Toward Inclusive Technology: 4 Modifications to Create Accessible Software

Juan Carlos Porras Quirós | February 05, 2019

The World Health Organization estimates around 15% of the world’s population (over a billion people) have a disability.

When the Internet Society tells us, “The Internet is for everyone!” We agree without hesitation.

Yet how often do you consider how accessible your product is to low-vision individuals, those hard of hearing, or people with a physical disability? And how often do you check for accessibility?

Not everyone may be able to interact with your product in the way you anticipated.
Fortunately, there are guidelines in place to help create accessible software products.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0) are a series of guidelines published by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) that dictate how to make content accessible for people with disabilities.

We’ve listed four common examples of accessibility issues that you find in the average software product.

Four Common Examples of Software Accessibility Issues

The accessibility issues listed below are keeping your software from complying with WCAG 2.0.

1. Text Alternatives

Many low-vision people interact with the internet using a screen-enhancing program, such as a screen narrator.

Screen narrator programs are designed to turn what’s displayed on the screen into audio. This allows people with low vision to access and navigate that content.

Even with the best algorithms and protocols available, screen narrators often poorly interpret the following:

  • Images that have no description or footnote
  • Clickable icons with no text description
  • Web elements that have no code description and are misnamed on the web page

Anything that the narrator program cannot read, the user will not understand the content. This obstacle can render your product unusable for low-vision users.

Any web page or web app that does not include text alternatives is inaccessible to almost 12 million low-vision people living in the U.S.

2. Closed Captioning

People hard of hearing, 430 million people worldwide, often need to depend on hearing aids and/or closed captioning when trying to access media content like videos or live streams.

While it’s fairly simple to create subtitles for pre-recorded media, unfortunately, it’s not implemented as often as it should be. Closed captioning is also more complicated to provide for live feeds.

When dealing with news broadcasts, informational videos, or user guides, closed captioning could be the defining factor when a user who is hard of hearing is deciding whether to use your product or another.

3. Time Conditions

Depending on the nature of your business, you may or may not deal with session times and time-sensitive actions.

But you’ve probably used a website to buy a movie ticket, check your bank account balance, get tickets for a concert, or some other time-dependent site.
Some people need additional time to process what’s being displayed on the screen.

Others have physical disabilities that limit how fast they’re able to type or navigate with a mouse.

If your product doesn’t provide a time alert, a re-authentication action, or a general way to extend your interactions, you could be leaving out a significant amount of people from your target demographic.

4. Design

When it comes down to deciding a visual aspect for a mobile or web app, we often choose a design based on what’s the most appealing, which can prove to be very subjective.

When designing, it’s important to make sure your product is not only visually appealing but also accessible to as many people as possible.

Visual elements to avoid include:

  • Using a font size that’s too small
  • Choosing a color palette that isn’t visually perceived by people with a color vision deficiency
  • Utilizing flashing lights that could trigger seizures in people with photosensitive epilepsy

The Advantages of Accessible Software

Making the proper adjustments is a step toward inclusive technology for everyone. An accessible product will:

  • Improve your product overall. Accessible software products are cleaner, faster, and increase customer satisfaction
  • Expand your user demographic and generate more revenue through increased user interactions and consumption
  • Improve search engine rankings. SEO algorithms recognize and reward accessible sites
  • Examine the details of your product. When you test for accessibility, you allow quality assurance engineers to perform more thorough testing. They examine details that are often overlooked by functional tests

What’s at Risk if Your Product Isn’t Accessible?

When your product is non-compliant, your business strategy and brand image could suffer negative effects:

  • Poor publicity
  • Deficient designs
  • User discontent
  • Less web traffic
  • Perceived discrimination could have legal repercussions depending on your state or country’s legislation

How to Get Started Creating Accessible Software

The four examples of common accessibility issues that are listed in this post are just a few in the full extent of accessibility.

The WCAG 2.0 has four main areas, twelve objective guidelines, and over sixty criteria that define accessibility over three levels of compliance.

So how can you audit your software projects to comply with these guidelines?

In addition to the quality assurance testing services that you receive during your project, there are also specialized, third-party accessibility testing services you can take advantage of, for example, those offered by Encora.

Encora’s Accessibility Audit

Accessibility testing services allow you to identify your product’s accessibility weaknesses to make the necessary changes and create a more inclusive website or app.

Because guaranteeing accessible content to all people is an ethical, moral, and functional decision, getting an accessibility audit is worthwhile.

For companies that lack the time, expertise, or staff to begin accessibility testing—third-party QA service providers, like Encora, offer experienced accessibility specialists that audit your products.

Fast-growing tech companies partner with Encora to outsource product development and drive growth. Visit Encora.com to learn more about our Accessibility Audit.

Key Takeaways

  • Any business that creates software—whether it’s customer-facing or meant for internal use—needs to consider how accessible their software is for people who are hard of hearing, low vision, or have a physical disability
  • The Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium publishes web content accessibility guidelines that should be used for software development and design
  • Four common examples of accessibility issues that you find in the average software product are a lack of text alternatives, lack of closed captioning, time conditions without a time alert, and low-visibility design
  • QA testing services, in-house or third party, should be able to conduct an accessibility audit on your software to detect any problem areas



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