility is a property that allows users of different physical abilities to access it in one way or another. Simply put, if a blind user cannot view a graph posted on a page, he should be able to listen to a textual description of this graph.
Why Make Content Accessible?
So, accessibility allows people with disabilities to get the information they need or perform specific actions: send a letter, place an order in an online store, fill out an application, get training, or even play games.
Easily performing these actions in everyday life, we do not even think that they can be an insurmountable barrier for someone.
At the same time, accessibility is not only about caring for people with physical impairments of vision, hearing, or motor skills. In different life situations, the possibilities of a completely healthy person can be limited for various reasons.
Let’s see what aspects of accessibility can be useful to users in a variety of life situations:
|Situation||Aspect of accessibility|
|An elderly man trying to register on the website||Adjusting the size and contrast of text on a page Clean and clear design|
|A specialist with poor eyesight does not have glasses with him||Large and visible buttons, links, controls|
|Broken computer mouse||Keyboard navigation|
|The employee cannot watch the training video on the way to work because it is noisy in the subway||Video subtitles|
|In bright daylight, the text on the monitor screen is unreadable||Ability to adjust color and contrast|
The bottom line is simple: content accessibility is critical for some users and convenient for others. A logical question arises: why are there so few projects that meet the accessibility requirements?
The fact is that the implementation of accessibility takes time, and in real life, companies tend to launch the project as early as possible in order to quickly test their hypotheses.
How to work with WCAG – Web Content Accessibility Guide
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) have several levels to keep in mind when working with it.
First level: Principles
The first level of leadership consists of four fundamental principles:
- Perceivable: The user must be able to perceive information with any of the senses. Those. the unseeing must hear, and the unhearing must read.
- Operable: There should be no action that the user cannot take.
- Understandable: The information conveyed and the way the interface is controlled must be understandable to the user.
- Robust: The transmitted information must be capable of being interpreted by a large number of aids.
4 Principles of WCAG
Second level: Guidelines
Each accessibility principle outlined at the first level is defined by guidelines – specific recommendations on what content should be in order to comply with one or another principle. For example, the “Clarity” principle includes such guidelines as “Readability”, “Predictability”, “Typing assistance”, etc.
Third level: Evaluation Criteria
Each guideline, in turn, is decomposed into evaluation criteria – specific mechanisms for the operation of the interface and content.
WCAG provides three accessibility compliance levels: A, AA, and AAA. Accordingly, the set of criteria for each level is different.
Level Four: Sufficient and Advisory Techniques
Techniques are tips on how and what to do in order to achieve the desired level of compliance. They are not required, but they can help you meet a particular accessibility principle.
For example, according to the “Perceptibility” principle, there is such a criterion:
1.1.1. All non-text content presented to the user has an equivalent text version.
In practice, this is often implemented through the alt attribute, and there is a corresponding technique: “H37: Using alt attributes on img elements”
How to test web content for accessibility
The WCAG Web Content Accessibility Guidelines have 5 requirements for implementing web content. Therefore, in order to test accessibility, we need to check that the web content satisfies all 5 requirements.
Requirement 1: Web content must conform to one of the accessibility levels: A, AA, or AAA
To fulfill this requirement, you need to evaluate the content against the criteria we talked about above. At the same time, the content must meet all the criteria of a particular level – or its alternative version must be presented that meets all the criteria.
Requirement 2: The entire page must conform to the claimed accessibility
If a piece of content does not meet all of your accessibility requirements, you cannot claim that page-level accessibility.
Requirement 3: Declared accessibility is maintained throughout the process (chains of pages)
All pages in an interconnected series of web pages must meet the stated accessibility level.
Let’s consider this requirement in the example of an online store. In order to make a purchase, the user needs to find the product, view it, add it to the cart and pay. If at least one page in this chain (for example, the checkout page) does not meet the accessibility criteria of the level you have chosen, you cannot claim that the site complies with this level.
Requirement 4: The page only uses technologies that are supported by accessibility devices
A technology is considered supported if it is supported by both the user agent (i.e., browser) and assistive technology (i.e., screen reader) at the same time.
Supported technologies include the use of alt text in pictures, the use of roles, landmarks, subtitles, etc.
If the user agent and assistive technology are using supported technologies, and the author is using the right technique, then the user with a disability will have no problem getting the information they need.
Let’s take the dialog tag as an example, which is not supported by IE. This means that if we build our message boxes and dialogs with this tag, the IE client will not support this content. Therefore, a page containing the dialog tag cannot be considered accessible.
Requirement 5: Non-intervention
Content with unsupported technology can be placed on a page, and such a page can even be recognized as meeting a certain level of accessibility, but on one condition: unsupported content must be secondary and not block access to other parts of the page.
Let’s take the same dialog tag. If it contains secondary information, and we can simply hide it for IE browser users, then such a page can be considered accessible.
In fact, this case is an exception to the second requirement, which says that the entire page must comply with a certain level of accessibility. However, there are a number of mandatory content requirements in the context of non-intervention:
1.4.2. Audio Control: If the media plays automatically for more than 3 seconds, it should have controls.
2.1.2 No Keyboard Trap: Keyboard navigation should not contain traps.
2.3.1 Three Flashes or Below Threshold: there should be no objects on the page that flash and flicker more than 3 times per second.
In practice, it may happen that your web content meets all the WCAG criteria, but due to the specifics of its work (or the specifics of the work of assistive technologies), it may end up being inaccessible to people with disabilities.
Therefore, usability testing plays an important role in accessibility testing.
For testing, you need to collect a group of people with disabilities who will try to work with the content and provide feedback. Be sure to talk to these people, and see how they work.
If you’re having trouble inviting people with disabilities, then try changing your own perception of the content. For example, when working with screen readers, you can turn off the monitor and try to work with web content, perceiving information by ear.
In addition, there are special programs for accessibility testing. The W3C offers a set of tools with which to test:
- eligibility criteria
- page contrast,
- size of text and controls,
- css styles etc
So, to test the accessibility of web content, you need:
- Conduct functional testing. If the content does not work properly, it will be inaccessible not only to people with disabilities but to all users in general.
- Check content for compliance with 5 WCAG requirements.
- Conduct usability testing of available content, taking into account different life situations.
If after usability testing it became clear that the web content does not meet the requirements of WCAG, then the first thing to do is to collect all the information about it, study it, and decide on the possibility of improvement. Employ the services of a QA company that performs Accessibility Testing
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