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Website Accessibility: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How It’s Done

In part one of this two-part post, we’re discussing how website accessibility has progressed to where it is today. 

The Evolution of User Experience to Website Accessibility

Websites have come an exceptionally long way since the Unix-based text-heavy pages of the late 1980s. The Netscape browser was the first to approach web design as a way to connect with audiences while creating a more user-friendly environment, but it took the 21st century to usher in tools and technologies that would become a part of our everyday lives.

However, that content is only as useful as the interface that presented it. Hence, the term User Experience Design (UX design) was born and would pave the way for what we know today as website accessibility. And it’s a term that was last year brought to the forefront of business owners and legal departments across the nation by its journey to the Supreme Court.

The Importance of Compliance

While it seems like web design has become second nature to branding and design firms all over the world, there is still some confusion on exactly what website accessibility entails. Compliance with website accessibility guidelines is only now reaching a fever pitch with the recent case involving a blind man who sued pizza chain giant, Domino’s. The suit was filed after Guillermo Gobles was not able to order food on the Domino’s website and mobile app, even with the use of screen-reading software. Domino’s petitioned the Supreme Court to hear a case on whether its website is required by law to be accessible to the visually impaired. The Court denied the case, resulting in a huge win for the blind community.

In short, the decision has bolstered the requirements for web and mobile accessibility, not only for the blind, but any disabled user based on the Americans with Disabilities Act which requires businesses with physical locations to make their websites and other online platforms accessible to those with disabilities.

A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Robles, writing that the “alleged inaccessibility of Domino’s website and app impedes access to the goods and services of its physical pizza franchises—which are places of public accommodation.” — CNBC News

Clearly, the fear of litigation, as in the Domino’s case and many others, has made the compliance of web accessibility a priority. But it does not have to be a point of anxiety. It can be an incredible business opportunity, especially when you are working with the right partner. Implementing the most robust website testing techniques and processes have become just as important as choosing the most credible web design or marketing team. Advancements in technology have presented issues and experiences that have fostered an entire industry. Quality assurance testing companies like QualityLogic have made it their business to know what you don’t – website accessibility testing and certification is one of those areas.

What You Don’t Know Will Hurt You

Approximately 1.3 billion people have some visual impairment, such as low vision, color blindness, and partial  blindness. That accounts for nearly 20 percent of the global population who struggle with accessibility. — World Health Organization (WHO)

The first thing businesses need to understand is that website accessibility is not confined to the vision-impaired. According to the website compliance accessibility guidelines, also known as WCAG, website accessibility must be extended to anyone with a permanent, temporary, or situational disability, including the following:

  • Visual: Visual impairments including blindness and various types of low vision, poor eyesight, and color blindness.
  • Motor/mobility: Difficulty or inability to use the hands, including tremors, muscle slowness, loss of fine muscle control, etc., due to conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, stroke.
  • Auditory: Deafness or hearing impairments, including individuals who are hard of hearing.
  • Seizures: Photo epileptic seizures caused by visual strobe or flashing effects.
  • Cognitive and intellectual: Developmental disabilities, learning difficulties (dyslexia, dyscalculia, etc.), and cognitive disabilities (PTSD, Alzheimer’s) of various origins, affecting memory, attention, developmental “maturity,” problem-solving and logic skills, etc.

The good news is that an experienced website accessibility and testing partner will keep you up to date on the WCAG compliance standards and provide the proper testing necessary to ensure equal access for all. QualityLogic applies the following four steps to complete accessibility making it easier and more thorough than ever before:

    1. Automated Testing
      Test your site using specific automation tools that discover errors that can be
      programmatically validated. These tools will detect the most common problems like contrast errors, structural issues, and common HTML bugs.
    2. Manual Testing
      Have your site or mobile app audited by a team of WCAG test technicians using the tools used by users that have been impacted. That means the tests will identify the issues most likely to impact your customers.
    3. Remediation & Regression Testing
      Once testing is complete, you’ll receive a compliance report that contains a summary of the errors found. Once the errors are fixed by your team or ours, regression tests are run to ensure complete WCAG 2.1 AA or AAA compliance.
    4. Accessibility Certification
      Once the site passes, you’ll receive attestation from QualityLogic certifying full WCAG compliance. Daily monitoring will continue in order to ensure the site maintains compliance.

In our next segment, we’re going to dive a little deeper into how testing for accessibility can help create a better user experience for all users. For now, though, if you have any questions, our team is here to help. A trusted partner like QualityLogic can keep you informed and compliant.

Interested in Learning More? Let’s talk!

*This article is based on our research and opinions of the accessibility testing marketplace, but does not constitute legal advice.