Written by: Olivia Dirks, Certified Test Team Manager
People who live with disabilities deal with inaccessible websites all the time. We sat down with one of our WeCo Certified Test Consultants, and she shared with us her experiences living with a sight related disability and accessing the internet. WeCo Certified Test Consultants are hired and trained by WeCo to test websites for accessibility. As people living with disabilities, their user experiences make for a rigorous testing process run by knowledgeable professionals who can evaluate websites from the perspective of end-user needs. In short, WeCo Consultants are the experts in their field because they live with their disability every day and they understand what it takes to make a website truly accessible.
Maureen double majored in psychology and music, giving her a degree in music therapy. She has been surfing the web ever since it became a major form of communication. She fondly recalls the early days of the internet when everything was accessible to her screen reader, but she also tells us that the web has become less and less accessible over time. Maureen is an accomplished singer and songwriter. She has experience working with major advocacy centers like the Courage Center. Maureen has also run her own small business and has been doing a lot of speaking to groups about topics related to disability.
Maureen lives with both a sight related and motor skill related disability. This makes her experiences unique and extremely valuable. We asked Maureen to share about her experience browsing the internet with her disability..
“My experience is that I was a fanatic browser in the early ‘90s. I got on the internet in 1994, and everything was accessible. I would stay up until two in the morning just going from website to website. It was so wonderful, and then the internet changed. More and more sites became less and less accessible.
Now I would say I do not browse at all. I go to the websites that I know work and I order my groceries online, that works really well. I go to websites for the blind. And I would say that’s about it.”
We asked her why she’s stopped browsing and she said this about today’s websites, “There are so many that aren’t accessible. They say that they are, but until you spend an hour figuring out where things are and what word to look for, what you need to go find out or what it is that you want to read – it doesn’t work really well.”
The general inaccessibility of websites today doesn’t only impact Maureen, but they also impact the businesses she could be buying from. She told us about her experience trying to buy airline tickets. “I have a little laptop that has Braille and I have actually found that I can browse more easily with that as far as reading websites, but my laptop doesn’t work as well for filling in forms. In January, I was going to go to Tucson and I had to ask my uncle if he would get the tickets for me because I couldn’t find any websites that I could order airline tickets from.”
Airline ticketing websites are not the only websites Maureen cannot make purchases from. There are many websites for consumers which she cannot access. Another Certified Test Consultant, Jeff,
talks about his experience making purchases online. Jeff also lives with a sight related disability. “Sometimes it works relatively well, but there are also times when I can’t get it to give me a nice description of each product without actually opening the link in a new window. I know that on the screen visually there is a pop up that appears that gives a description, but that pop up is not verbalized by the screen reader. Because of that, it just takes me longer to make purchases. Sometimes I just give up.”
According to the United States Census Bureau, 19% of Americans over the age of 18 live with a disability. When you think about how many people that is it comes out to around 56.7 million. That is 56.7 million people in America alone who not only find the physical world they live in inaccessible, but also the virtual world by which we are now surrounded. If you are a business owner, that is a lot of people who could be buying your product but can’t because they cannot access your website.
As the name suggests, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 are a set of guidelines developed “with a goal of providing a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally.” Designing and producing content for individuals who live with disabilities can be difficult. What is accessible for one person may prove inaccessible for another; also, such content may be inaccessible to the same person, depending on the situation–whether he or she is accessing information from a laptop or from a smartphone or tablet, for example.
Compounding the issue of web accessibility is the traditional lack of useful guidance for developers and content managers. Legislative pieces, such as Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, come down to little more than proscriptive checklists: they lay out what needs to be done according to a set of fixed technical standards; however, they do not attempt to define what accessibility means for actual users, nor do they offer any real guidance for how to achieve that accessibility.
WCAG, and especially its revisions in version 2.0, is designed to address such shortcomings by defining what “accessible” content is, presenting guidelines in such a way that they can be easily understood and adapted to new technologies, and offering a wealth of techniques and examples for making content accessible.
