Accessibility and inclusion: the challenge of the digital age

By Luz María Gutiérrez Feria, Project Manager for QA and Software Testing

The challenge that has existed for several years and that the pandemic has exposed with great notoriety is the digital divide which exists depending on  each person’s individual situation.  From a technological perspective, the democratization of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), which facilitate access to thousands of informational opportunities, is necessary in order to eliminate this digital divide.

One of the objectives of digital inclusion is to ensure that the wide array of people with disabilities is not excluded from a world that offers infinite possibilities.  As people working in technology, specifically in Software Testing, we have the opportunity and responsibility to be part of this challenge. 

Accessibility testing

WEB ACCESSIBILITY FROM THE CONVICTION OF SOCIAL COMMITMENT 

The Internet is one of the most important sources of free information, which is why it should be available and accessible to everyone. In this way, it becomes a fundamental resource for:

  • Job search and work interactions. 
  • Online and offline training. 
  • Information, news, leisure, commerce. 
  • Public administration services. 

In these difficult times, in which none of us could have predicted that we would be living and practically depending on web and mobile applications to lead our lives for almost 2 years, it is a fundamental that companies in the sector include in their projections a guarantee  that they will maintain the accessibility of these systems, so that the online economy can remain inclusive and accessible.

We must understand that web accessibility affords all people with a path to obtaining knowledge and information.  It also increases the possibility of having them compete under equal and equitable conditions; especially with regard to personal and professional development opportunities. But suppose a site is not addressing this important issue of social inclusion (which if it isn’t already considering, it should). What is the benefit of offering a web or mobile app to your clients? 

Promoting, developing and applying web accessibility will help you to: 

  • Stimulate and drive innovation. 
  • Improve, strengthen and boost your brand. 
  • Expand market reach options. 
  • Considerably minimize  legal exposure due to non-compliance with norms. 

Complying with the legal requirements established by different web accessibility regulations, makes a company’s positive brand image even better. Moreover, such a company, institution or organization will be more likely to have inclusive and innovative services or business models

WHAT CHARACTERISTICS MUST THE SITES MEET TO BE ACCESSIBLE?

  1. Semantic HTML. The use of Semantic HTML is recommended and it is also important that the HTML of a web page be semantically correct. W3C has a website to validate the markup validity of web documents in HTML, XHTML, SMIL, MathML, etc. We can use it to make sure that the HTML syntax is used correctly. 
  2. Use the integrated Accessibility keyboard. Access to the keyboard is essential for accessibility. A keyboard user generally uses Tab, Shift Tab, or the arrow keys to navigate through interactive elements on a web page, such as buttons, input fields, selections, links, etc. When an element is in focus, it can be activated or manipulated with a keyboard. An action can be performed by clicking the Enter key or the space bar. WebAIM provides keyboard test rules for autocomplete, dialog, slider control, menu bar, tab pane, etc. 
  3. Avoid positive Tabindex to configure the navigation flow: The navigation order in which interactive elements receive keyboard focus is important. The default order should be logical and intuitive. The general flow is from left to right and top to bottom. The order of navigation must come from the order of the document’s origin. Avoid positive tabindex to configure the navigation flow. Tabindex is a global attribute that indicates that your element is focusable and can be part of the navigation flow if the value is not negative. It is good practice to use a screen reader to test web pages during development. MacBooks have great accessibility built in when VoiceOver is enabled to read the screen. You can also use the ChromeVox Classic extension, which is a screen reader in Chrome for visually impaired users.
  4. Ensure full keyboard accessibility: Keyboard access is tied to operability. When implementing web pages, we must first use the built-in keyboard access. If it is not available for a complex user interface, tabindex can be implemented to fill the gap. The goal is to achieve full keyboard access. For more details, see: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2)
  5. Make focus and navigation the same: The focus indicates that the component is currently selected. To satisfy the WCAG 2 Perceivable and Operable rules, when the cursor moves around an application, the focused item must be visible. The visual indication must be large enough to cover the area of the component, and the delimited area must have sufficient contrast in color and thickness. 
  6. Make sure web pages are functional without CSS: It is important to test the rendering of a web page without CSS. Most browsers, except Chrome, have a menu option to view pages without CSS. In Chrome, the Web Developer Extension can be used. 
  7. Fill the accessibility gap with WAI-ARIA
  8. Offer text alternatives for multimedia content: It is always a good idea to offer text alternatives for multimedia content in case it cannot be viewed due to a slow connection, a bad link, or if a screen reader is used.
  9. Make text size and color distinguishable: The WCAG 2 Perceivable category has a section on how to make text size and color distinguishable for people with low vision. So we must make sure that the color of the text, with respect to its background, has the minimum allowable contrast and that the font size is in accordance with what is defined by WCAG 2. On this website, you can compare the contrast of 2 colors. 
  10. Pass Audit Tool Tests: Despite following all accessibility rules, you may still miss things here and there. It is good practice to use auditing tools to verify the accessibility of web pages. 

Undoubtedly, web accessibility in the digital age has opened a possibility of access to information that improves people’s lives every day

Would you like your applications to include web accessibility? Write to us at [email protected].