Understanding the Importance of WCAG Compliance Testing in Accessibility

Importance of WCAG Compliance Testing in Accessibility

15% of the world’s population is constrained by some disability (visual, hearing, motor, cognitive), which makes it nearly 1 billion people in sheer numbers. 

Digital accessibility is herein imperative in ensuring this section of the population is able to access digital solutions without any impediments.  A plethora of digital platforms and websites today lack accessibility features, which makes it very difficult or nearly impossible for this special section of the society to access them like a normal user would.

A website built with mobile or web accessibility not only gives benefits to the user base including the people with disabilities, but also delivers an overall improved user experience. 

What is WCAG Compliance?

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is a set of technical specifications that one needs to adhere to while working on improving or incorporating digital accessibility. The compliance aims to improve the accessibility of mobile applications, web applications, web content and websites on all digital devices. The mission is to provide an equal experience to people with disabilities (neurological, physical, auditory, speech, vision etc.). To achieve this, it thus mandatory to run every product through comprehensive WCAG compliance testing or accessibility testing.

The guidelines for WCAG are constructed by a global community of accessibility experts who form the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium). The objective is to make the internet as inclusive as possible.

The WCAG compliance guidelines are largely meant for WCAG testing engineers, web content developers and all other related professionals. This checklist is a practical resource guide for accessibility professionals. The first part is a primer of industry nomenclature and

accessibility testing approaches. Fillable and printable checklists follow.

Relevance of WCAG 2.1

It has been almost a decade since the inception of WCAG 2.0 (2008). It has a total of 12 guidelines divided under 4 basic principles – P.O.U.R. (Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust). Each of these guidelines has a list of criteria that needs to be satisfied while making content (text, audio, images, code and markup) accessible. The 3 levels of conformity in WCAG are:

  • A (minimum accessibility)
  • AA (solution to common accessibility issues)
  • AAA (maximum or the highest standard of accessibility)

WCAG 2.1 (2018) does not cancel or make WCAG 2.0 obsolete; Both of them are ‘currently existing’ accessibility standards. WCAG 2.1 is backward compatible and includes 17 additional success criteria for mobile accessibility including the existing 61 from WCAG 2.0 as seen below.

LevelWCAG 2.0WCAG 2.1Total
A25530
AA13720
AAA231528
611778

While there isn’t complete visibility into the future, all organizations following WCAG 2.0 / 2.1 and conformance to level AA must continue adherence to the accessibility laws including Section 508 of the Rehabilitation act, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

Additions in WCAG 2.1 compliance for mobile applications

While performing WCAG compliance testing for mobile applications the accessibility engineers need to follow both 2.0 and 2.1 guidelines. These include:

  • Speech input (character key shortcuts & name label)
  • Device settings (Orientation)
  • Pointer (gestures, size of the target, cancellation of the pointer)
  • Input methods (motion actuation, concurrent input mechanism)

Apart from these mentioned above, other standards such as content on hover, reflow, non-text contrast, text spacing and identifying input purpose can also be applied for mobile app accessibility testing.

Automation in accessibility testing

The industry offers a plethora of automation tools for testing specific components of a website, app experience, mobile device experience or any similar document. The accessibility experts leverage various automation tools to effectively test the product and understand how and why people with disabilities might face problems. The best approach suggested is a combination of automated testing and comprehensive manual testing.

Manual and functional testing

Manual and functional testing is an integral part of the overall accessibility testing process. The human testing expertise becomes inevitable while checking the automated tests and having pair testing teams (Combination of sighted and non-sighted engineer) is even more valuable in determining digital nuances. To ensure compliance and usability, QA teams leverage several tools that help with:

  • Code validation
  • Document accessibility
  • Mobile accessibility
  • Web accessibility
  • Colour contrast and colour blindness

Accessibility is evolving to be a very important engineering attribute today in differentiating a product from the rest. Its importance is aligned both with user experiences/needs and legal requirements globally, all of which speak of the growing user base for this solution. Accessibility as an industry is also evolving with newer standards and guidelines. More automation is coming into the forefront, in an area which has traditionally been handled manually. 

At QA InfoTech for example, we have a newly developed automation toolbar for accessibility, WCAT, that enables us determine accessibility compliance with certainty, compared to tools in the market today. Stakeholder buy-in for accessibility, a strong engineering strategy, the right team (preferably a paired team of SMEs and differently abled users), balanced choice of tools, constant connect with the industry to understand evolving guidelines and technologies, together with partnerships with specialized vendors will go a long way in your digital accessibility journey.

About the Author

QA InfoTech

QA InfoTech

Established in 2003, with less than five testing experts, QA InfoTech has grown leaps and bounds with three QA Centers of Excellence globally; two of which are located in the hub of IT activity in India, Noida, and the other, our affiliate QA InfoTech Inc Michigan USA. In 2010 and 2011, QA InfoTech has been ranked in the top 100 places to work for in India.

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