Understanding Accessibility Compliance Testing
Accessibility, as defined by the Web Accessibility Initiative, means that “websites, tools, and technologies are designed and developed so that people with disabilities can use them.” Increasingly, governments require that websites be accessible, and there are penalties for non-compliance.
Accessibility compliance testing is the process of ensuring that your website meets the standards in place for your country, province, or state.
What Accessibility Standards Do Websites Need to Meet?
Q: We are based in Ontario, Canada, but most of our business is in the US. What accessibility compliance standards does our website need to meet?
A: First of all, let’s introduce the standards used in accessibility compliance testing for the U.S. and Canada.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG for short, are the international standard.
Businesses based in Ontario need to adhere the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Per AODA, websites must meet the WCAG 2.0 AA standard (which is also the industry standard). Failure to comply with AODA can lead to fines and penalties.
In the United States, ADA accessibility testing is governed by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which requires websites to meet the WCAG 2.0 AA standard.
At a minimum, we recommend that sites meet the WCA 2.0 Level AA standard, but some companies choose to future-proof by opting for WCAG 2.1 AA.
Accessibility Compliance Testing for Websites
Q: How does accessibility compliance testing for websites work?
A: There are three different levels of accessibility compliance testing.
The highest level is a pass-or-fail audit.
For AA 2.0, there are 38A success criteria. During an audit, we review those criteria, and tell you whether the site passes or fails. For every failure, we would give you one specific example.
Clients that opt for an audit have typically built their site with accessibility in mind. Now they want a third party to give them a checkmark that they can show to stakeholders.
The next level of testing is for clients that need more help figuring out what is wrong with the site from an accessibility perspective and how to fix it. We call that detailed testing.
For detailed testing, we have two levels. The most involved level is exhaustive accessibility compliance testing, where we list every single issue that exists. Even if the same issue occurs a hundred times on the site—for example, every image has the same problem—we identify each instance.
Alternatively, we can do an optimized version of accessibility compliance testing where we identify the types of issues that occur, rather than naming every specific instance.
If it’s happening on image number one, it also happens on images two, three, four, and five. We identify image one, then your team can take that further: “We know this happens on one. We can check the rest ourselves.”
Exhaustive testing requires the most effort from our testing team, so it has the highest cost.
We typically recommend optimized testing. The caveat is that requires your development team to take our example and go and look for those other occurrences of that same example. It is less time-consuming for our testers and therefore more affordable, but it gives you all the information you need.
Q: What is the price difference between detailed accessibility compliance testing and optimized accessibility compliance testing?
A: To give you a quote, we need a list of pages because it depends on the scope of your website. We provide some criteria recommended by W3C.
You don’t necessarily need to test everything. What we recommend is a representative sample of what you have. We then test that sample, and report the defects for that, and then you go and apply those defect fixes across all the content.
When we do accessibility compliance testing, we want to get different kinds of content. Then we can tell you that we have tested one video and here are the issues we found. Afterward, you fix these things on your other videos.
Once you provide a list of URLs and content types to us, we can give you a quote for each of our three accessibility compliance testing options. As we go, we’ll give you the price for each cycle.
Q: If we are not including every page of our site, which pages do you recommend that we submit for testing?
A: Typically, we recommend starting with the highest-risk pages.
That usually means reviewing higher-traffic pages, such as the homepage. We strongly recommend testing the About Us page because that is heavily visited. Any content related to accessibility, such as an AODA page, should be included.
If you are using a content management system that relies on templates, we would ask for one sample of each template within your system.
Q: We’ve already run our site through a free software and noticed that we had a lot of flags. Are automated tools sufficient for accessibility compliance testing?
A: The tools only cover 20% to 30% of the success criteria used in WCAG compliance testing.
Depending on your product or services and who your clients are, relying on automated tools alone may open you up to a lot of risk.
The point is: the flags you see only relate to 30% of the guidelines. There is likely a lot more there.
The best practice is a combination of manual testing with automated tools.
Q: At the end of the accessibility compliance testing process do we get some certification from you? Do we get a badge that we can use on our website to show that they are WCAG AA compliant?
A: There is no official certification. WCAG are an independent body, and they do not offer certification.
While we can provide a verified logo to put on the site, the value lies in the end report that you get. We can provide a VPAT report or one in our typical format, which follows the recommended methodology for WCAG accessibility testing.
VPAT is typically what clients provide to the government as a vendor. Many clients even post VPAT reports on their website so that their customers can see how they scored.
We can only provide a statement that you are WCAG compliant once you pass the full test—everything needs to be checked off.
It’s rare for sites to pass during the first cycle of testing. During the second cycle, after remediation, you are likelier to pass.
Q: What is VPAT?
A: The Voluntary Product Accessibility Template. The US Federal Government requires vendors that are providing them with software to have a VPAT, which involves a third party like us performing WCAG accessibility testing. It’s simply a government standard template for documenting that you meet WCAG standards.
Q: Is that for the US and Canada?
A: No, it’s only standard for the US government.
The Canadian government asks for a WCAG-EM template which is provided by WCAG themselves, but it’s the same information.
Q: After the initial round of accessibility compliance testing, you make your recommendations. We implement them—then do you do another round of testing to validate?
A: Yes. We test and create a report, then provide it to your team in a meeting.
After your team takes some time to review it, we’ll have a two-hour working session where the team can ask questions: Why is this a defect? I’m thinking about doing it this way, is that going to fix it?
We’ll go through it with you and then your team takes it away to fix. We can also provide additional consulting support on an hourly basis while you’re performing remediation. Sometimes teams fix an issue but by doing that, they break three other guidelines.
When we go through another cycle, they pass one criteria but fail others. After remediation, some clients only want a new report. Others want a new cycle to confirm that they are fully compliant.
That said, the only way we can say you’re fully compliant is if we test and you pass 100%.
Q: Would a second cycle likely be an audit?
A: Many clients start with optimized testing, implement their fixes, and then do a second cycle that consists of an audit.
Q: Do you recommend a second cycle of testing as a best practice?
A: Yes. That’s the only way we can give a passing score, because we need to go through and run our full test again to make sure.
Q: How long does accessibility compliance testing normally take?
A: It depends on the number of pages you ask us to review—2 weeks per cycle for smaller sites is typical.
Q: Once we provide you the URLs, how do you price it?
A: It’s an exact quote. We review the site and the 38 success criteria. Not all of them necessarily apply on every page, because some are specific for audio or video. After we see what’s required for each page, we provide a detailed estimate.
Localization and Accessibility Compliance Testing
Q: How does localization into French impact the testing process?
A: If there’s a toggle between English and French, and the page stays the same, just the language changes, the reality is that you are only 100% sure if you test everything.
However, from a risk-based perspective, the same things that we would find on the English version, we would likely find on the French version.
When our clients have sites with multiple languages, we say choose certain pages in English, and then different ones in French. You don’t need to do every page of both if it’s the same but with different wording.
That said, if your website localization aims for building an entirely different experience for French, you will need to test it fully.
Art One Translations offers a range of accessibility testing services for companies concerned about web inclusivity. Contact us for a custom quote based on the scope of your website and the level of testing you need.
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