WHAT IS ACCESSIBILTY TESTING ?
Accessibility testing is a method of testing to make sure that applications are designed to be usable by as many people as possible. When talking about accessibility, it can also be defined as usability for individuals with disabilities. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 15% of the global population suffer from some sort of disability that impacts how they interact with digital devices. This article outlines the latest WCAG guidelines for accessibility, what they mean and how they will evolve in the near and longer-term future.
To be truly accessible, applications need to be designed so they can be usable by people with various disabilities, such as visual impairments, hearing impairments or cognitive impairments for example.
As such guidelines are maintained to indicate what good accessibility looks like and aims to ensure people with varying disabilities are able to use devices and applications as well as people with no disabilities. As such, with the increased popularity and use of mobile and touchscreen devices, such guidelines need to constantly evolve to address accessibility issues are they occur.
WEB CONTENT ACCESSIBILITY GUIDELINES (WCAG)
World Wide Web Consortium's Web Accessibility Initiative provides recommendations for making web content more accessible in the form of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
At Fimatix, we test against the latest set of guidelines WCAG 2.1 by checking 78 criteria covering 4 categories (to ensure the application is Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust), which are grouped into 3 compliance levels…
• WCAG LEVEL A – Basic Accessibility - Considered the least strict, Level A success criteria are essential for every website.
• WCAG LEVEL AA – Strong Accessibility - Most accessibility experts recommend this conformance level as standard.
• WCAG LEVEL AAA – Excellent Accessibility - Gold standard, may not be applicable or realistic to achieve.
WCAG 2.1 is to be updated at the end of August 2023, adding 9 additional criteria to the 78 criteria already a part of WCAG 2.1. The following compares WCAG 2.1 and WCAG 2.2.
WCAG 2.1 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1) was published in June 2018 as an extension of WCAG 2.0. It introduced new success criteria that addressed some accessibility issues not fully covered by WCAG 2.0, which included new guidelines on a). Mobile Accessibility - aimed at improving the accessibility of mobile devices, b). Low Vision and Cognitive Disabilities and c). Touchscreen Interactions - aimed at improving guidelines to ensure that touch interactions on websites and web applications are accessible to users with motor disabilities.
WCAG 2.2 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.2) will be published in late August 2023 and builds upon WCAG 2.1. It further extends the accessibility guidelines to cover more areas and address additional accessibility challenges.
The key features (and additions to WCAG 2.1) will include:
a). Improved Accessibility for Users with Cognitive and Learning Disabilities - WCAG 2.2 will introduce new success criteria aimed at enhancing the accessibility of content for users with cognitive and learning disabilities, with guidelines related to input assistance and content presentation.
Such additional guidelines include:
3.2.6 Consistent Help (A) - If a web page contains any of the following help mechanisms, and those mechanisms are repeated on multiple web pages within a set of web pages, they occur in the same relative order to other page content, unless a change is initiated by the user.
3.3.7 Redundant Entry (A) - Information previously entered by or provided to the user that is required to be entered again in the same process is either auto-populated, or available for the user to select, except when re-entering the information is essential, the information is required to ensure the security of the content, or previously entered information is no longer valid.
3.3.8 Accessible Authentication (Minimum) (AA) - A cognitive function test (such as remembering a password or solving a puzzle) is not required for any step in an authentication process unless that step provides at least one of the following: i). There is another authentication method that does not rely on a cognitive function test, ii). There is a mechanism is available to assist the user in completing the cognitive function test, iii). The cognitive function test is to recognize objects, iv). The cognitive function test is to identify non-text content the user provided to the website.
3.3.9 Accessible Authentication (Enhanced) (AAA)
A cognitive function test (such as remembering a password or solving a puzzle) is not required for any step in an authentication process unless that step provides at least one of the following: i). There is another authentication method that does not rely on a cognitive function test, ii). There is a mechanism is available to assist the user in completing the cognitive function test.
b). Accessibility for Users with Disabilities on Mobile Devices - WCAG 2.2 addresses additional mobile accessibility issues, related to orientation, gestures, and animations.
Such additional guidelines include:
2.5.7 Dragging Movements (AA) - All functionality that uses a dragging movement for operation can be achieved by a single pointer without dragging, unless dragging is essential or the functionality is determined by the user agent and not modified by the author.
c). Additional Sensory Disabilities - WCAG 2.2 aims to add additional accessibility checks for users with sensory disabilities.
Such additional guidelines include:
2.4.11 Focus Not Obscured (Minimum) (AA) - When a user interface component receives keyboard focus, the component is not entirely hidden due to author-created content.
2.4.12 Focus Not Obscured (Enhanced) (AAA) - When a user interface component receives keyboard focus, no part of the component is hidden by author-created content.
2.4.13 Focus Appearance (AAA) - When the keyboard focus indicator is visible, an area of the focus indicator meets all the following: i). Is at least as large as the area of a 2 CSS pixel thick perimeter of the unfocused component or sub-component, and b). Has a contrast ratio of at least 3:1 between the same pixels in the focused and unfocused states.
2.5.8 Target Size (Minimum) (AA) - The size of the target for pointer inputs is at least 24 by 24 CSS pixels, except where: i). Undersized targets (those less than 24 by 24 CSS pixels) are positioned so that if a 24 CSS pixel diameter circle is centered on the bounding box of each, the circles do not intersect another target or the circle for another undersized target, ii). The function can be achieved through a different control on the same page that meets this criterion, iii). The target is in a sentence or its size is otherwise constrained by the line-height of non-target text, iv). The size of the target is determined by the user agent and is not modified by the author, v). A particular presentation of the target is essential or is legally required for the information being conveyed.
THE FUTURE WCAG 3.0
The World Wide Web Consortium are currently working on a working draft of WCAG 3.0. Whilst WCAG 3.0 is not expected to be approved and published for a long time, it is worth keeping up with developments on this as there are likely to be some fundamental differences between WCAG 3.0 and the previous guideline releases.
In the current guidelines (WCAG 2) each criteria has an associated A, AA and AAA rating to indicate the level of compliance for each check, however this will be replaced in WCAG 3.0 by a score-based system against a series of test outcomes which will award an overall Bronze, Silver and Gold conformance standard.
In WCAG 3.0, W3C are aiming to replace the criteria for accessibility testing with test outcomes. Each accessibility guideline will contain multiple outcomes. The outcomes that we will test against will be more descriptive and understandable than the current criteria, thus allowing testers with limited technical knowledge to conduct effective accessibility testing.
The outcomes will be written such that each outcome can effectively be given a compliance scoring. The tester will be required to score each outcome on a scale of 0 to 4, with the overall scores collated to award either an eventual Bronze, Silver or Gold conformance standard.
WCAG 2.2 extends the existing WCAG 2.1 guidelines by adding new success criteria that address evolving challenges in web accessibility, particularly those related to cognitive disabilities, mobile devices, and sensory disabilities. Accessibility testing against the latest guidelines is important, as they address the latest and evolving issues in accessibility. The future WCAG 3.0 will likely change the success criteria to scorable outcomes to provide an overall compliance rating, as opposed to each existing criteria having its own compliance (A, AA or AAA) rating associated.