Embrace Inclusivity with Digital Accessibility

Why is digital accessibility important

In today’s world, embracing inclusivity with accessibility is not only about being humane or legally correct but also makes a lot of business sense. Recent studies have shown that businesses can tap into an additional prospective user base of up to 15% to market their products. Persons with disabilities (PWD) are responsible for 25% of all healthcare spending in the U.S.

Businesses have increasingly become aware of the requirements of people who need accessible technologies to contribute to a work environment or who can also be prospective customers.

At Barclays, accessibility is about more than just disability. It’s about helping everyone to work, bank and live their lives regardless of their age, situation, abilities, or circumstances. – Paul Smyth, Head of Digital Accessibility, Barclays

What is digital accessibility?

The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) states that websites, tools, and technologies should be designed and developed so that even differently-abled people can use them. More specifically, these people should be able to perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web and contribute to the Web.

Web Accessibility enables people with disabilities to participate equally on the Web. Broadly speaking, Web accessibility encompasses all disabilities that affect access to the Web, including:

  • Auditory
  • Cognitive
  • Neurological
  • Physical
  • Speech
  • Visual

When an organization removes barriers by making its application accessible to its full potential, it will be an inclusive product, as millions of people with various disabilities can use it.

Mandated by Law – American with Disabilities Act (ADA)

One hears the terms “Section 508”, an amendment to the Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that requires that all Information Technology assets of the United States’ federal government be accessible by people with disabilities.

Also, ADA (American with Disabilities Act) the Title III requires that all private businesses that are open to the public be accessible to people with disabilities. There is a steady rise in the number of lawsuits filed over the years under this section, resulting from the growing awareness of the ADA Title III. Digital accessibility compliance helps organizations protect themselves against this rising trend of ADA Title III Federal lawsuits.

Foundation for accessibility

The web accessibility guidelines, technical specifications, and educational resources to help make the web accessible to people with disabilities are developed by Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). They are an integral part of the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium), focusing on accessibility. Over time, the WAI has developed several recommendations, some of which are:

The latest edition of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 has additional coverage for mobile and non-W3C technologies (non-web documents and software).

Four principles of accessibility

The WCAG guidelines lay down the four principles which are the foundation for Web accessibility: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust (POUR for short).

Perceivable: The objective is to make content available to the senses, primarily vision, and hearing, via either the browser or through assistive technologies like screen readers, screen enlargers, etc. For the visually impaired who mainly rely on a screen reader to have the website’s content read, one needs to add an alternative text that provides a textual alternative to non-text content in web pages that makes the content perceivable. Another example is videos and live audio must have captions and a transcript. With archived audio, a transcription may be enough.

In this video example: Perceivable, the video page uses “voice recognition” and is also updated to use “speech recognition.” “Voice recognition” or “speaker recognition” is a technology that identifies who the speaker is, not the words they’re saying. “Speech recognition” is about recognizing words for speech-to-text (STT) transcription, virtual assistants, and other speech user interfaces. Together they allow a person with visual impairment to enhance their experience of the web.

Operable: The objective is to enable a user to interact with all controls and interactive elements using either the mouse, keyboard, or an assistive device. Most people will get frustrated by the inability to use a computer because of a malfunctioning mouse. Many people prefer to use only the keyboard to navigate websites. Whatever be the reason, either personal preference or circumstance like temporarily limited mobility, a permanent physical disability, or simply a broken mouse, the result is the same: Websites and apps need to be operable by a keyboard. For example, all links and controls on the web page must be accessible using the Tab key on the keyboard.

In addition, Operable principles allow users enough time to use and interact with the content. It also helps them navigate and find content. For example, if all rich, interactive features of the web page like dropdown menus, carousels, modal dialogs, etc., comply with the W3C’s WAI-ARIA 1.0 Authoring Practices recommendations, will ensure that users can easily navigate to the right content.

