MobCon Digital Health
Last week, Westwerk attended MobCon Digital Health 2016 sponsored by Mentormate. We had the opportunity to learn about the changing digital health world and connect with other businesses making waves in the health industry. We sat in on a couple of great sessions led by some industry experts, one of which was focused on web accessibility. So, in honor of Global Accessibility Awareness Day happening this month on May 19, here’s a rundown of some web accessibility information we learned at MobCon.
Session: Health Care & Accessibility: No Longer an Option
Speaker: Jenny Dang, QA Engineer, The Nerdery
What is Web Accessibility?
Web accessibility refers to design and development practices which allow users with disabilities (including visual, physical or motor, auditory, speech or language, cognitive and age-related impairments) to perceive, understand, navigate and interact with the web.
Accessibility Regulations and Regulators
There are several different layers to accessibility regulations. The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), enforced by the Department of Justice, represents the physical realm (i.e. wheelchair access outside buildings, equal opportunities for employment, and so on). The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Rehab Act”), regulated by the federal government, includes two sections that directly impact web accessibility: Section 504, which ensures that students attending a federally funded institution receive equal opportunity and reasonable accommodation in pursuit of their education, and Section 508, which “requires federal electronic and information technology to be accessible to people with disabilities, including employees and members of the public.”
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0) are another well-respected compilation of recommendations put together by the World Wide Web Consortium, a group of industry leaders, government officials, and disability activists. WCAG 2.0 is currently in the process of being added to Section 508 of the Rehab Act and should be followed as standard practice in any web development agency.
4 Principles of Web Accessibility (POUR)
These principles outline and summarize the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0. The following items include the outline of each WCAG 2.0 principle and our own definitions or explanations.
Provide text alternatives for non-text content: Alt text should be detailed enough to ensure that users relying on screen readers will be able to understand the purpose of the page element simply by hearing its alt text read aloud.
Provide captions and other alternatives for multimedia: Videos or audio on your site must be accompanied by a text transcript written by you. Uploading a YouTube video and assuming the default subtitles will suffice is not recommended.
Create content that can be presented in different ways, including by assistive technologies, without losing meaning: Information, structure and relationships conveyed through presentation need to be programmatically determined or available in text. When the sequence in which content is presented affects its meaning, a correct reading sequence should be able to be programmatically determined. Lastly, be sensitive to sensory disabilities by providing instructions for understanding and operating your content; do not rely solely on sensory characteristics of components such as shape, size, visual location, orientation or sound.
Make it easier for users to see and hear content: Auto-scrolling and auto-playing elements should have available options to pause and/or stop the movement for users that have trouble focusing. The user should also be able to easily navigate the site with the styling disabled.
Make all functionality available from a keyboard: Users that rely on only a mouse, keyboard or a screen reader should be able to navigate your entire site using only that one tool, not a combination of them.
A good way to test and see if your site is keyboard friendly is to open your site in a browser and begin tabbing through it only using the “tab” key on your keyboard. Your keyboard “tab” button should move through your site and select all important elements starting from the top-left of the page down to the bottom-right (like reading a book) and the selected element should stand out compared to its surroundings either by being outlined or highlighted. Once an element is selected, hitting “enter/return” on the keyboard should perform the same action as clicking a mouse would and trigger any function attached to it.
Give users enough time to read and use content: Users should be given the option to end or extend any timed events on your site. An element, such as a pop-up box, should appear with these options so the user can make a choice. For example: online banking may only allow for a 30 minute session duration, so a few minutes before the 30 minute mark, a pop-up appears prompting the user to extend their session or to log out.
Do not use content that causes seizures: Any flashing elements should maintain a maximum of three flashes per second to prevent seizure-induction.
Help users navigate and find content: Menus should be organized in a simplistic way that would make sense for any user to be able to find what they’re looking for when they first come to your site. Allowing the user to “Navigate to main content” and “Jump to top of page” are extremely helpful ways to aid the user’s navigation of your site.
Make text readable and understandable: Anyone of average reading level (roughly 7th or 8th grade reading level) should be able to read and understand the content on your site.
Make content appear and operate in predictable ways: As if reading a book, your site should follow a logical flow from top-left to bottom-right, and the DOM (Document Object Model) should be written in the order the elements appear on the page itself to be screen-reader friendly. Be sure that repeated components appear in the same order on all pages. For example, the header should always be at the top of the page and the footer should always be at the bottom.
Maximize compatibility with current and future user tools: Avoid deprecated features of W3C technologies. Do not display content that relies on technologies that are not accessibility-supported when the technology is turned off or not supported.
Your team’s Quality Assurance Specialist should be involved throughout the entire process of building a site that’s web accessible compliant. The QA should test to meet the rules and guidelines of Section 508 and WCAG 2.0 AA standards. Here are some helpful tools for testing:
We’ll be sharing more information about web accessibility on our blog in the coming weeks. In the meantime, give us a shout if you’d like to talk about accessibility options for your site!