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Why is it important to conform to the WCAG 2.0 Guidelines?

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Navigating in the Dark

You’ve been working hard today. Time to take a break, open a new browser tab on your workstation and visit your favorite website. Maybe it’s Facebook or ESPN or a news site. Just after entering the web address, close your eyes and keep them closed. How successful would you be navigating the site? Out of habit, your hand is probably on your mouse or trackpad. Well, that’s not going to help you one bit if you can’t see the mouse cursor or the content. The difficulty you feel is a standard occurrence for people who are visually impaired.

How do you know if you are visually impaired?….you have received any of the following diagnoses:

  • Correctable vision – Using glasses or contact lens gets you in range of 20/20
  • Legally blind – Even corrected acuity isn’t sufficient. This can make it difficult to clearly distinguish standard font sizes.
  • Complete blindness – No forms or light can be distinguished

Can technology help?

Luckily there are technologies that can assist these individuals to utilize your website. This can range from browsers’ built-in zoom functionality, refreshable Braille displays, to 3rd party screen readers like JAWS or NVDA. Screen readers will only be able to parse web pages that are formatted and structured correctly. How clean is the resulting HTML markup on your pages?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) adopts WCAG 2.0, level AA

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a United States initiative that helps ensure people with disabilities have equivalent access to government buildings, programs and yes, even websites. The ADA has taken a cue from the ISO and recently adopted WCAG 2.0, level AA as the new set of guidelines for computer systems, germane to our topic, web page syntax and form.

Why Conform?

Conformance with these guidelines is important because it ensures the consistency without which automated processes like screen readers cannot properly parse and interpret the content of a page. HTML markup misuse can range from a missing <title> or <label> tag, to improperly nested header tags (<h1>, <h2>, <h3>), to using an unexpected control to perform a “standard” action (e.g. using an HTML button to link to a different webpage instead of the <a> element). There are some free utilities like the WAVE Browser extension that can help you discover these issues, but there is no substitute for a deep dive into the WCAG 2.0 specification and understanding the issues it tries to resolve.

If the moral implications of making your web pages available for sight-impaired individuals is not enough for you to fix them, there is also a market impact to consider. The National Federation of the Blind estimates there is over 7 million visually impaired adults in the US as of 2014. If your website isn’t formatted properly, then that market segment is effectively closed to your organization. Lastly, if the moral and market-based reasons are not enough AND if your organization receives any kind of federal funding, then the specter of litigation looms as a distinct possibility. Federal US government websites have until mid-January 2018 to be conformant but others contend that even privately held companies could be targeted.

Not only does it make moral and fiscal sense, conforming with WCAG 2.0, AA guidelines is the obvious next action to take to improve your website to help expand your customer base and avoid litigation nightmares.PortalGuard V5.6 adheres to the WCAG 2.0 guidelines and is a cost-effective option to implement in your environment today.

Schedule a 1:1 meeting with an Account Executive to learn more about PortalGuard V5.6!

 

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Gregg Browinski

Author: Gregg Browinski

Gregg, PistolStar’s Chief Technology Officer, oversees PistolStar’s product development and technical support. Prior to joining the company in 2001, he received extensive experience as a developer at IBM Lotus and Iris Associates. Gregg has served as the lead architect and developer for PistolStar’s Password Power suite of authentication solutions. He is responsible for the product’s technical success and the recognition it has received through award nominations.

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