Understandable: The objective is to ensure that every functionality of web content is easily understandable. A user must be able to understand all navigation and other forms of interaction. To provide a user the best possible experience, every point of interaction deserves careful attention. Navigation should be consistent and predictable throughout the context of the website. Interactive elements like form controls should also be predictable and clearly labeled. For example, Instead of saying: “To postulate a conceit more irksome than being addressed in sesquipedalian syntax is adamantine,” it is better to say: “Being spoken to in unnecessarily long and complicated language is a pain.”

Despite knowing these basics, many websites lack structuring using headings, lists, and separations. Some even use overly complex language, jargon, and unexplained acronyms. It makes these websites difficult and unappealing for many people, including non-native speakers and makes them unusable for people with cognitive and learning disabilities.

Robust: People get familiar and comfortable with different technologies like operating systems, browsers, and versions of browsers with usage and time. Some people like advanced features, whereas many disable them. There are early adopters of new technologies while others are slow to adapt to the rapidly-changing currents in the flow of technological advances.

A User should have the freedom to choose their technologies to access web content. This allows the user to customize the technology to meet his needs, including accessibility needs. In some cases, it might take additional time and effort to develop web content, depending on the specifications of the technologies used. However, in the long run, it will produce more reliable results and increase the chances that the content is accessible to people with disabilities.

You might have experienced the frustration of being told your technology is out of date or no longer supported. Whilst frustrating, you’ve probably found a way around the issue – but what if you couldn’t because you rely on that technology to interact with the digital world.

Beyond the four principles

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 are organized into three levels of conformance:

Level A – addresses the most basic features of web accessibility features.
Level AA – deals with the most common and biggest barriers for disabled users and is covered in most accessibility regulations globally, including the ADA.
Level AAA – the highest level of web accessibility will make the software or product accessible to the maximum number of users. However, these requirements are not entirely easy to conform to and can be focused on if your audience is primarily people with disabilities.

These levels are across all of the previously mentioned principles. Some of the key requirements include:

Google Aces Accessibility

Google’s investment in accessibility provides the company with an innovation edge in a broad array of products and services. Some of the innovations are:

  • Contrast minimums: a feature designed especially for people with low vision, and the feature also helps everyone see in bright light glare situations.
  • Auto-complete: initially designed for people with disabilities, now used widely by all users.
  • Voice control: although initially implemented for users with physical impairments is now widely adopted by millions of users for the convenience it provides
  • Artificial intelligence: originally integrated to provide visual context to users with visual impairments
  • Auto-captioning leveraging machine learning designed mainly for deaf users did not see many adopters in that target audience, as many feel it is still inadequate to meet their needs. However, advances in machine learning itself have found broader applications.

Get started with your accessibility program

Trigent’s Accessibility Assurance and Compliance Service can help you at the design stage itself with Design reviews and Gap analysis or later to assess compliance to WCAG 2.1 guidelines.

Wish to know more? Feel free to reach out to us

Poor application performance can be fatal for your enterprise, avoid app degradation with application performance testing

If you’ve ever wondered what can possibly go wrong’ after creating a foolproof app, think again. Democrats’ Iowa Caucus voting app is a case in point. The Iowa caucus post-mortem pointed towards a flawed software development process and insufficient testing.

The enterprise software market revenue is expected to grow with a CAGR of 9.1% leading to a market volume of US$ 326,285.5 m by 2025. It is important that enterprises aggressively work towards getting their application performance testing efforts on track to ensure that all the individual components that go into the making of the app provide superior responses to ensure a better customer experience.

Banking app outages have also been pretty rampant in recent times putting the spotlight on the importance of application performance testing. Customers of Barclays, Santander, and HSBC suffered immensely when their mobile apps suddenly went down. It’s not as if banks worldwide are not digitally equipped. They dedicate at least 2-3 percent of their revenue to information technology along with additional expenses on building a superior IT infrastructure. What they also need is early and continuous performance testing to address and minimize the occurrence of such issues.

It is important that the application performs well not just when it goes live but later too. We give you a quick lowdown on application performance testing to help you gear up to meet modern-day challenges.

