Mike Taylor from the Digital Accessibility Centre discusses testing apps and websites for accessibility, to ensure compliance with web standards
Digital Accessibility Centre otherwise known as (DAC), is an organisation which tests apps and websites to ensure compliance with web standards. They do this by employing testing teams of a wide range of users with various access requirements, such as users who are blind, who have dyslexia, low vision and limited mobility to name a few.
DAC’s team of accessibility analysts, trainers, technical support and web developers use the accessibility options found in many devices to test the everyday tasks that a user would carry out, and provide a comprehensive report to their clients to help make an app or website more accessible for users who have additional access requirements.
Recent publications from DAC have focused on the various accessibility features which exist on mobiles, tablets, TV’s and computers, as well as how changes in legislation increase the need for accessible digital content.
What is accessibility, and why is it important?
Accessibility to goods and services is not only focused on access to premises but also applies to online content. Technology enables us all to access banking, shopping, educational resources, social media and much more, using many different devices, in the way we choose, at any time of day or night.
If users have additional requirements though, such as blind or low vision users, or users who have limited mobility, for example, the way they interact with digital content and their device of choice may vary. A blind person would use a screen reader, which announces through synthetic voice what is on-screen, allowing them to read the information and fill out an online form if needed. Similarly, using my example above, a user with limited mobility may use Voice Activation software, to dictate not just text into a word processor, but to tell the computer to perform a specific set of commands.
All this is possible, as long as the digital content such as a website or app, is designed to conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2, and more recently 2.1). The guidelines provide information relating to how developers and designers can implement an accessible offering. Recent updates from WCAG 2, to 2.1, take into account accessibility for touch screen devices such as mobile and tablets respectively.
So how do the people at DAC do what they do?
DAC’s team of analysts includes users who rely on assistive technology, such as my examples of Voice Activation and Screen Reading software above, to access online material in their personal as well as professional lives. Analysts no what works, and what the problem areas are, giving a true-to-life response of whether or not content can be accessed online. DAC’s web developers can provide code fixes, to assist an accessible offering, and DAC’s trainers offer courses ranging from how to use assistive technology, to a general awareness of digital accessibility, the users who are impacted and appropriate legislation.
To find out more, contact DAC (www.digitalaccessibilitycentre.org) for further information and details.
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