By Mathieu Nov 20, 2023
In collaboration with Audrey and Constance

How Can Web Accessibility Elevate User Experiences?

Web accessibility involves practices aimed at empowering individuals with permanent, temporary, situational, or changing disabilities, promoting unrestricted access to the digital space and fostering the full inclusion of everyone in society.

In our daily lives, we can easily recognize accessibility features in physical spaces: ramps, sidewalk slopes for wheelchairs, or metro elevators to name a few. However, digital accessibility, or lack thereof, is less visible and tangible.

Why should digital accessibility be a priority, and how does it enhance the user experience? Discover the answers and learn strategies to ensure your applications are user-friendly and accessible to everyone in this informative article.

What is web accessibility?

This concept is all about ensuring that digital content, apps, and online services are easy for everyone to understand and use, including those with disabilities.

Did you know there are four types of disabilities: visual, auditory, motor, and cognitive? In 2017, over 22% of Canadians reported having a disability (Source: Canadian Survey on Disability). Web accessibility aims to eliminate obstacles hindering these individuals from fully utilizing digital resources, creating digital experiences that break down barriers and promote inclusion.

Why should we talk about digital accessibility?

The topic of digital accessibility extends beyond ethical considerations. Legal ramifications, financial consequences, and a targeted audience collectively emphasize why this discourse holds significant importance in today’s digital landscape.

Adhering to Legal Ramifications

Although there are no international accessibility standards, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)—discussed in detail below—provide a set of criteria serving as a benchmark for digital accessibility.

Quebec established an initial framework for web accessibility in 2011 with the Standard du gouvernement du Québec sur les ressources informationnelles (SGQRI 008), which was updated in 2018 to directly integrate WCAG 2.0 success criteria. Public bodies, as defined in the Act respecting the governance and management of the information resources of public bodies and government enterprises, are legally required to adhere to SGQRI.

However, the legal framework and its implementation differ across geographical regions. In the United States, for instance, users have the option to file a complaint against an organization if its application or website hinders their access to the organization’s products or services. In the European Union, the European Accessibility Act, expected to come into force in 2025, will initially pertain to specific sectors such as banking, transport, and e-commerce. However, member states have the flexibility to expand the law to encompass the websites of public bodies.

Financial Impacts

Discussing equitable access to online content is crucial due to the evident financial repercussions that a lack of digital accessibility can have on an organization’s revenues or costs.

  • For example, a 22% drop-off in shopping cart interactions among users of an e-commerce website due to the site’s complexity results in a substantial loss in revenue for the company.
  • On the flip side, if 22% of users for a non-profit or public organization resort to channels other than digital platforms—like a phone call or an in-person visit to the organization’s offices—the service becomes more expensive by default. This contrasts with the cost-cutting and efficiency-boosting benefits that digital transformation usually brings to companies.

Beyond Individuals with Recognized Limitations

Accessibility extends its benefits to a broader audience beyond those with recognized limitations. Age-related challenges such as reduced visual acuity or hearing, temporary limitations, and diverse usage contexts mean that specific accessibility features cater to a wider audience. Just as subtitling aids in following foreign language films or those with suboptimal audio, high contrast enhances content consultation in low light conditions. Additionally, using an e-reader allows for audio content consumption when manual interaction is impractical.

Therefore, at the beginning of any technological project, it is crucial to consider your target market, the applicable legal ratification in the relevant geographical areas, and the context in which it will be utilized.

The Principles of Accessibility

To establish a clear definition of an accessible website, a set of standards was developed to offer a shared and precise definition of accessibility criteria.

What are WCAGs?

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) represent best practices set by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an organization committed to establishing standards that enhance the accessibility of web content for individuals with disabilities.

The WCAG are founded on four core principles that address crucial aspects for ensuring web content accessibility for all. Each principle is linked to specific success criteria, each of which is categorized into three levels of compliance.

The 4 Principles of WCAG:

  • Perceptible:  Present information and user interface components in a manner that can be perceived by all users, regardless of their limitations.
    Example: Use minimum contrast between content.
  • Usable: Design user interface components and navigation to be straightforward and comprehensible for users.
    Example: Ensure all functionalities are accessible via keyboard.
  • Understandable: Present information in a logical, coherent, and easily comprehensible manner for all users.
    Example: Implement consistent navigation (uniform across all pages) or provide assistance to users in preventing or rectifying input errors.
  • Robust: Ensure that content is durable, reliable, and compatible with diverse technologies, guaranteeing a consistent user experience across varying technological environments.

The three WCAG levels are used to evaluate the extent of accessibility of web content.

The 3 Levels of WCAG:

  • A: Enables a broad range of individuals to access content. These techniques are usually easy to implement.
    Example: Subtitle all pre-recorded audio content.
  • AA: Slightly more demanding, enables additional groups to access content. These criteria and techniques are more specialized and more challenging to implement.
    Example: Ensure all videos include audio descriptions.
  • AAA: These success criteria can be challenging and, at times, very costly to implement, catering to a highly specific audience.
    Example: Provide a French sign language version for all content.

Adhering to WCAG principles and criteria empowers developers to create web content accessible to a diverse audience, enhancing the online experience e for all users.

How to assess accessibility?

This pivotal and non-negligible step allows a company’s developers to guarantee that their content is inclusive and aligns with international standards. Let’s explore the tools and practical methods to ensure your web content is usable by all.

Automated Tests

Certain tools enable you to analyze a web page and assign it an accessibility rating based on a set of criteria, including contrast, adherence to HTML element naming rules, font size, and more.

These tools include Lighthouse, seamlessly integrated into Chrome, and the Wave application.

Note: Relying on accessibility widgets, which dynamically adjust a site’s visual elements like font size or contrast, does not ensure compliance (quite the opposite!) In reality, widgets only identify and address a maximum of 50% of accessibility issues—human intelligence remains the most dependable tool. Moreover, these widgets can counterproductively override preferences established by users with limitations in their assistive tools (e.g., font size, contrast, etc.). In 2022, approximately 600 lawsuits were filed against companies employing an accessibility widget.

Manual Tests

Manual testing is crucial to identify bugs that automated tools might miss. While an automated tool can verify the presence of a name tag for a button, it may not discern the consistency of naming, such as a validation button labeled “cancel”. Similarly, discrepancies between the declared page language and the user’s selected language may go unnoticed. Additionally, an automated tool cannot gauge a user’s proficiency in navigating a page solely using the keyboard.

Manual testing is a crucial step that cannot be overlooked. Quality experts rely on essential tools, such as screen readers like Narrator or NVDA, to navigate these tests, empowering visually impaired or blind users to effectively navigate web pages.

Key Takeaways for Accessibility

At Uzinakod, our commitment is to ensure everyone can fully utilize their information systems and navigate the digital world seamlessly. Indeed, accessibility is at the core of all our projects.

During the collection phase, our analysts ensure a thorough understanding of the project’s context and needs. They take the time to collaborate with our clients in creating an optimal and accessible functional solution for everyone. In the system design phase, it’s our developers who ensure that their code adheres to standards. The critical validation occurs during our quality control phase, where our quality experts carefully validate the entirety of the project.

Over the last few years, we have developed extensive expertise in the healthcare sector, specifically on projects such as proof of vaccination, where we have implemented accessibility levels in accordance with government standards.

Interested in developing a software solution? Contact us today to discuss your requirements. We would be pleased to collaborate with you in defining the appropriate level of accessibility to meet your needs and those of your users.

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