For content to be considered accessible, according to WCAG 2.0, it must meet four principles: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust (POUR).
- Perceivable: The user must be able to perceive the information and user interface elements. This often requires information to be presented in multiple formats. For example, for users with visual disabilities, images must include alternative text.
- Operable: The user must be able to navigate the content successfully and be able to make use of all its features. For example, a keyboard-only user must be able to navigate all fields in a form without becoming “trapped” within any one.
- Understandable: The user must be able to understand the information presented and the user interface components. For example, information should be presented in easily digestible sections to accommodate users with cognitive disorders.
- Robust: Content must be accessible by a wide variety of user agents, including browsers and assistive devices, as screen readers. Robustness also includes the need to keep up with new technologies and new methods of access. For many users today, both disabled and non-disabled, this includes the shift from PCs to mobile devices.
The heart of WCAG 2.0 are the Guidelines. Looking at the documentation for the first time, it may seem overwhelming–having to determine what guidelines need to be met and how to go about meeting them. Fortunately, WCAG 2.0 is structured to provide “layers of guidance” that follow, one under the other, while maintaining clear navigational points thanks to the use of HTML. WCAG 2.0 documentation is available in a number of formats, including PDFs; however, it is recommended user approach it as a “live” document on the Web to make the most of this structure.
The four layers of guidance are:
- Principles: As discussed above, the four principles of what makes content accessible (POUR) are the starting point for the Guidelines themselves.
- Guidelines: The Guidelines are essentially accessibility goals. As the WCAG 2.0 documentation notes, they are not themselves “testable, but provide the framework and overall objectives” to understand and apply the remaining two layers.
- Success Criteria: The Success Criteria are the testable portion of WCAG 2.0. They can be used in conformance testing–both automatic and manual/human-based–and are divided into three conformance levels: A, AA, and AAA. AA has become the standard for most businesses and organizations.
- Sufficient and Advisory Techniques: These techniques are documented ways to reach particular Success Criteria and Guidelines. They are not the only way Success Criteria can be met; however, they can form the basis of solid best practices. Techniques are divided into two categories: Sufficient and Advisory. Sufficient Techniques have been shown to meet the Success Criteria. Advisory Techniques go above and beyond the Success Criteria in some way to further improve access.
It is beyond the scope of this blog post to detail all of the Guidelines and Success Criteria found in WCAG 2.0; however, an example will suffice to illustrate the structure of the document. Use the links in the following paragraph to move through the document layer by layer.
Adding alternative text to images and other non-text objects is a basic practice in web accessibility. Here, it falls under the the Perceivable Principle and is covered by Guideline 1.1 Text Alternatives. The relevant Success Criteria is SC 1.1.1 Non-text Content, and it can be addressed by these Non-text Content Techniques.
For more information, please refer to WAI-W3C’s WCAG Overview and WebAIM’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines overview.
When organizations in the US begin the journey of designing or redesigning their websites and electronic communication products for accessibility, the first question that comes up is: what do we have to do? Thus, all of WeCo’s accessibility training courses includes an overview of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. As we grapple with what these pieces of legislation mean to us and the organizations we work for, we need to take a closer look at each law and note who they apply to, and under what conditions.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to all businesses and organizations, whether they are private, for-profit, non-profit or government. When we bring this up to clients and people who attend our seminars and workshops, we usually, hear, “But we’re not government so this doesn’t apply to us, right?” Wrong. The ADA applies to everyone, whether you own a coffee house or retail store,work for a large corporation or government entity, or manage a website for your local church. The information all organizations put out for the public to access electronically must be accessible to everyone. There are times when organizations may be able to show that making something accessible could create an “undue burden” but, given what we know about accessible design for websites and documents today, that is probably not necessary in most situations.
