I’m going out on a limb here and guessing that a lot of website owners who are working on WCAG 2.0 accessibility do not have 100% of the disabilities they are accommodating. While it’s wonderful that you’re bringing your site up to code, you also need to make sure that your efforts are actually helping.
But I’m Following All of the Rules
You might think that you are following all of the rules, but that’s actually really hard to know without verification. Unfortunately, at this point there is no pre-defined WCAG certification to ensure that you’re complying with all of the regulations correctly.
While making sure that your website follows WCAG 2.0 this has become somewhat of a guessing game, accessibility compliance is important. Not only does it help to include users who may need assistance, but it also keeps potential lawsuits at bay. Going that extra mile now can save you a lot of time and money in the future.
Have You Considered…?
You might be covering every base that you can think of, but you might not even be able to imagine some bases. For example, sometimes handy features like the zoom function on your computer leave you with less-than-optimal results. When my eyes get tired I zoom in on my mac to see the text more clearly. A quick gesture on the trackpad, and I’m all set.
This is a great option in most cases, but not every case. If I zoom in on a Google Doc using my screen zoom rather than clicking on the little 100% button in their menu bar, it causes chaos. Instead of reacting to my enlarged screen in the way you would expect, it creates a larger view but doesn’t tell the document that it’s bigger.
This means the cursor isn’t where you would expect. Instead, the place you click to edit in the larger screen reacts to the way the document would be if it were at a smaller size. Until I realized what was happening, I edited entire sentences and the changes appeared in completely different places. I felt crazy until I realized what was going on. Try it, I’ll wait…
You’re going to need to call in reinforcements here. There are a few ways to tackle the user testing issue:
1. Option 1: Hire a Front-End Developer Who’s Also an Accessibility Expert
This is the most expensive option, but it is also pretty much the safest. Hiring someone who has experience with WCAG 2.0 AA and can test your site for proper keyboard navigation and its compatibility with a screen reader is a great way to make sure you follow the rules. They will also be able to make the changes you need to fix any issues they find. It’s a simple solution that will make the process pretty hands-off. However, if the rules change (which they probably will) you’ll probably need to hire someone again and again to make sure you’re up-to-date.
2. Option 2: Call a Friend or Community Group
This option means you’re going to enlist the help of someone who is impacted by web accessibility. It seems like a sensitive topic, and for some people it might be so “read the room”. Still, there are going to be a ton of people willing to help you in your accessibility quest. All I ask for is coffee, and the knowledge that my input could potentially help others.
Having your target audience use your website is something you do anyway, so this is a similar opportunity to get feedback. While we are often told to ignore disabilities or try not to single them out (which I totally agree with in many cases) if you approach the task in the right way you can learn a lot. The point of WCAG is to make sites more inclusive, so including people that need accommodations in the process just makes sense.
3. Option 3: Try it Yourself
If Option 1 is too costly and Option 2 isn’t at your comfort level, then try assistive technology yourself. Switch on your computer’s text-to-speech function, disconnect your mouse, open your website, and navigate with nothing but your keyboard. Is the screen reader reading what you would expect? Can you reach all elements, links, navigation and form fields with a few strokes of the keyboard? Are there pieces missing like image alts? Figure out what components of your site aren’t accessible using some standard accommodation validators. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, you can download an app to experience how low vision users see. I’d recommend the Braille Institute’s VisionSim for a pretty helpful free option.
4. Option 4: Install UserWay Widget
Yes, we are a bit partial to our widget, but we have good reasons. This handy tool will give your users the option to get the modifications that they need all without requiring you to touch your website’s code. It’s simple for you to install (and free), and it’s helpful for them to use, so why not?
The widget will give users the option to enlarge the text on the screen, make their cursor bigger, highlight links you’ve placed on the page, desaturate the colors, and more. Our goal was to make web accessibility available to users in the simplest way possible, and without requiring website owners to go through extensive website updates and messy code revisions. Installing the plugin only takes a few minutes, and will create a world of opportunities for your users.
User testing is important for many reasons. Knowing that your efforts are having an impact can help you really focus on the issues instead of making changes just to comply. More than anything, it’ll give you a good sense of the issues your users might face and help you to create a better web experience for them.