In 2005, Ontario passed The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) to support the rights of people with disabilities to live and work in the province without discrimination. Among the requirements of this new law, which are being phased in gradually, are stipulations for web accessibility. Since 2014, websites that are newly created or revamped must meet a basic level of accessibility to be in compliance with the AODA. By 2021, however, the web accessibility requirements will be more stringent. That’s good news for the increased numbers of customers and clients who will be able to interact with these websites successfully.
There are many features of accessible websites that make them more usable. Videos and audio clips have captions, so that people who are deaf can understand them. Images have text alternatives that describe them, so that people who are blind are aware of what’s in these images. Web pages and websites are designed so they can be navigated without using a mouse. This way, people who don’t have much use of their hands can move around by typing keys on the keyboard. A full list of technical accessibility requirements is available from the World Wide Web Consortium, which produces the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The AODA requires compliance with version 2.0 or 2.1 of the WCAG.¹
Businesses and organizations that are trying to meet their obligations under the AODA need a way to know if they’re compliant. Automated accessibility checkers are popular tools because they’re quick and often free, and can screen for certain barriers on web pages. However, it’s important to know that even though these tools are convenient, they’re not 100 percent reliable as AODA website compliance checkers. They may give you some idea of your level of compliance, but they should only be used as a first step, or as part of a larger and more comprehensive accessibility evaluation.
The bulk of your AODA compliance testing must be performed by humans who can apply both their expertise and their judgment to this evaluation. Otherwise, the risk is extremely high that you’ll miss barriers that these tools don’t detect.
Here are three interesting experiments that prove humans are absolutely necessary when you’re checking for AODA website compliance.
1. Too Many Misses
In the United Kingdom, folks working in the Government Digital Service’s Accessibility unit decided to use their expertise to create what they dubbed “the world’s least-accessible” web page. They packed it with all kinds of barriers – 143 of them, to be precise – all of which could present problems to users with disabilities, but all of which a qualified web accessibility partner would be able to find with manual testing. Next, the team systematically tested their inaccessible page using 10 different automated checking tools. The result? More than a quarter of the barriers were ignored by all 10 checkers! One of the most frequently used tools found just 17 percent of the accessibility problems.²
2. Many Misses, Take Two
Another similar finding was published last year in the International Journal of Information Technology and Computer Science. The paper notes that because of the increased need to comply with web accessibility requirements, the number of automated checkers more than doubled between 2014 and 2017. For this experiment, the study authors chose eight popular accessibility testing tools to check whether or not various websites were in compliance with WCAG 2.0. (Remember, this is the same level of accessibility that is required by the AODA.) Afterwards, the study authors had the same websites evaluated manually by human experts. Just as the U.K. group discovered, there were vast numbers of web barriers that had been missed by these tools. Every single one of the eight tools failed to identify all the accessibility problems.³
3. Captioning Blunders
Automatic captioning is another area where it’s obvious that human compliance checkers are needed. Automatic captioning is software that uses voice recognition technology to add text equivalents of the audio tracks in videos and other media, so that people who can’t hear will still understand them. Unfortunately, they are less than perfect. In fact, some results are so disastrous that they’ve been characterized as comedy.4 An experiment by a captioning service provider showed that when automated captioning is applied to a clear, high-quality audio track with a single speaker and no background noise, the captioning approaches 95 percent accuracy – but it quickly slips to below 75% when a second speaker is added.5 As the experimenter points out, few videos and audio clips would meet the conditions required by automatic captioning tools in order to achieve near-perfect accuracy.
These experiments all show that nothing replaces human judgment when it comes to identifying web accessibility barriers. If you’re aiming for AODA website compliance, there’s nothing wrong with using automated checkers. Just keep in mind that they’re only a first step. To be fully confident you’ve identified as many web barriers as possible, you can’t do without the expertise of an accessibility consulting firm – staffed by actual people.
If you’re interested in learning more about how Essential Accessibility can help you comply with AODA regulations, request a demo with our accessibility experts today.
An Innovative Solution
eSSENTIAL ACCESSIBILITY has developed a comprehensive accessibility solution to help organizations follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and achieve and maintain compliance with standards and regulations. This includes integrating web compliance evaluation and remediation services with assistive technology to deliver a transformative experience for people with disabilities. Learn more about eSSENTIAL ACCESSIBILITY’s innovative solution.
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Overview W3C WAI, June 2018
- What we found when we tested tools on the world’s least-accessible webpage UK.gov Blog, February 2017
- Towards Automated Web Accessibility
Evaluation: A Comparative Study I.J. Information Technology and Computer Science, September 2017
- YouTube Automatic Caption FAIL Know Your Meme
- YouTube automatic craptions score an incredible 95% accuracy rate! Medium, July 2015