Today the world believes in creating equal opportunities for all. Thus as awareness about different choices and different abilities grows, perception about disabilities has undergone a sea change. Consequently, today differently abled people are lauded and appreciated for their skills. Rules and regulations are also being changed to make them conducive to the needs and wants of these people.
The WCAG Compliance Testing is one such change. It ensures that web applications or software developed are accessible to people with disabilities such as blindness, cognitive impairments, hearing problems etc. The aim is to ensure that these people get opportunities to showcase their talents and attain success in life; that reachability of web content is not hampered by barriers.
WCAG guidelines in brief
The importance of WCAG compliance testing can be easily understood from its framed guidelines. These are effectively based on 4 major principles or P.O.U.R, which ensures web content is easily:
- Perceivable in their presentation,
- Operable to facilitate easy navigation through the UI,
- Understandable to make user interface accessible and
- Robust so that UI content accessibility holds true for varied user agents.
Thus certifications ensuring WCAG Compliance Testing show a website’s conformity to defined testable criteria. Based on the complexity, these criteria have been divided into 3 different levels. They are:
- “A” or minimum accessibility,
- “AA” or solutions to almost all common accessibility issues and
- “AAA” or maximum standards of accessibility.
Any website which opts to attain the highest standards of accessibility finds it easy to operate in any country around the world. The range of reachability increases vastly and the threat of a website accessibility lawsuit is also averted. Generally, however, obtaining a test certification of “AA” is considered to be suitable enough.
WCAG Compliance Testing
There are two ways in which this compliance testing can be done. They are:
- Automated web accessibility compliance testing: There are a set of open-source and commercial automated tools which are widely used in the process of ensuring that websites are accessible and compliant. The aim is to find any problems that people with disabilities or changing abilities might face when using the same.
- Manual web accessibility compliance testing: Using the human testing ability, QA teams ensure compliances thereby making it easy for people with disabilities to access website content.
The best approach, however, is one that includes a healthy mix of both automated and manual compliance testing methods and tools to ensure:
- Code validation,
- Mobile and web accessibility,
- Document accessibility,
- Colour contrast for colour blindness etc.
Need for WCAG Compliance Testing
Today accessibility has evolved to become an important engineering attribute. It has become the distinguishing factor that separates a product from the rest. There are certain relevant factors that justify its growing need. The important ones are enumerated below.
Legal requirements and lawsuit avoidance
The WCAG Compliance Testing is so aligned that it caters to user experience needs and legal requirements on an international forum. Its relevance becomes understandable with statistics which prove that 15% or about 1 billion people globally are affected by disabilities in one form or the other. The different forms of disabilities that are clearly recognized by and mentioned in the WCAG guidelines are:
- Blindness or limited vision,
- Hearing disabilities or deafness,
- Deaf blindness,
- Motor disabilities resulting from different medical conditions like multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, arthritis, muscular dystrophy, spinal cord injuries etc.,
- Neurological disabilities,
- Disabilities related to language and learning,
- Cognitive impairments,
- Temporary and changing disabilities etc.
Discrimination is a legal offence and needs to be avoided in any form. This web compliance testing helps to avoid legal complications in this regard by ensuring that neither is:
- People with disabilities discriminated against nor
- Are the different disabilities selectively discriminated against.
Global operational requirement
Currently this compliance is a mandatory requirement in many countries. These countries have certain organizational or government policies that need to be met. A WCAG compliant website gets automatic acceptance in these countries since the WCAG or the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines define web accessibility standards that are accepted the world over. The US, Australia, Denmark, European Union, Japan, Korea, UK, Singapore, Netherlands and India are some of the countries that have adopted the WCAG guidelines either as it is or in some form or the other. Even the UN recognizes getting access to information, services and communication, along with the internet, as a fundamental right for disabled people. Today many private sector businesses are also following suit. Thus the need for web accessibility compliance testing is only growing.
Enhanced user experience
User experience for WCAG compliant websites also becomes enhanced. Even people not having disabilities find it easier to access WCAG compliant websites. This increases the reach of these websites consequently meeting their motives of enhanced web traffic and visibility. With innumerable websites easily available, a WCAG compliance certification also helps to set a website apart. This further helps to increase their conversion rates thereby ensuring better profitability and revenue generation.
Clearly defined disability criteria
Another important factor which works in favour of WCAG Compliance Testing is the definite way in which disabilities, that need to be catered to, are defined. Different people suffer from different disabilities. It is not possible to test website content for all disabilities present in the world. There are many disabilities, mainly cognitive, for which website content cannot be tested as yet. While this factor is still work in progress, the defined way in which disabilities that need to be addressed are dealt with in the WCAG guidelines ensures that people with commonly occurring disabilities are not discriminated against; their right to live a life of dignity is not taken away.
The purpose behind the formulation and adoption of WCAG by W3C was primarily to address the needs of disabled people. But it was also done to ensure that:
- A common testable standard could be adopted by all countries globally,
- It was independent of technological advancements and could be applied to all such advancements
- It had international relevance.
Thus websites opting for WCAG Compliance Testing, are easily able to avail the benefits of all the above. This again works in their favour because the W3C is already in the process of writing an advanced set of WCAG guidelines. This is based on extensive research already being conducted by the Silver Task Force set up for this purpose. These new guidelines regarding accessibility standards are set to be more comprehensive so that guidance can be expanded beyond just the World Wide Web or WWW.
Thus for websites wanting to retain and increase their longevity, profitability and trustworthiness, the WCAG Compliance Testing is a need that should be immediately fulfilled.