How is ADA compliance related to WCAG standards?
The American Disabilities Act was signed into law in 1990 and has been used as a policy foundation for requiring websites to be publicly accessible to all users, including disabled users with physical limitations such as blindness or deafness.
Businesses and organizations with websites and web apps of all types are open to litigation and have been increasingly targeted in the last two years. Federal courts have identified the WCAG (specifically, WCAG 2.0 Level AA) as an “industry standard” for web accessibility in serving disabled users.
How are Developers and Web Owners Upgrading Their Websites?
The WCAG process is laid out in detail via the W3C online. Altogether, it encompasses over 80 points, over three different levels of compliance. All facets of a website and its content are included, as all information must be accessible to all users covered by the ADA legislation.
The first place to start is to have a detailed list of all issues and noncompliance points on the website. Next, it is likely that content such as audio transcripts or image titles will need to be created for implementation. Finally, all updates will need to be made to the website and tested for compliance.
How do Developers Find Out What Needs To Be Upgraded and Created?
Web developers have three options in auditing their websites for necessary upgrades and coverage of any liabilities. They can receive direct training in WCAG procedures and becomes experts.
They can use online tools that will produce an audit of the website and attempt to locate and serious vulnerabilities or limitations. Finally, they could hire an outside consulting firm, a digital agency specializing in WCAG accessibility and have the site audited.
The benefit of working with a tool will be low (potentially free) cost, while the benefit to working with an agency will be having any content needed (video transcripts, titles, ALT tags) created out-of-house automatically as part of the WCAG upgrading service as well as a more expert-level opinion.
Tools are naturally going to be less accurate than a full audit by an experienced team and could have mistakes depending on the test or auditing software. False positives are also a risk when working with cheap tools, as they can identify issues that do not actually need to be worked on. Ben Robertson at MediaCurrent.com writes that only “20-30%” of issues are found by most accessibility tools.
How To Get Started With WCAG Tools
Some of the more popular web tools for WCAG standards are produced and maintained by web organizations that specifically promote web accessibility or work with disability groups. There are also “browser extensions” or add-ons that can help identify the accessibility issues any given webpage is experiencing.
Some tools will return general issues and lists of problems, while more advanced versions (sometimes paid) can be used to audit websites to a specific WCAG version and Level A, AA or AAA — and even to specific guidelines like a Section 508 policy which has been referenced in some court cases.
Tools for Developers versus general tools
Some WCAG auditing or maintenance tools will be geared specifically toward developers and issues they deal with on a daily basis (such as crawl reports or backend issues). Others are more for organization heads or digital leads without developer knowledge, these tend to be more basic browser add-on tools and quick audits that produce a list of potential issues by page.
It’s important to be aware of the specific type of tool you are using and for what purpose. A simple browser add-on that identifies some basic problems may not be capable of a deeper audit, and it would be easy to make mistakes if the wrong output is expected from a limited test.
Some tools are for specific instances and issues without WCAG, mostly the major readability issues that are the most prevalent. This can include specific software for testing screen reader software or content additions since screen readers make up a large portion of ADA compliance issues on websites.
What Tools Are Needed To Test Websites for WCAG and ADA standards?
Since a website will need to be accessible via keyboard, you will need a keyboard to test any website for WCAG. This can be used to help avoid keyword traps, as all parts of the site need to be accessible with keyboard keys.
Screen reader software is required to test screen reading capabilities. It can take time to learn how to work with screen reading software, and a consulting firm can be helpful in that case. Photo editing tools will also be needed in some cases, for editing certain contrasts, working with colors and producing alternative versions of images.
The full categories of accessibility testing tools can be considered: screen reader software, speech recognition software, special keyboard, screen magnification software. These tools test things like descriptive link text, pop-ups, language for short and simple sentences, ease of navigation, and use of CSS layouts instead of HTML.