[BCAB] Whether it is Accessible or Useable that is the Question

Steve Green steve.green at testpartners.co.uk
Fri Oct 11 02:50:11 BST 2019


There was a significant change in WCAG, although that was 11 years ago. WCAG 1.0 assumed that websites would be built using HTML, CSS and JavaScript, so there were specific tests such as the website had to work if JavaScript or stylesheets are turned off. The problem with this approach is that you could not sensibly apply the guidelines to other technologies such as PDF or mobile applications.

WCAG 2.0 was published in 2008 and there was a massive change. The new guidelines are technology agnostic, so in principle they can be applied not only to existing technologies, but to new technologies in the future. It also introduced the concept of "accessibility supported technologies", which refers to technologies that are available easily and free or very low cost.

JavaScript and CSS are examples of accessibility supported technologies because there are many free browsers that support them. Website designers can therefore assume that everyone has access to a browser that supports JavaScript and stylesheets, so websites no longer have to work without them in order to be WCAG compliant.

With regard to usability, sighted people have a massive advantage insofar as they immediately get a holistic overview of a page within a few seconds of it loading. They can see how large the page is, they can see the most important things on it, they can see all the subheadings and they can see groups of links such as menus. On a well designed page it takes them no time at all to get the information they want, and most websites actually aren't that bad for them.

Unfortunately, the one size fits all, or universal design, is a myth. It might have been possible 25 years ago when the web was very young and websites were very simple, but it's not possible now except on trivially simple websites. We do a lot of website user testing with people with a wide range of disabilities and a range of proficiency levels, and one of the challenges is that people sometimes want mutually exclusive things. Design features that improve usability for some people, can cause problems for others.

In principle, this could be addressed by providing personalisation options so people can adjust the design to meet their needs, such as by using high contrast or low contrast colour schemes or high visibility focus indicators. However, the reality is that almost no one except power uses take advantage of the personalisation options that have been built into every browser for 25 years. Providing more options probably isn't going to help unless someone as influential as Google implement a solution that becomes a standard that everyone becomes familiar with.

Steve


-----Original Message-----
From: Vic Pereira <vic.pereira at virn.ca> 
Sent: 10 October 2019 22:53
To: 'BCAB Discussion List' <bcab at lists.bcab.org.uk>
Subject: Re: [BCAB] Whether it is Accessible or Useable that is the Question

It has been sometime, but I do remember something about WCAG moving from being prescriptive to something akin to being more philosophical. I am sure there is a better explanation, however it escapes me right now.

One huge hurdle I often come across when helping people learn a new technology or learn a new way to interact with a computer is that websites are often designed from the view of the developer or business. It is not too often we come across a site that is designed from how a customer or client can easily use it right away. Taking out the fact of not being able to see it out of the equation I am sure I am not the only person that notices sighted people taking a long time to read over a web page before they grasp what is expected or how to get to the information they want.

When something falls into the camp of being perception it is difficult to come up with a one size fits all. If we can get to a one size fits most that would be a significant step in the right direction.

Vic


-----Original Message-----
From: Barry Hill <barry.hill3 at sky.com>
Sent: Thursday, October 10, 2019 08:16 AM
To: 'BCAB Discussion List' <bcab at lists.bcab.org.uk>
Subject: Re: [BCAB] Whether it is Accessible or Useable that is the Question

For me, accessibility and usability are semantics.  I go by the POUR model:
A website or app needs to be Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust.  Here's more on that:
https://webaim.org/articles/pour/

, ,
Cheers

B



-----Original Message-----
From: Vic Pereira <vic.pereira at virn.ca>
Sent: Wednesday, October 9, 2019 9:27 PM
To: 'BCAB Discussion List' <bcab at lists.bcab.org.uk>
Subject: [BCAB] Whether it is Accessible or Useable that is the Question

Good day everyone

Determining whether or not a website is accessible or useable has always been a difficult question for me. Several years ago I helped a bit with the WCAG effort. At times it was obvious when a website wasn't accessible to a person who had low vision or no vision, especially when adaptive or assistive technologies needed to be used.

I also came across several examples of websites that were more difficult, however with some investment in learning the basic text to speech software navigation functions the experience became much more positive.

When a website uses embedded headings, tables, actual controls etc. it can work very nicely if a person is comfortable using the text to speech software functions to move between elements and navigate tables.

Now if a person wasn't able to invest the time in learning the adaptive or assistive technology and issues complaints about websites not being useable I have no idea where to put the blame. This is outside of having a learning or cognitive disability of course.

Vic


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