WCAG 2.0 (pronounced wuh-CAG 2.0) is a set of web content accessibility guidelines that helps make websites work for people of all abilities. It’s the yardstick by which most institutions of higher education measure the accessibility of their sites, and Texas A&M University is no exception.
The reasoning behind the standards
Designing and developing sites with WCAG 2.0 in mind allows us to broaden our reach by making sure our content can be enjoyed by everyone, including individuals with cognitive, motor, vison or auditory challenges. It also takes into account unique user preferences, such as how we choose to view color, if we want to enlarge text, or even if we want to use only a keyboard to access online information.
WCAG 2.0, in a nutshell, allows us to make our websites perceivable, operable, understandable and robust. Each of the criteria point directly to one of these four concepts. See web accessibility standards.
Types of evaluations
Using automated evaluation tools can provide a quick initial assessment and give you a good idea of the accessibility of the site on a large scale. Some automated evaluation tools are:
- Enterprise tools such as Siteimprove and WorldSpace Comply offered through IT Accessibility Services
- Online tools such as Wave and aChecker
- Browser extensions such as Html_Codesniffer and WebAIM’s Wave
- Desktop applications such as aViewer and Color Contrast Analyzer
Although these tools are very helpful in evaluating websites, they may only find 25 to 35% of accessibility issues. This is a start, but when it comes to getting our institution’s information out to the widest possible audience, this just won’t cut it.
A thorough testing program includes manual testing, as it examines accessibility issues at a more granular level and helps to verify the results of automated testing. As a best practice, manual testing should be performed in multiple browsers including Firefox, Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, and Safari. The accuracy of results depends solely upon the knowledge and skill of the tester, so there’s no better way than to just dive right in and start testing.
Going a step further, usability testing helps organizations understand user needs, identify potential issues, and generate ideas for improvement. While usability testing is often used to evaluate a website’s user interface (UI), this method is also invaluable for discovering the best way to present information on your website. By paying attention to how people read, interpret, and access content, you gain a greater understanding of how to communicate, structure, and format information.
Where can you begin?
If you haven’t already, start with some training. IT Accessibility Services offers various training sessions including:
- Web Accessibility Essentials and Advanced, both offered through Employee and Organizational Development (EOD)
- Document Creation including Microsoft Word and PowerPoint as well as Adobe InDesign and PDF Accessibility
- Procurement Training, which takes you step-by-step through the purchase of Electronic and Information Resources (EIR)
Custom sessions for your workgroup are also available, and IT Accessibility Services staff can provide consulting or even help you come up with a workable testing protocol. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.