The difficult thing about the ADA is that it doesn’t give us a great deal of detail regarding what electronic mediums should embody to be considered accessible. However, this law is being used with more frequency to uphold the rights people have to access information online and in electronic formats. ( This occurred just last year in Netflix versus the National Association of the Deaf, in which the NAD won a Massachusetts District Court ruling which compelled Netflix to add closed captioning to their Instant Watch videos.) WeCo recommends the use of the next piece of legislation as a guide to our clients who are working to comply with the ADA, as it provides more detail.
Section 508 Rehabilitation Act of 1973 applies on to Federal Government entities as well as organizations who receive federal dollars. This includes organizations who are sub-recipients of federal grants. The detail that is often missed is that Section 508 applies to for-profit organizations who do business with another organization that is paying for goods or services with federal funds, even if only a portion of the money is from a federal source. As a former federal program coordinator who successfully weathered more than one federal program audit, I can assure you that this is true and is discussed in great depth during standard audits.
The up side of Section 508 is that the law is extremely specific regarding what is considered accessible for electronic medium. So much so that the government hired an organization to create a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template, or VPAT, that assists organizations with documenting the work they’ve done to achieve compliance with Section 508 criteria. At WeCo, we work with VPATs on a daily basis because Section 508 criteria is built into every WeCo Access Approved test case. It’s also very common for us to break out this information out of our standard test case reporting and put it into a separate VPAT for our clients who do federally-funded work.
To receive more details on the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, we encourage you to make use of WeCo’s Free Accessibility Library. In particular, go to “Introduction to Accessibility Laws and Standards.” The library links listed in this section will take you directly to the laws and related resources.
We would also like to make a special offer to our Accessibility Information Blog readers this month to receive a FREE WeCo Accessibility Checklist chart for your desk or workstation. The Checklist is a great overview to get you started on learning more about web and document accessibility.
To receive your free chart, simply complete the “Contact Our Staff” form and put “Free WeCo Chart” in the subject box. Be sure to include the address you’d like us to send it to, if you prefer one of our glossy-print copies, or simply designated “email copy” if you’d like a digital version–and yes, we can send you both!
When I recall the start of my journey to learn about electronic accessibility, and how it applied to my job as a web master for a state government agency, I can’t help but remember how overwhelming the information seemed to be. This feeling has flavored the work I do with WeCo, especially regarding the training courses we create for web/communication staff, on a variety of levels. With that in mind, WeCo’s Accessibility Team felt it was important for our November blog focus to cover an easy-to-understand review of accessibility laws and guidelines.
With the US Section 508 refresh foremost in everyone’s minds these days, the timing is excellent for us to step back and consider what these document say, how they may impact the jobs of people who communicate with the public as well as the lives of those of us who live with disabilities.
Watch for the following topics to be covered in WeCo’s Accessibility Information blog for November:
- Easy to digest “Primers” for Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
- Making it Accessible: a discussion with web developers who tackled accessibility challenges
- Interviews and discussions on how these laws impact real people who live with disabilities
- Resources for learning more about accessibility legislation and guidelines
As always, we encourage our clients and blog followers to ask questions, and offer their own stories, as we move through the month!
At WeCo part of our mission is to create a place where people who live with disabilities can not only work but be inspired to succeed. Our Certified Test Team is comprised of a group of individuals who live with disabilities.
Many of these people are educated, sharp, and great learners, but they have struggled in the past to find a place of employment that sees beyond their disability. Our consultants are very enthusiastic as to why they love working with us. We sat down with one of our testing consultants, Charlene, and she talked about how different WeCo has been from her other experiences.
Charlene is a stay-at-home mom who is involved in many voluntary activities. She has had many different types of jobs, from painting crockery to accounting for a fast-food restaurant. Charlene appreciates the freedom that being a CTC gives her to work at home, especially given the difficulties involved in traveling because she lives with a motor skill related disability. She enjoys the WeCo culture and the opportunity to connect with other professionals living with disabilities who work at WeCo. When we sat down to ask her about it this is what she said.
