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Web Accessibility

Expectations are Changing for Web Accessibility

The idea of web accessibility and inclusion is not a new one, and in fact many standards and practices were put into place during the dot com boom of the nineties, but have fallen by the wayside as many firms found the practices to be cumbersome and costly. Additionally, there was no true enforcement of the ruling standards. 

Well, I am sorry to say that this is no longer the case. As with everything technology-related, times are changing and some very public lawsuits are paving the way for a more inclusive web. Big names have been hit with such lawsuits, including the likes of Bank of America, Safeway, and Charles Schwab. Most notably, “Target paid $6 million to settle a class-action suit brought by the National Federation of the Blind, and nearly $4 million more to cover the plaintiffs’ attorney fees and other costs”, according to Portsmouth Daily Times.  And it doesn’t stop there. Hundreds of lawsuits spanning sectors industries - even including government and university websites -  have been brought to court in the past 3 years alone.

User Inclusion

This topic of accessibility can no longer be taken lightly. In a world of increasing dependency on technology as a means of communication, it affects a breadth of limitations as unique as the visitors themselves.

“Poorly designed websites can create unnecessary barriers for people with disabilities, just as poorly designed buildings prevent some people with disabilities from entering. Access problems often occur because website designers mistakenly assume that everyone sees and accesses a webpage in the same way. This mistaken assumption can frustrate assistive technologies and their users. Accessible website design recognizes these differences and does not require people to see, hear, or use a standard mouse in order to access the information and services provided.” - ADA.gov

In the most commonly discussed scenarios, users will depend on screen readers or other accessibility tools to ingest and organize content to be communicated to its users. But there are other, less extreme circumstances that should be taken into consideration. 

For example:

  • Elderly users may not be capable of reading small fonts.
  • Color blindness can reduce legibility of buttons or imagery.
  • Physical limitations can make it hard to click on small icons on smartphones.

With such a wide range of scenarios to cover, website managers and developers must rely on established best practices. The following resources represent the widely accepted standards for website accessibility at this time:

Market Response

In response to the liability concerns associated with this trend, Unleashed Technologies has engaged in conversation with several clients - representing the banking, association, and insurance industries - during the initial MVP design-build planning. To varying degrees, requirements surrounding accessibility are fully documented, implemented, and then tested.

Regardless of where you fall in the SDLC, improving the accessibility of your website should be a priority. Even if it is late in the game, our Project Managers (or member of our team) would be happy to facilitate these conversations as part of the initial build, or within the bounds of your ongoing Growth Package.

Once such instance is exemplified with our recent work with the RCM&D team. Over several months of discovery and planning, Unleashed Technologies and RCM&D collaborated to establish a plan and design for the new rollout of their main website at www.rcmd.com utilizing the Drupal 8 platform.

Many months into the actual build, executive and legal stakeholders inquired about the viability of adding accessibility support late in the process. Fortunately, the Unleashed Technologies production team was able to deliver a strategy that coincided with the Quality Assurance testing rounds to support these requirements without impacting the overall timeline. Here’s a look at our methodology.

Evaluation

  1. Design/Visual Accessibility - Imagery, contrast, and visually planning for an accessible website. **For more, I suggest reading Designing for a Compliant Web by Matt Curtin.
  2. Coding Standards - Alt text, navigation, and other functional tasks attributed to best practices. **Several features are included out of the box on the Drupal 8 Core platform, which reduces the budget impact of this effort.
  3. Automated Testing – A variety of tools and services will automate the testing and identify non-compliant features of the website.

Remediation

During the Evaluation round, several areas of the website were failing web accessibility standards. For example, we found that the on-brand button styling did not match the level of color contrast necessary to pass legibility requirements. During the remediation round, the Style Guide was updated to leverage a revised button design.

Re-Evaluation

Once all of the Remediation round fixes are in place, the website will be re-evaluated to identify and resolve any last issues. This includes the re-running of automated testing.

This is Just the Beginning

While the production team can put the tools in place to support web accessibility, the ongoing adherence to standards requires an ongoing, collaborative effort. Content managers must be trained on and then adhere to these practices. As standards and technologies evolve, continued monitoring and controlling will be necessary. If you would like to discuss your organization’s web presence and how web accessibility standards affect it, please reach out to us as we are always happy to help.