Accessibility guidelines 2.1 strategy web

Addressing Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1: It doesn’t have to be a daunting affair

Author: Ian Segers

One of the topics that’s often overseen by us developers and organizations is the topic of accessibility.  In the European Union alone, there are about 80 million people that have a disability, and if you count the addition of the ageing population of the world, the need for proper software accessibility is very real.

Accessibility measures can be a daunting task given the many different disabilities and challenges one must take into account. In an effort to help companies better tackle these accessibility needs, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has put forth a great initiative named the Web Accessibility Directive that helps developers by creating guidelines for proper all-round accessibility. Out of this initiative the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) was born, which in turn list and categorizes comprehensive guidelines regarding how accessibility should be applied to our web applications.

What is the Web Accessibility Directive?

This growing need for accessibility and inclusivity of the web resulted in the EU Web Accessibility Directive which dictates that public sector websites and applications should meet certain standards, using the WCAG as a reference. There are multiple revisions of the WCAG as they try to continuously improve the set guidelines on accessibility. The latest version being version 2.1. When reading any version of the WCAG, you will notice that the guidelines are grouped by 3 levels of conformance. Level A is the beginner level, AA being the second level and AAA being the third and highest level of conformance to the WCAG guidelines.

What do these levels mean?

All levels and their respective guidelines focus on perceivability, operability, understandability and the robustness characteristics of an application. Level A, being the beginner level, advices on making a website friendly for screen readers (e.g. by using semantic HTML and descriptions for images), proper keyboard only support, alternative ways to consume media (e.g. captions and/or transcripts), and structure of all content.

Level AA, being the level that the EU Web Accessibility Directive targets, builds further upon Level A with contrast options, resize ability of text, ease of navigation, captions for live video, audio descriptions of video and again clarity of the content.

Level AAA, being the most advanced level, goes further into providing more alternative ways of consuming media content, stricter contrast options, adjusted reading level with explanations, and more elaborate guidelines on the behavior of a website.

Notice that a majority of guidelines advice on how to make content and especially media (Images, Video, Audio) consumable in different ways so that visually impaired, hearing impaired or physically impaired users can comfortably consume the contents of a website.

How might you best accomplish these Directives?

Conforming to these guidelines can be challenging for organizations that have to – or want to – adhere to WCAG, and the tools and approaches to meeting these guidelines are many guidelines. A tool like the Neptune DX platform, which can contain all of your applications, can give organizations a 360 overview of all of their applications and track the overall conformance level with the help of automated tooling and the centralized nature of having all applications under one roof.

By having all of your applications under one umbrella you have the ability to collaborate more effectively on meeting the accessibility standards of your apps, nicely integrated in its entire lifecycle for development, integration and deployment. With the help of checklists and the tooling you can integrate the accessibility conformance and other QA aspects directly in the app lifecycle, creating more transparency with it.

During development, you can use shared tooling to improve and automate the first checks to meet certain accessibility standards. Then during the QA phase, you can verify with shared checklists the progress and increase transparency of all of your applications that you develop and manage.

After you have developed your applications and gathered your overall conformance level you give immediate feedback to all the team members on their applications and deploy the changes directly.

This 360 view of your websites and applications helps organizations reduce their effort, time and pain in tackling the challenge of creating better and more inclusive solutions for your users. This is no easy feat and it is important to work on a strategy for your organization, and this is where Neptune can aid you in that effort to create great websites that adhere to WCAG guidelines at a whole new level.

The web is open to everyone, so we should do our best to make it inclusive to all our users.

About Author:

Ian Segers Neptune Software

Ian Segers
Full Stack Developer at Neptune Software 

Ian’s background is as a Full Stack developer, his passion lies in software architecture, system design, cloud and helping lead people to become better engineers. When he isn’t working for Neptune Software, he is teaching others and helping people fill in the gaps of their knowledge.

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