Globally, standards such as WCAG and Sec 508, govern what principles to account for, in accessibility. This includes accessibility engineering in the digital world as well as accessibility in physical premises. These standards are maintained by the Web Accessibility Initiative as part of the World Wide Web consortium and undergo periodic updates to ensure the latest that the industry requires has been accommodated, also keeping in the mind the needs of end users. WCAG specifically focusses on web accessibility.
Recently it was upgraded to 2.1 from the earlier 2.0 standard and one of the main focus areas in the recent update is mobile web accessibility. Standards defined by WCAG become the baseline for a solid accessibility testing strategy and in our organization we adopt a unique accessibility with paired testing approach, where for specific areas of test, our subject matter expert works closely with our differently abled users (for example vision impairment users), to ensure the outcomes we deliver not just follow standards and guidelines but also align to solving true end user problems, giving them an exceptional and inclusive digital experience.
Why is mobile accessibility more important now than ever before? This is a no brainer. Any stats online or even through sheer industry experience we know, that mobile is omnipresent. Mobile is an inevitable digital experience that all solutions cater too today. With over fifteen percent of the world’s population living with some form of disability or another, and all solutions available on the mobile mode, the cross section of the differently abled population using mobile renders is very high. And mobile brings in its own nuances specifically around UI, usability, rendering, responsive web design, the varied input modalities, making web accessibility testing for mobile an important proposition.
For example, just on the input modalities front, options can vary from a regular keypad, to a touch screen, to a stylus, to voice, to biometric, to a mouse etc. In touch screen for example, it could include right or left swipes, double swipe, pinch, rotate, spread, not all of which may be fully accessible to people with all types of disabilities. Similarly, on the orientation side, are portrait and landscapes allowed? Is there orientation locks to be looked at, especially for people with dexterity issues? These are all questions to be answered. New success criteria around pointer gestures, pointer cancellation, label naming especially through speech recognition, motion actuation and orientation have all been included in WCAG 2.1. These now become the new baseline for defining a comprehensive accessibility testing strategy that looks at accessibility across all renders that an application will be made available in.
While VPAT is a good outcome checklist, I recently had an experience where in a focus group, a tester had asked what else can be leveraged for a sign off, as his client was not satisfied with just a VPAT. Herein, at QA InfoTech, for the last several years we have been using a data point called accessibilitometer, which is a weighted and customized checklist created for each of our clients to align accessibility with standards, end user experience as well as business goals. This objective gauge shows where the product stands from an accessibility testing standpoint, what gaps need to be fixed in the next cycle, also enabling stakeholders make the right investment calls for the overall accessibility testing strategy. With increasing mobile penetration, accessibility for mobile will become even more prominent in the coming years, necessitating a mobile web accessibility testing strategy that takes in both the scientific and artistic elements at play.