Digital Accessibility Next Steps
Thank you for caring enough about accessibility to take some next steps!
Experience Various Accessibility Tools
We recommend that you experience a website or mobile app the way a person with a disability would experience it.
- Browse your website using only your keyboard, not your mouse. The ‘Tab’ key moves you forward through active elements on the page, and ‘Shift+Tab’ moves you backwards. Use ‘Enter’ to activate links and ‘Spacebar’ to activate other elements like accordions or dropdown lists. Can you get everywhere you need to go on the page? Can you do everything you need to do?
- Use a screen reader to listen to your website the way a person with visual impairments would hear it. Are you able to understand the layout of the page?
- Use your browser zoom function or a screen magnifier to view your webpage. Can you see enough information to make sense of the page? Does the text re-flow properly?
- Use one of the color perception tools to simulate what a website would look like to someone with various visual impairments. Can you still distinguish foreground from background elements? Can you tell what’s a hyperlink and what’s an interactive element such as a button?
- Use the built-in mobile accessibility functions on your smartphone to interact with your mobile app. Can you learn what you wanted to learn and accomplish what you set out to accomplish?
Learn More About Digital Accessibility
In addition to the page about Why Digital Accessibility Matters, we’ve also created a page where you can learn more about digital accessibility through presentations, articles, short videos, and so on.
Understand the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a set of principles, guidelines, and success criteria established by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the same group that establishes web standards like HTML.
Software developers (and anyone technically inclined) will want to refer to the Techniques and Failures for WCAG 2.0 which provide guidance for meeting the requirements, and the WAI-ARIA Authoring Practices 1.1 which explain how to create accessible rich internet applications. The WAI-ARIA Authoring Practices have been described as “the Bible of web accessibility” by consulting firm Interactive Accessibility.
Understanding how everything fits together within the WCAG documents is not as easy as it should be, but if you want to achieve digital accessibility you need to make the effort.
WCAG has been on version 2.0 since 2008. The full, normative technical specification is available at w3.org/TR/WCAG20 .
(here’s a list of new features in WCAG 2.1)
There are 3 levels of WCAG conformance:
- A (Single A) addresses basic web accessibility.
- AA (Double A) addresses the most common barriers for people with disabilities.
- AAA (Triple A) increases accessibility to the highest level.
An example of the difference between AA and AAA: AA requires that you have closed-captioning for videos. AAA requires that you also provide sign language near the video.
The industry standard is AA conformance, usually written as WCAG 2.0 AA.
The WCAG establishes 4 principles:
- Perceivable. Users must be able to perceive the information being presented (it can’t be invisible to all of their senses).
- Operable. Users must be able to operate the interface (the interface cannot require interaction that a user cannot perform).
- Understandable. Users must be able to understand the information as well as the operation of the user interface (the content or operation cannot be beyond their understanding).
- Robust. Users must be able to access the content as technologies advance (as technologies and user agents evolve, the content should remain accessible).
Those 4 principles break down into 12 guidelines:
- Provide text alternatives for non-text content.
- Provide captions and other alternatives for multimedia.
- Create content that can be presented in different ways, including by assistive technologies, without losing meaning.
- Make it easier for users to see and hear content.
- Make all functionality available from a keyboard.
- Give users enough time to read and use content.
- Do not use content that causes seizures.
- Help users navigate and find content.
- Make text readable and understandable.
- Make content appear and operate in predictable ways.
- Help users avoid and correct mistakes.
- Maximize compatibility with current and future user tools.
The guidelines then further break down into detailed Success Criteria (SC) that are numbered with three digits separated by a period (or dot), such as 1.1.1 or 4.1.2 . These Success Criteria are what you’re actually trying to achieve when you make something accessible. Most people use the customizable quick reference document that lists the SC, rather than referring to the raw technical specification.
You may also find it helpful to refer to a third-party WCAG checklist, such as the WCAG 2.0 checklist from WebAIM (Web Accessibility In Mind). However, note that WebAIM’s interpretation of the WCAG guidelines and success criteria is not the same thing as the guidelines and success criteria themselves.
Getting Comfortable with WCAG, by Ethan Muller. (2018 May 7.) Sparkbox. Walks you through the WCAG standard and how to use it to put people first.
Read Advice Specific to Your Role
Please refer to the Role-Specific Information page for advice broken down by functional roles such as Business Analyst, User Experience, Developer, Quality Assurance, and so forth.
You may also peruse the Interactive WCAG 2.0 (from design agency Viget) which allows you to filter the guidelines by role: Content, Design, General Developer, Front-End Developer, and User Experience.