On October 19, Softrams hosted a public webinar on the topic of Continuous Accessibility, presented by Chief Technology Officer Murali Malina.
Accessibility is important to consider during software development because many people around the world are impacted by disability. As of 2018, 61 million adults in the United States and 1 billion people in the world live with a disability. Despite the importance of accessibility, 96.8% of the top 1 million website homepages were found to have Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2 errors, with an average of 50 errors per page as of February 2022.
Softrams ran some of our own tests on 97 United States government domains to evaluate how well they comply with Section 508 and WCAG 2 Level AA guidelines. From these tests, our team found that of all the domains tested, only 6 pages had zero errors, while 80 pages had errors according to Section 508, 84 pages had errors according to WCAG, and 68 pages had errors in both profiles. More information on this testing can be found at https://a11y.softrams.io.
The results of these tests illustrate the importance of considering accessibility from the beginning of the development cycle. There are several ways that accessibility can be built into development.
- Automation: Using automation, you can detect end user accessibility errors and many WCAG conformance failures. While not all barriers can be detected by automation, it can still be a reliable representation and predictor of accessibility issues.
- Testing with real users: Real users can help to identify many common accessibility issues. However, disabilities are diverse, and it may not be practical to test for every type of disability in each iteration or deployment of your website or program.
- Shift left approach: Build in accessibility early, educate everyone on your team about accessibility (not just developers), and build tools and automation. The right tools will help your team incorporate accessibility effectively.
In order to continuously automate your accessibility, you must test early, test often, and test continuously. Luckily, there are many development and automation tools you can use to help you implement accessibility throughout development.
These development tools can identify many accessibility issues as you are developing. Softrams recommends that you use one or two together.
- WAVE – Web Accessibility Evaluation Tools
- ANDI – Web Accessibility Inspection tool
- Accessibility Insights Extension
These automation tools have their own benefits to address your development team’s needs while helping your team implement continuous accessibility.
- axeCore – Can be embedded in many testing frameworks for automation.
- pa11y – Stand-alone automation tool kit that comes with continuous accessibility framework.
- Google Lighthouse – Includes accessibility audit based on the axe engine and also support automation.
To further address the need for continuous accessibility, Softrams is currently developing the Ally.run tool. This tool, planned for marketplace release in early 2023, will be open source and easy to use. Follow Softrams on LinkedIn to stay updated on the Ally.run tool and how you can start using it for your company in 2023.