Application performance testing objectives

In general, users today, have little or no tolerance for bugs or poor response times. A faulty code can also lead to serious bottlenecks that can eventually lead to slowdown or downtime. Meanwhile, bottlenecks can arise from CPU utilization, disk usage, operating system limitations, or hardware issues.

Enterprises, therefore, need to conduct performance testing regularly to:

  • Ensure the app performs as expected
  • Identify and eliminate bottlenecks through continuous monitoring
  • Identify & eliminate limitations imposed by certain components
  • Identify and act on the causes of poor performance
  • Minimize implementation risks

Application performance testing parameters

Performance testing is based on various parameters that include load, stress, spike, endurance, volume, and scalability. Resilient apps can withstand increasing workloads, high volumes of data, and sudden or repetitive spikes in users and/or transactions.

As such, performance testing ensures that the app is designed keeping peak operations in mind, and all components comprising the app function as a cohesive unit to meet consumer requirements.
No matter how complex the app is, performance testing teams are often required to take the following steps:

  • Setting the performance criteria – Performance benchmarks need to be set and criteria should be identified in order to decide the course of the testing.
  • Adopting a user-centric approach – Every user is different and it is always a good idea to simulate a variety of end-users to imagine diverse scenarios and test for use cases accordingly. You would therefore need to factor in expected usage patterns, the peak times, length of an average session within the application, how many times do users use the application in a day, what is the most commonly used screen for the app, etc.
  • Evaluating the testing environment – It is important to understand the production environment, the tools available for testing, and the hardware, software, and configurations to be used before beginning the testing process. This helps us understand the challenges and plan accordingly.
  • Monitoring for the best user experience – Constant monitoring is an important step in application performance testing. It will give you answers to what, when, and why’ helping you fine-tune the performance of the application. How long does it take for the app to load, how does the latest deployment compare to previous ones, how well does the app perform while backend performances occur, etc. are things you need to assess. It is important that you leverage your performance scripts well with proper correlations, and monitor performance baselines for your database to ensure it can manage fresh data loads without diluting the user experience.
  • Re-engineering and re-testing – The tests can be rerun as required to review and analyze results, and fine-tune again if necessary.

Early Performance Testing

Test early. Why wait for users to complain when you can proactively run tests early in the development lifecycle to check for application readiness and performance? In the current (micro) service-oriented architecture approach, as soon as the component or an interface is built, performance testing at a smaller scale can allow us to uncover issues w.r.t concurrency, response time/latency, SLA, etc. This will allow us to identify bottlenecks early and gain confidence in the product as it is being built.

Performance testing best practices

For the app to perform optimally, you must adopt testing practices that can alleviate performance issues across all stages of the app cycle.

Our top recommendations are as follows:

  • Build a comprehensive performance model – Understand your system’s capacity to be ready for concurrent users, simultaneous requests, response times, system scalability, and user satisfaction. The app load time, for instance, is a critical metric irrespective of the industry you belong to. Mobile app load times can hugely impact consumer choices as highlighted in a study by Akamai which suggested conversion rates reduce by half and bounce rate increases by 6% if a mobile site load time goes up from 1 second to 3. It is therefore important that you factor in the changing needs of customers to build trust, loyalty, and offer a smooth user experience.
  • Update your test suite – The pace of technology is such that new development tools will debut all the time. It is therefore important for application performance testing teams to ensure they sharpen their skills often and are equipped with the latest testing tools and methodologies.

An application may boast of incredible functionality, but without the right application architecture, it won’t impress much. Some of the best brands have suffered heavily due to poor application performance. While Google lost about $2.3 million due to the massive outage that occurred in December 2020, AWS suffered a major outage after Amazon added a small amount of capacity to its Kinesis servers.

So, the next time you decide to put your application performance testing efforts on the back burner, you might as well ask yourself ‘what would be the cost of failure’?

Tide over application performance challenges with Trigent

With decades of experience and a bunch of the finest testing tools, our teams are equipped to help you across the gamut of application performance right from testing to engineering. We test apps for reliability, scalability, and performance while monitoring them continuously with real-time data and analytics.

Allow us to help you lead in the world of apps. Request a demo now.

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