In the UX Workshop Series: Web Accessibility class, we discussed the four principles of WCAG 2.0. Those principles are Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust. I’m going to break down each of these four principles and talk about what each one of them really means.
Under each section I’ve listed some questions to ask yourself. All of the questions may not be relevant all the time, so make sure to use your best judgement.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) defines perceivable this way: “information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.”
Perceivable refers to your user’s ability to gather all of the information you’ve presented in your software or website via sight, sound, or touch. This means that your users need to be able to have some way of perceiving all of the information and user interface components of your page. In other words, it can’t be invisible to any of your users. This is probably the most common principle people think of regarding accessibility, particularly how it affects the visually impaired. It’s important to think about how you’re conveying important information in ways that may not be easily perceived by everyone, such as communicating a field is required only by color or giving directions on a website only by sound.
Always make sure your content is communicated in at least two different modes of perception. For example, using alt text on images or showing a glyphicon next to red required fields. Look through your pages/software to ensure that the information is presented in more than one channel and ask yourself the following questions:
- Do all images have an equivalent caption or alt text?
- Do all audio clips have a transcript associated with them?
- Do all video clips have a transcript associated with them?
- Is there sufficient contrast between your text color and background color?
Operable means “users must be able to operate the interface via components and navigation available.” This means that the user must be able to use all of the functionality of the software. For those with limited motor abilities, this could mean navigating a website using only the tab and enter keys. For a user with learning disabilities, it could mean that the developer needs to ensure the user has enough time to respond to UI elements, such as timed actions. It could even mean that the software or site is safe for seizure-prone individuals.
Not everyone has the ability to use a mouse. Some people use dictation software to navigate online content. Other people use switches that are controlled by their hands, feet, or head to navigate. Your content must be navigable and operable by these different modes of input. There are even actions that mouse users can perform that maybe a touchscreen user can’t.
It’s important to think through workflows with different input devices. Make sure all actions that can be accomplished with a mouse can also be accomplished with a keyboard. Always consider how the user will know their location in the software while navigating. And of course, always make sure that timed actions need to be timed. Consider lengthening the time if these actions cannot be undone.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Is there a “skip navigation” feature to bypass repeated blocks of content, such as the navigation bar?
- Can the purpose of each link be determined by the link’s text alone?
- Are headings used correctly to provide the content with meaningful structure?
Understandable means that the user must be able to understand the information and operation of the user interface. The content or operation can’t be beyond their understanding. What qualifies as “understandable” largely depends on the business. It also includes using predictable navigation tools and consistent labelling throughout your website. Most of this falls under best practices and is covered in Ensemble.
The best way to plan for understandable content is to keep all interactions and information to a minimum. Make sure your users aren’t having an information overload situation.
Make sure your content is written in plain language and explain any jargon or acronyms if necessary.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Is the site’s language identified in the code (<html lang=”en”>)?
- Are unusual words, acronyms, and jargon (if necessary) explained?
- Are images and graphics used to assist with comprehension (keeping in mind that they need to be perceivable)?
- Are summaries (TL;DR) provided for lengthy articles and posts?
According to the W3C, “content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.” This means that as technologies get better and better, users should still be able to access your content. Robust websites use standardized markup that can be reliably interpreted across different browsers, operating systems, and types of hardware. Your users should be able to access your content on anything they choose (tablet, smart phone, different browsers, etc). For example, if your website only works in Internet Explorer, it isn’t robust.
Creating robust products allows users to customize their technologies to meet their needs. Web content that requires Flash, for example, excludes users whose devices don’t support that technology. The more control your users have, the more likely they will be able to access your content easily and effectively.
Bottom line here: TEST IN EVERY BROWSER.
Question to ask yourself:
- How does your site appear and behave in various browsers, operating systems, and platforms (mobile, PC, tablet, etc.)?
Implementing the POUR principles places Corelogic FNC’s customers first. Always remember that web accessibility is less about technical requirements and more about the user.
If you have any questions about accessibility, don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be happy to help and answer your questions to the best of my knowledge.