Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, held every year to get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital access and inclusion. With more than one billion people with disabilities/impairments worldwide, it’s a day that deserves to be celebrated.
Although today is the 11th edition of this annual event, the effort to improve accessibility in the digital world has its roots much further back. Interest and application of accessibility have steadily grown from being on the fringes about 22 years ago when User Vision was founded. Many digital team leaders were unaware that websites could actually be designed to be usable by people with disabilities. Now most leaders of major digital initiatives are aware of the need to address accessibility and have built in some requirements for their in-house and external teams. Importantly there are clear technical guidelines and national regulations to demonstrate best practices, raise the profile and establish a legal framework for non-compliance.
Accessibility is continuously evolving within the technology landscape. The de-facto standards, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) from the World Wide Web consortium improve with each update by adding new relevant success criteria. For example, as digital became more mobile, the current version of WCAG 2.1 introduced several new checkpoints specifically to focus on the smartphone context of use. The next iteration, WCAG 2.2 will introduce nine new success criteria for improved guidance in designing for people with cognitive and learning disabilities, low vision users, those using mobile devices, and more. The latest official public working draft of WCAG 2.2 (this will open in a new window)was released on May 21, 2021, but the unofficial editor’s draft(this will open in a new window) is updated regularly. Although it remains in draft status, W3C is targeting September 2022(this will open in a new window) for official release so it’s a good idea to start becoming familiar with the new guidelines soon.
Managing accessibility - Beyond the technology
Many organisations have come to realise that a robust consistent delivery of accessible products requires more than the ability to perform a technical audit against the WCAG 2.1 guidelines. Usability testing with people with disabilities provides the clearest view of whether the process that a person needs to follow (which may be a mixture of online and offline steps) is truly usable accessibility, regardless of how well the digital interface complies with the success criteria.
Furthermore, there is the aspect of governance and managing the accessibility processes within the organisation.
- Is there the right level of accessibility knowledge in the organisation, whether it is general awareness or detailed technical implementation?
- How often are digital assets audited after they are launched to make sure the accessibility is maintained? Are they audited when the WCAG guidelines change?
- If you have 3rd party partners creating embedded modules or components, are you confident they know are well versed in accessibility? Is it something they can be responsible for delivering?
- When accessibility issues are identified, whether in development or live, is there a clear consistent process to confirming these issues and getting them resolved, or does it become a JIRA ticket with an ill-defined path to resolution?
Questions such as these are addressed further through the relatively recent Standard ISO 30071-1 which specifically speaks to accessibility governance. Although many of the accessibility projects we conduct are related to auditing or evaluating sites and applications, we are increasingly advising clients on this accessibility governance aspect. Because this area involves the management, training and procedures of a business, these are often our most challenging but rewarding projects.
We hope that you find a way to recognise GAAD even if it is as simple as casting a critical eye on the accessibility of your own digital products, perhaps with a high-level automatic review using tools such as the WAVE auditing tool(this will open in a new window) (being aware that it will only identify a subset of all the accessibility issues).
If you would like to discuss your accessibility ambitions or would like advice on the best way to assess and design for a more inclusive user experience, please do contact us. We have a range of accessibility services that can help address your technical compliance or governance goals.
You might also be interested in...
What’s new with WCAG 2.2?19 July 2021
The next major iteration of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is on the way! The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is currently preparing to publish version WCAG 2.2. A Working Draft is available now which intends to better reflect the experience of people with disabilities. This article aims to help you understand the WCAG 2.2 Success Criteria and what these changes mean for your website or application.Read the article: What’s new with WCAG 2.2?
User Vision placed on Government DOS 5 Framework9 March 2021
User Vision is proud to have been awarded a place on the latest UK government-mandated agreement for Digital Outcomes and Specialists (DOS 5) Framework.Read the article: User Vision placed on Government DOS 5 Framework
2020 – The year in review25 January 2021
Lessons in surviving 2020 and preparing for the 'new normal' that 2021 brings.Read the article: 2020 – The year in review