Our accessibility journey to achieve WCAG Compliance

23rd June 2022

Our accessibility journey to achieve WCAG Compliance

Today, web accessibility is critical to fostering a more inclusive society by removing barriers to employment, housing, civic involvement, and much more. Accessible web design and development means that web pages, tools, and technologies cater to the needs of all users at different times and under different circumstances. The environment, which could be a packed cafe, a sunny park, or an area with poor WIFI, is one element that could limit someone's ability to use a service. A person's health may be in poor condition; they may be tired, recovering from a stroke, or injured, and they may be using an outdated browser or mobile phone. All of these factors can impact the website's accessibility.

According to Forbes, 71% of people with disabilities will leave an inaccessible website within 10 seconds. Research from WebAIM states that 97.8% of home pages had Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2 AA failures that could be detected automatically. At Answer everyone has been working hard to attain WCAG compliance and have been successful so far; Here's how.

The initial phase was all about shifting left. By shifting left with Accessibility, we mean considering Accessibility from the start of the project, i.e. in Discovery. The team carefully considered accessibility and fully comprehended the governmental standards for a successful website. "The team's first goal was to develop a basic semantic HTML structure and any unique accessibility behaviours," Charles Magiera, an Automation Tester at Answer, explained. As part of our WCAG compliance efforts, we used the Government Digital Service example to design our website. It was an example of a model of personas that included seven people with varying disabilities and needs. Each individual had a unique age and a brief description of how they used the website. "We started by using those to get an idea of what we were going to accomplish because it was the first significant project for Answer Digital where we were truly aiming to construct an accessibility website and meet the WCAG compliance standards.”

Before this project, Charles admitted that he wasn’t aware of a lot of things about people's wants and what creates a truly accessible website. "Answer's involvement in this endeavour opened our eyes to a number of things - As a designer, for example, you don't use colour to distinguish things; you want a good contrast so you have a ratio," Charles explained.

The project's second phase consisted of assembling the team and getting to work on the website's foundation design. "Instead of using pre-made templates, we used Sanity's headless CMS to design everything from scratch based on our vision." The website was regularly tested while being constructed, and the team also performed accessibility testing to ensure that the website is meeting WCAG 2.1 criterias, and is compatible with assistive technologies while making sure potential errors are avoided. “During testing, we discovered a few mistakes that needed to be fixed; for example, we discovered errors in the colour palette, which we fiddled with a few times until we got it correct - The website's HTML structure was also tweaked to suit assistive technologies." Said Charles. The Answer team also shared their work with consumers to demonstrate why some of their ideas would not work owing to limited accessibility for others, offering  alternatives that would make the website ideal and accessible for all.

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