The absolute accessibility of a website is very critical for the website owners to ensure that all the differently-abled visitors are benefited in using their digital platform. Apart from the legalities involved, websites that are not completely accessible will lose web traffic; something no e-commerce company can afford. Then there is also a moral obligation involved. Why should people with limited abilities be discriminated against?
But how many people think about them when their websites are being developed? To address this concern and to ensure accessibility for all people, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, WCAG Compliance Testing was made mandatory.
The W3C, an internationally recognized community introduced the Website Content Accessibility guidelines which are divided in different categories which further consists of several success criterias. Time and again, these guidelines are revised in accordance to the latest developments made in the market ranging from enhanced browsers to up-to-date assistive technologies. While WCAG is yet to become mandatory in many countries, most countries have adopted these guidelines in their respective private and public domains.
Hence criticality of web accessibility should be given its due diligence. Web accessibility errors and mistakes need to be sorted at the development stages to avoid unnecessary hassles and revenue loses later on. Some of the common mistakes of web accessibility that get reported during WCAG compliance testing are:
1. Alternative Text is Missing or Insufficient
Images are either not accompanied by alternative texts or if present, they are insufficient. How will a visually impaired visitor be aware of the image details in this instance? By attaching alternative descriptions to all non-decorative images. These are mostly contained within the “alt attribute”. With the help of assistive technologies like screen readers, people with cognitive disabilities and visual impairment can decipher the image from the description provided. Screen readers, however, cannot decode or interpret an image.
Additionally, decorative images need to be:
- Accompanied by null alternative texts or alt= “” or
- Appear as CSS or Cascading Style Sheets background
This enables the screen reader to overlook such content.
2. Inaccessibility of Input Device
This specifically refers to website keyboard accessibility errors as commonly experienced while WCAG Compliance Testing. The keyboard should have unrestricted and unobstructed access to the entire website. This criticality is important as some users might not be comfortable using the mouse. Most people with disabilities tend to use the “Tab” key to access the different call-to-action options and interactive elements present on the website. Other additional keyboard controls can also be used to access the same. However, irrespective of the controls use, a visible indicator of the position of the keyboard control key is important to ensure visitor convenience.
3. Low Colour Contrast
There are many people with vision problems accessing the website. For them, low colour contrast between the text and its background can render the text unreadable. Thus there is a need for contrast-enhancing technologies to assist in the same. In order to meet the requirements of WCAG Compliance Testing, websites need to have a normal text contrast ratio of 4.5:1 as opposed to 3:1 for large texts as per the WCAG 2.0 Level AA guidelines. However, the Level AAA standards need a 7:1 and 4.5:1 contrast ratio for normal and large texts respectively.
4. Missing Labels
There is a need for all controls that appear on a page to be labelled describing the purpose of the same. This labelling alerts the user to the functionality of the controls. While it is not mandatory for basic usage, people using screen readers need this labelling to correctly identify the controls. For instances wherein there is no scope of labelling, Titles need to be used.
5. Flashing Content
It is said that flashing website contents induce epileptic seizures or even migraines in those susceptible to it. This is a serious issue and thus the WCAG 2.0 Level A guidelines specifically negate the appearance of flashing webpage content more than 3 times within any 1 second. For websites which are not able to achieve this, the flashes need to have an intensity that is below the W3C determined thresholds of general and red flashes.
Other WCAG Compliance Testing errors commonly encountered include:
- Empty links – links with or without appropriate link-text
- Missing document language – language attributes are not included in the code
- Empty buttons – A button having an insufficient label which is not meaningful for end-users
Overcoming these Accessibility Errors
There are certain proven methods which, when adopted, can prevent the occurrence of the above common accessibility errors. The important steps that need to be included in software development to facilitate this are:
1. Making Digital Accessibility a Priority
It always helps to be armed with a thorough knowledge of the WCAG requirements before planning a new website or redesigning an old one.
2. Conducting Regular Manual Checks
Browsing throughout the website using the Tab button manually is a very productive way to avoid keyboard accessibility errors. Manual checks also have to be conducted regularly to check for logical navigation, website structure and alignment of newly added options and features with the WCAG guidelines.
Also Read: Growing Purpose Of WCAG Compliance Testing
3. Accessibility Checker Expert Consultation
Self-assessment followed by troubleshooting is a good idea to start with. But it is not a feasible strategy to adopt in the long run. There are innumerable rules, regulations, laws, standards and guidelines that need to be kept in mind. This makes the task time consuming and economically non-viable. Alternately procuring the services of an accessibility expert with a thorough knowledge of WCAG Compliance Testing proves to be cost and time effective.
4. Using an Automated Accessibility Checker
Manual testing is prone to errors. Digital content is very dynamic with updations, up-gradations and additions taking place with frequent regularity. This can lead to the non-detection of several digital accessibility errors. Accounting for digital content built pages on the fly can also pose a problem. However, using an automated accessibility checker to create a comprehensive and robust approach to ensure digital accessibility helps overcome all or most of these problems.
Accessing website conformance to the criteria set by the WCAG guidelines is an essentiality few websites can do away with. With WCAG Compliance Testing becoming an accepted norm, dealing with digital accessibility errors at the early stages of their occurrence helps resolve the issue in its nascent stage. Thus measures pertaining to the same need to be adopted and seriously worked upon to ensure full WCAG accessibility conformance and smoothen the process of its compliance testing.