As technology evolves and consumers increasingly rely upon digital tools and services, savvy organizations recognize an opportunity to widen their market reach and mitigate legal risk by prioritizing their digital product and software accessibility. As a result, digital accessibility is now a key driver in the software procurement process, and many businesses are requiring vendors who submit an RFP to include a completed VPAT.
But how do you know whether your software, digital product or platform meets accessibility standards?
In this article, we explain the standards, recommended testing requirements, and offer an interactive checklist to help get you started with software accessibility.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
The first step in evaluating your software accessibility is to initiate a thorough assessment using applicable standards. Where digital accessibility guidelines are concerned, WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) is the benchmark. WCAG incorporates more than 70 documented success criteria in measuring digital accessibility. Although initially created to address web-based accessibility, the majority of WCAG standards can also effectively be applied to digital products, platforms, and software applications, including mobile apps.
WCAG standards have four principles that digital accessibility is graded upon: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust — or POUR. These principles can be applied to any kind of digital product or service no matter the underlying technology:
- Principle 1: Perceivable – Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.
- Principle 2: Operable – User interface components and navigation must be operable.
- Principle 3: Understandable – Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.
- Principle 4: Robust – Content must be robust enough to be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.
In addition to WCAG, and depending on the product and its intended market, additional accessibility standards and guidelines may be applicable, including ATAG, UAAG, ISO/IEC 30071-1, and Game Accessibility Guidelines.
Manual and functional testing
To understand whether your product meets WCAG criteria and is accessible for individuals with disabilities, next conduct an accessibility test. This includes both manual and functional testing, and may include some level of automated testing if your product has an HTML element to it.
Manual evaluation and functional testing involves conducting a critical path analysis to understand your most important user flows, engaging individuals with disabilities to test those flows, and producing a comprehensive audit revealing any identified issues. Manual testing requires technical expertise and knowledge of each WCAG success criteria, which is why it’s best to align with an accessibility partner. This partner will regularly monitor, audit and help prioritize the remediation of any issues that are present or new issues that appear.
Software Product and Platform Accessibility checklist
To take a deeper dive into evaluating software accessibility and the accessibility of your digital product, download our interactive Software Product and Platform Accessibility Checklist: The guide to VPATs, ACRs, WCAG, and ADA compliance for digital products. This guide includes test plan recommendations, options for manual evaluation, and an interactive WCAG 2.1 A and AA accessibility checklist.
Integrate accessibility into your product development lifecycle
The best-practices approach to software accessibility is to incorporate standards into every phase of your product design and development. eSSENTIAL Accessibility works closely with companies, taking this holistic approach to help build new accessible digital products and validate the accessibility of current products.
Our Accessibility-as-a-Service platform includes an extensive range of digital accessibility audits, tests, services and training to successfully integrate digital accessibility into every phase of your product lifecycle. Request a demo today.