We asked Charlene what she likes most about working with WeCo and she said, “I really like that I can be at home and do it. I didn’t have a vehicle for three years, which really hindered me in this job search thing… As a quadriplegic, I really like the easy accessibility to the job by just being here.”
Charlene continued to talk about her experience with WeCo by telling us what she’s learned since joining the team as a Certified Test Consultant, “ My learning has come from the times I’ve gone in and met the other CTC’s. Just the little that I hear about their lives and what they have to deal with. It’s been very interesting to me. At a restaurant, I got to sit next to a man who was a quad, but he had even less function than I do… Most quads have an absolute break in their spinal cord. Mine was just twisted. So I’m kind of in between a para and a quad. And so it was interesting to sit next to him and hear that he was driving his own vehicle and that he had come on his own that day. I had been escorted by my husband. So, for me, meeting other CTC’s has been fun.”
WeCo is much more than a job to many of our consultants. Charlene’s experience is no different, this is what she said when we asked her what working with WeCo meant to her, “WeCo stands for the opportunity to have money to become a little bit more independent. Do to things like afford the car insurance and the gas, give gifts to my children, take friends out to eat who have been very supportive of me. Independence, I guess. That’s what WeCo means to me.”
By Billy Gomes, Test Team Management Assistant and Accessibility Specialist-in-Training
As part of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, WeCo is highlighting some of the challenges facing people living with disabilities regarding employment.
With the current unemployment rate for people who live with disabilities at 14.1%, compared to the 7.1% unemployment rate for people who live without disabilities, it’s important to be aware of why this is happening. So, we asked Nina, one of our Senior Certified Test Consultants, about her experiences finding work in the current market.
Nina lives with a sight-related disability and graduated from a local technical college with an office support specialist certificate. Despite education and employment experience, she has struggled with landing a job in her field. To keep working and building resume experience, Nina has worked at positions not related to office support.
For instance, though it was tedious work, she worked as a researcher. “At least I could say that I was employed, and maybe that would show employers that I was capable of doing what I actually wrote on the resume.” Because of her disability, many employers assume that, to facilitate her ability to work in their office, they would need to go through a lot of effort and expense.
At WeCo, the nature of our work makes accommodation a part of our everyday routine. That is why we can say confidently that reasonable accommodation is less about cost and more about listening to the needs of the employee.
Nina, an intelligent, educated and more than capable individual, knows exactly what she needs to be able to complete her work with WeCo and other employers. As a result, her workplace accommodation with our company was extremely simple and did not require us to purchase any equipment or modify our workspace.
Many employers miss out on the talents and capabilities of qualified candidates who live with disabilities, simply because they assume that accommodation is a burden for reasons that don’t bear out in reality. Nina was turned down for many jobs before being hired by WeCo. Some employers openly told her that, despite being qualified to do the work, they simply did not want to take the time, or go to the expense, to facilitate her contribution to their workplace.
What these employers have also completely missed was that Nina’s disability could have been an asset to their organization. Living with a disability has forced Nina to look at the world differently, to problem solve everyday tasks, and to be flexible in every situation. Nina has proved this in her work at WeCo. Since starting as a Certified Test Consultant with us in 2011, Nina has assisted our company in developing new products and finding accessibility solutions for customers. Much of her ability to contribute is based upon a highly developed ability to see more than one potential solution to issues and to find a way that may not be apparent to others. As a result, she was promoted to Senior Test Consultant last year and is up for another promotion in November. Nina has also been an outstanding spokesperson for WeCo in nationwide webinars and at professional conferences.
When capable and qualified people like Nina are overlooked in business and professional environments, everyone misses out. That’s why we are encouraging everyone to be more aware of and open to the possibilities and benefits of employing individuals living with disabilities.
At WeCo we seek a wide variety of individuals representing all types of disabilities and computer expertise to work on our test teams and help us deliver the most comprehensive user experience testing results for our clients. WeCo trains people living with disabilities to work as Certified Test Consultants, not just to deliver these powerful testing services, but to help them develop as confident, effective professionals. That is why we would like to highlight the recent amendments to Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, amendments that we hope will help–not just government agencies, but all employers–hire more individuals with disabilities and see for themselves what great assets such people can be for any organization.
