A closer look at platform vs. content accessibility
You’ve gone through the process of finding the right Content Management System (CMS) provider to build your website. Then came the laborious process of design. Your marketing team filtered through hundreds, maybe thousands, of images, lost sleep over tag lines, syntax and verbiage and changed the launch date of your site at least five times, but finally your site is live. Chances are, you’ve all but forgotten about the website, except for checking in on it here and there.
But then you hear the words “web accessibility” and acronyms like “WCAG” and “ADA” – and as if acronyms weren’t enough, now you’re supposed to know what the heck “a11y” is? Your counterparts are getting demand letters. Beyoncé is getting sued for having an inaccessible website. Your pets’ heads are falling off.
Okay, deep breath. Maybe things aren’t that bad. A11y is the numeronym for ‘accessibility’ with the letter ‘a’ in the beginning, the letter ‘y’ at the end, and eleven (11) characters in between – #a11y, you can use that when promoting all the good things you’re doing to ensure digital inclusion. Got it. Boom. Done.
But, in all seriousness, what is web accessibility and why should you care? Well, in a nutshell, if not coded properly, your website may limit or impede access for individuals with disabilities. Internationally, upwards of 15% of the global population is impacted by some form of disability. No one would knowingly exclude such a large demographic, so surely your website is accessible to individuals with varied abilities – right? In order to answer that question, we have to look at platform versus content accessibility.
Chances are, unless your CMS provider has made a concerted effort to ensure accessibility during the design and build process, your site probably isn’t accessible. To fulfill their obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other ADA-related laws and guidelines, CMS providers should build their platforms and the templates that power your website using the informative guidance supplied via the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) put forth by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
But the buck doesn’t stop there. Accessibility doesn’t fall squarely on the shoulders of your CMS provider at the platform level. There is more to it.
At AudioEye, we like to use the analogy of building an office complex. We work with your CMS provider, through an elite partnership, to provide guidance and ensure the “building” – or platform – is being built with accessibility in mind. Websites are coded to ensure the foundation and structure take into consideration the many disability use-cases that require specific accommodations. In the same sense that a contractor must take measures to ensure entry ways are equipped with ramps and rails, the proper amount of disability access parking spaces are provided and properly labelled, braille and audible instructions are provided for elevator access, doorways are built wide enough and drinking fountains provide enough clearance to accommodate wheelchair access, it’s equally important that website designers, developers and content creators take measures to ensure equal access to the digital programs, services and information supplied through the environments they build. For every ADA-related requirement and best practices required of those brick and mortar locations, there is an equal amount of consideration for those creating digital content and resources. Elements such as form fields must be labeled correctly for individuals, such as a person who is blind, who use a screen reader to navigate your site; proper coding techniques must be applied to ensure that someone who may be tabbing through the site due to, for example, a motor disability, can easily get to where they need to; contrasting colors should adhere to certain thresholds for individuals impacted by color blindness; content presented in table and table structure should be formatted in ways that accommodate individuals with varying degrees of cognitive or learning disabilities; etc., etc.
But, that’s not all. In addition to ensuring that the structure, or platform, of a website is made accessible – the responsibility of your CMS provider – the individual pieces of content that you – the tenant within that CMS environment – publish within it must also be made accessible. Bringing back our favorite analogy…, when it comes to “moving in” to your accessible office complex, as the tenant, it’s equally important that you don’t fill your accessible space with inaccessible furniture. To rip a real-world example from recent headlines, if your sidewalks and onramps are wide enough and properly configured to accommodate a person in a wheelchair, but the pathway is obstructed by an endless amount of scooters strewn about, you’ve created a bunch of access barriers that may impede access to your business establishment, which could certainly lead to legal actions being taken by the individuals you’ve left behind. The same logic applies to being a tenant within a multi-tenant CMS platform. Assume that, for example, your marketing team deems it necessary to add a carousel to the home page to promote various events and news. If the structure and fundamental components of the carousel are properly configured complete with pause functionality and meaningfully labelled controls, but the images you upload to the carousel are not properly labelled or images of text are uploaded with no consideration for a user who is relying upon a screen reader to relay information to the end-user, an access barrier is created that may limit or fully impede access for those users. Today, most websites are highly dynamic and ever-changing. As your site changes – as most sites are prone to do – additional inaccessible features or content may be added, unbeknownst to you or your CMS provider.
So who does the onus of accessibility fall on?
As a service provider, your site should be accessible at the platform level. As the service provider’s client – the tenant – the content on your site should also be accessible. Unfortunately, ensuring both of these things isn’t always easy. Oftentimes, with the dynamic web, finding websites that are accessible in both ways is the exception, not the rule. This is where AudioEye steps in.
Through our strategic partnerships with leading CMS providers, AudioEye is able to provide our fully managed service to partners’ broad and diverse client bases. With our partners, their clients are relying upon a single consistent platform, which tends to encompass many of the same element types and coding standards. Because of this, the cost of acquisition is dramatically reduced, and economies of scale come into play, which helps make accessibility accessible to clients that would otherwise neglect accessibility or have no practical way of ensuring accessibility best practices are taken into account.
AudioEye’s solution and approach for CMS providers is holistic, multi-faceted and unique in the marketplace. Our solutions go beyond simply issue discovery. AudioEye continuously finds and fixes errors as content is added and changed throughout the site, so you can rest easy that your site is conforming to the WCAG Guidelines, even as a living, breathing, entity. Every single day, AudioEye removes billions of access barriers across thousands of customer websites. If you are interested in learning more about our Ally Managed Service, our full-service, always-on dynamic remediation and monitoring solutions that accelerate speed-to-compliance, while ensuring an optimal user experience for all end-users, please contact an AudioEye representative, today.
Bottom line is, accessibility is everyone’s responsibility. It is changing your mindset, your outlook, your mentality. It’s becoming more aware and adopting a lifestyle of inclusivity – in both the physical and digital world. From a business perspective, you’ve already taken the first step by adding digital accessibility to your lexicon, and your CMS provider is taking steps toward accessibility through our partnership. By purchasing AudioEye as your accessibility provider, you can breathe easy, knowing our always-on solutions keep your content accessible, freeing you up to focus on increasing your ROI, clientele and providing the best services to your end user.
You continue to do you. We’ll do A11y. Contact an AudioEye representative to learn more, today.