In the first part of the blog series on `Web Accessibility Testing‘, I gave an overview of the importance of accessibility testing and its importance for differently enabled people. In this second part, I will focus on the process of implementing Web Accessibility.
To begin with, it is important to understand the inherent meaning of the word `accessibility’ in the context of web applications, its legal obligations, and the actual process of implementation.
Sometimes web developers fear that it is more expensive and time-consuming to create accessible web sites than it is to create inaccessible ones. This fear is largely untrue. The benefits of providing access to a larger population almost always outweighs the time required by a knowledgeable developer to implement that accessibility.
A developer can learn the basics of web accessibility in just a few days, but, as with any technical skill, it often takes months to internalize the concept and the techniques.
Laws and standards
If you live in the United States, applicable laws include ADA, IDEA, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Sections 504 and Section 508). Many international laws also address accessibility.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines provide an international set of guidelines. They are developed by the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C), the Governing Body of the Web. These guidelines are the basis of most web accessibility laws in the world. Version 2.0 of these guidelines, published in December 2008, is based on four principles:
- Perceivable: Available to the senses (vision and hearing primarily) either through the browser or through assistive technologies (e.g. screen readers, screen enlargers, etc.)
- Operable: Users can interact with all controls and interactive elements using either the mouse, keyboard, or an assistive device.
- Understandable: Content is clear and limits confusion and ambiguity.
- Robust: A wide range of technologies (including old and new user agents and assistive technologies) can access the content.
Part 3 of the blog series on `Web Accessibility Testing’ will cover a detailed explanation of the above four principles.