Section 503 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of disability by Federal government contractors and subcontractors and requires that such contractors take affirmative action to employ and advance in those positions qualified individuals with disabilities. It was hoped such a provision would increase the employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Unfortunately, the unemployment rate of individuals with disabilities is still significantly higher than those who are not disabled.
According to government figures:
- Only 31.6% of working age people with disabilities participated in the workforce in 2012, compared with 76.5% of working age individuals without such disabilities.
- The unemployment rate for working age people with disabilities in 2012 was 15%, compared with an unemployment rate of 8% for working age individuals without disabilities.
- The median household income for “householders” with a disability in 2011, aged 18 to 64, was $25,420, compared with a median income of $59,411 for households with a householder who did not report a disability.
- The poverty rate for individuals with disabilities in 2011, age 18 to 64, was 28.8 percent, compared to 12.5 percent for individuals without a disability.
The amendments to Section 503 are meant to address these statistics by strengthening employers’ recruitment and hiring efforts of people with disabilities, as well as increasing accountability for meeting their Affirmative Action requirements.
Among the provisions of the revised Section 503 is a new 7% “utilization goal for individuals with disabilities.” The goal for federal contractors is to have 7% of positions of any job level filled by people with disabilities. This number is not a quota, nor a requirement subject to sanctions. Rather it is a tool intended to improve a company’s hiring practices, as are the other provisions of the revision. The requirement that contractors invite applicants to self-identify as disabled in the hiring process–and at regular intervals after they are hired–are meant to gauge the effectiveness of reaching out to and retaining such employees. Employers are not only held to greater levels of accountability, but they can also use such measurements to examine and improve their hiring efforts and provide more opportunities to people living with disabilities. 
We at WeCo are encouraged by the federal government’s continuing attempts to not only increase the employment opportunities of people with disabilities, but to have a measurable goal for their actual employment numbers. Given the chance, people living with disabilities often prove to be both highly motivated and highly dedicated employees. For them, successfully facing challenges is a day-to-day occurrence. By tapping into this underused resource, businesses and organizations can make use of that mindset to further their goals.
For more information on the Section 503 revision please visit the OFCCP’s Final Rule: Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act website.
For information and resources on employing people with disabilities please visit the Job Accommodation Network.
- U.S. Dept. of Labor – Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. 2013–09–18. The New Final Rule: Changes to Section 503 Regulations [webinar]. Accessed from http://www.dol.gov/ofccp/ ↩
- FACT SHEET: Final Rule on Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (PDF) ↩
- Final Rule: Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act ↩
Five Reasons Why Including People Living With Disabilities in your Workforce Creates a Positive Culture
As the president of a company that is highly dependent upon the unique perspective and specific skills that result when people live with one or more types of disabilities, making reasonable accommodations is a part of my everyday work life. At WeCo, accommodation is viewed as part of how we do business, rather than a way of providing special dispensation to someone who works for us.
The result of the “business as usual” view we take of what is formally and legally described as “reasonable accommodation” has resulted in a work environment that is far different, and much more productive and positive than any I’ve encountered in my past employment, which includes large corporation, small business, non-profit and government settings. This is because the employees I’ve managed who live with disabilities possess an experiential knowledge and an unique outlook that I don’t find in their non-disabled peers.
When I considered this, I found that it came down to 5 key elements, that can also be translated into unique benefits, that results in creating a positive culture, when you include people living with disabilities into your workforce:
1. Everyone knows they belong:
Work environments which place the skills of the individual at a higher level of importance than the package the person arrives in, send a loud message of inclusion to all employees, regardless of their abilities. At WeCo it’s very common for new employees, in particular, to tell us that they feel valued for what they bring to the table, and are not excluded by how they pull up to it or by the device that enabled them to enter the office door. Watching others receive the same treatment puts everyone at ease, knowing that the workplace is a safe place for all where everyone counts and each person is valued.
But this is rare in many workplaces, especially in the experiences of many people living with disabilities. When I asked WeCo’s PR Director, Toni Grundstrom, about the challenges she faced finding a position worthy of her marketing degree, prior to coming to WeCo, she explained, “You walk into the conference room, I roll into the conference room. That’s the only difference between us. There are very few professional organizations out there that understand that.”
2. You develop a culture of trust:
One of the most difficult adjustments for some of our new staff members and Certified Test Consultants at WeCo to make is understanding that they don’t have to hide their disability in our workplace. Periodically, we experience tearful interviews and meetings, as people begin to fully grasp that what we are interested in is how they contribute to our team, and not how they move, talk or look. This atmosphere of acceptance creates a culture that, in my estimation, is one of the most trusting and relaxed, I’ve ever witnessed in a professional environment.
In my past professional experience, organizations who resist making accommodations which could enable employees to contribute to
a productive workplace, are often more likely to have a culture of distrust. Working in an environment where people are not treated equally, or are devalued in someway, fosters an unspoken sense of fear that ”I might be next.” If your employees see a qualified applicant, in a wheel chair, for example, who is not selected for a role on your team because “it’s too hard to figure out what they need,” it makes them wonder how you will treat them if they have an accident or illness. There is no instrument quite as efficient at killing trust, as fear.
3. Problem-solving and innovation gets ramped-up:
When I began working on accessible communication initiatives for the State of Minnesota, I had no idea how difficult it was for people living with certain types of disabilities to receive information, travel and perform tasks many of us take for granted, like checking a bank balance online or using a bathroom at an outdated wayside rest area. At the same time, I was also floored by the high-level ability many of these individuals had to create their own innovative solutions and problem-solve.
An example I often point to when training clients is the sheer volume of videos on YouTube containing instructions on how to build your own foot mouse. ( A device used to move a cursor on a computer screen when someone is not able to use a conventional handheld mouse.) I encourage you to search foot mouse “how to” videos and see for yourself the amazing innovation people have in just this one area.
One of the reasons that WeCo has succeeded in a totally uncharted business field, with few start-up capitol options, is quite simply because our staff and board is made up of individuals who are extremely skilled at finding a way, no matter what is in front of them. As the president of a growing company, I have come to rely upon this high-level of innovation on a daily basis. Many of our staff and board members who live with disabilities have this skill in spades and, once you have it on your team, you’ll never want to be without it.
4. The difference between a hurdle and an inconvenience is more apparent:
When I look back on my professional life and consider what the teams I managed in the past viewed as an obstacle, I am amazed by what we allowed to stop us or deemed was a significant hurdle to success. Employees who live with disabilities can be excellent at helping everyone around them in the workplace realize that most issues and situations are truly, just an inconvenience. It’s going to take longer than expected? I have to do the report over? We need to find a new supplier? Try complaining about this to an employee with a sight-related disability when a bus driver dropped her off 3 blocks away from her house in the midst of a serious snow storm last night. (True life example.) I think she’d rather rewrite your report than take that bus trip again.
5. Everyone is called upon to grow:
I’m not saying that having people who live with disabilities on your staff is going to turn the office bully into a model employee. What I am saying is that at WeCo, we’ve watched both client and staff member’s personal interactions change, when they work with someone who lives with a visible disability, for the very first time. They move through an emotional cycle beginning with fear, then discomfort and finally, settling into something I can only describe as quiet joy as they realize that they have been accepted by the person with which they’re working.
Yes, you read that right, they realize that they have been accepted by the person living with the disability. I believe that the fear people can feel surrounding someone’s disability doesn’t come from their thinking that the disabled person doesn’t fit in to their world, but rather that they themselves don’t know how to fit into the world of the individual living with a disability. Not knowing what to say (“She’s blind…can I use the word ‘see’ in front of her?”) or what to do, (“He’s really struggling with that door…should I ask him if he needs help?”) can make a person feel like they a stranger in a foreign county and aren’t certain of the customs.
When work environments have the expectation of inclusion for everyone in their workplaces, regardless of ability or disability, they are building a culture in which each individual is called upon to grow and be more than they were when they entered the door.
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month in the US. As an employer, WeCo’s Certified Test Consultant team includes individuals living with one or more type of disability recognized by the US Department of Human services: sight, hearing, motor skill and cognitive. Our internal staff is also made up almost entirely of people living with disabilities. (Currently, only one internal staff member does not.)
Because WeCo’s mission includes raising public awareness regarding the abilities of this often overlooked portion of the workforce, our celebration focuses on ways we can educate and inspire other small businesses and organizations to employ individuals who experience an unemployment rate that is ten times that of the national average*.
In celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month,WeCo’s free public accessibility resources (this blog, webinars, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages) will be centered on disability employment topics. You can look forward to some of the following items to be discussed in our forums:
- The Great Employment Divide: Case studies and stories regarding the vast employment and underemployment rate among people living with disabilities and how it impacts real people and families.
- Government or Doing Business With Government? Hiring Talented People Living With Disabilities: Special focus on meeting the new 7% hiring requirements under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
- Reasonable Accommodation Without Fear: Tips for employers and managers regarding including people living with disabilities into your workforce. It’s more about listening and less about cost!
- Putting Success to Work: Real life stories of employers and employees who have successfully used reasonable accommodation in the workplace and how they did it.
If there are topics you’d like to see WeCo cover this month, please feel free to reach out to me directly via email. Our fast and flexible staff and Certified Test Team is here is assist you in learning more about accessibility and just how possible it is for all organizations, larger and small, government and private, to participate in providing employment for people based upon their talents and abilities!
WeCo President and Test Management Team Director
The most common way organizations test for website accessibility is through automated software programs. It appears on the surface to be a fast and easy tool to reach accessibility compliance requirements. However, the accuracy of automated testing results versus actual user experience is currently being debated. Some automated software manufacturers have recently released information which indicates that their products are only about 40% accurate, when compared with human user experience testing. The primary issue with the accuracy, and credibility, of accessibility testing software, is related to the “false positives/negatives” triggered during use.
A “false positive” is a statement of a detected problem that is not actually an issue for the user. This happens with automated testing tools indicate that something is wrong when it isn’t. One example could be if the software indicates that no headings are marked on a webpage, when the user encounters them as marked.
A “false negative” on the other hand is a true problem that never gets flagged. For example, images on a web site must be labeled with a descriptive element called an alternative text tag, or alt tag, so that blind users can understand what images are attempting to convey. If an automated test can see that an image is alt tagged, it will write it off as not a problem. However, the text in that alt tag could just be a series of keywords so that search engines will direct users to the site. This is a big problem because the user can’t receive an accurate description of the image from the key words, and thus, has no idea what it is designed to tell them. If the web developers assumes nothing is wrong, this could be extremely frustrating for the end-user.
The way WeCo measures website accessibility is by measuring the user’s experience of the website.
Here at WeCo, we use human-based user experience testing to measure website accessibility. These testers who work with us have disabilities that are an accurate representation of the four main disabilities classifications identified by the U.S. department of human services; sight-related, hearing-related, motor skill-related, and cognitive-related disabilities. This gives us a concise understanding of the accessibility problems websites have.
We then translate our tester’s experiences via criteria which encapsulates the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG), Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act and WeCo’s Standards of Accessibility.
One important reason why testing accessibility with users who represent real life users with disabilities is so vital is that many disabled people cannot afford the most up to date software or hardware. WeCo testers use the software, hardware, and assistive technology from their everyday lives, making the results exceptionally close to what other individuals living with disabilities encounter on websites. Our company recognized that our testers are already experts in the field of accessibility before they arrive at our office door, making them perfect accessibility testers.