WEBSITE ACCESSIBILITY INSPECTION CASE STUDY

GOOGLE COVID-19 WEB PAGE - https://www.google.com/covid19/

March 30th, 2020

THE AMERICAN WITH DISABILITIES ACT APPLIES ONLINE

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a series of testing criteria to help guide website owners in creating a website that is accessible to those with disabilities. The number of website accessibility lawsuits is increasing. All sites are at risk of being sued if they do not demonstrate that they are accessible to people with disabilities. The purpose of this report is to inform businesses of the importance of website compliance, the most common barriers affecting websites today, and recommendations on how to best remediate website accessibility barriers. 

Key Takeaways
  • In an inspection of https://www.google.com/covid19/, the site includes barriers that would affect people with impaired or low vision. Other common barriers have been remediated. 
  • The screen reader focuses on links inside the toggle menu regardless if the menu is in a collapsed state, there is no mechanism to close/collapse the toggle menu, the screen reader does not identify bullet items in a list, tab focus is not clearly visible on the selected tab, and the color contrast ratio of footer links is below 4.5:1.
Online Accessibility is The New Standard 

In the United States, online accessibility is now standard for any online property owned and operated by a business or public entities, adding more complexity to the changing digital landscape. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires businesses and public entities to provide qualified individuals with disabilities equal access to their programs, services, or activities. Websites now have features for disabled users. 

Users with disabilities use assistive technology to use computers and access the Internet. The blind use screen readers, devices that read aloud the text that appears on a monitor. People with difficulty using a mouse use voice recognition and verbal commands to control computers. Users with other types of disabilities use other assistive technology, and new and innovative tools are being introduced daily.

Poorly designed websites create unnecessary barriers for disabled users. Website developers may not realize how much simple features built into web pages assist users who, for example, can't see a monitor or use a mouse. There is currently no law governing website accessibility, but this is expected to change. 

Guidelines for government websites apply to private websites. These guidelines, categorized into five sections, are: Alternatives, Presentation, User Control, Understandable, and Predictable. 

Guideline 1. Alternatives - All images and non-text content must have alternative text. Guideline 1 includes options for video and audio (transcripts, closed captioning, audio descriptions, and live captions).

Guideline 2. Presentation - Proper markup techniques to structure content is needed, with content presented in a meaningful order to comply with screen reader technology. The use of color, color contrast, and text resizing must all comply with accessibility standards. Any website functions, content, or instructions created for the website shouldn't rely on a single sensory ability. 

Guideline 3. User Control - Content and functions must be accessible, as needed, by keyboard only, with the ability to navigate forwards and backward. Any time limits, blinking, scrolling, movement, or other functions must have the ability to be stopped or manipulated to comply with accessibility technology. No webpage should have three or more flashes within a one-second time frame, and a 'skip navigation' link to bypass a web heading must be available.

Guideline 4. Understandable - Each page of a website needs to have a unique and descriptive page title, and users must be able to navigate through the website in a logical, sequential order. A website should offer multiple options to access different content or pages (search bars, navigation menu, sitemaps). The website must clearly indicate any changes in language on a page. 

Guideline 5. Predictable - Functions on the website should operate when specified by the user (e.g., filled out or completed forms do not auto-submit). Navigation layout should be consistent throughout, and user operating errors should be easy to detect. Label all of the forms or input fields so that users know the format expected. Suggestions for correcting errors if input errors are detected must be included on the website. The HTML code must be free of errors and properly nested. For any page with financial transactions or other essential data submissions, there are a couple of accessibility approaches. Remediation tactics include making submissions reversible, giving opportunities for users to correct errors, and making confirmations available, allowing users a chance to review and correct their submissions.

Estimated by the Department of Human Health Services, in the United States, there are 6.4 million people who have a visual disability, 10.5 million people who have a hearing disability, and 14.8 million people who have a cognitive impairment. There are estimated to be over 50 million websites that are not up to website accessibility compliance standards.

Inspection Methodology and Evaluation 

Https://www.google.com/covid19/ was reviewed for common compliance barriers.  The analysis included a study of the functionality, aesthetics, and non-text content (audio, video, imagery) for common compliance barriers. This inspection leveraged a variety of commonly used accessibility software. Our inspection is segmented into different testing criteria including Screen Reader Barriers, Keyboard Barriers, High and Color Contrast Barriers, and Browser Zoom Barriers. The inspection is completed by live persons using the same automated software that serial litigants have leveraged (a variety of tools), scanning for a cursory analysis of applicable barriers. The compliance barriers that were found were manually converted into raw data that live persons used to collate the results of the inspection and provide recommendations based on experience with website accessibility complaints.

Guideline 2. Presentation -

  • Website structure (1.3.1): Proper markup techniques to structure website content (e.g., use correct heading tags and HTML for ordered and unordered lists).
    • The screen reader does not identify bullet items in a list. To reproduce this barrier, launch the page https://www.google.com/covid19/ and navigate to the list using keyboard arrow keys and select verify. To remediate this barrier and to allow for the screen reader to identify the items in the bulleted list, provide tags (<ul><li> tag/) for the items listed.

The screen reader does not identify bullet items in a list. To reproduce this barrier, launch the page https://www.google.com/covid19/ and navigate to the list using keyboard arrow keys and select verify. To remediate this barrier and to allow for the screen reader to identify the items in the bulleted list, provide tags (<ul><li> tag/) for the items listed.

  • Color contrast (1.4.3): There must be a color contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 between all text and background.
    • Within the footer of the page https://www.google.com/covid19/, the color contrast ratio of the links is below 4.5:1. To replicate this barrier, launch the page and measure the color contrast ratio. Remediating this barrier would involve adjusting the color code in the stylesheet to meet the contrast ratio criteria. 

Within the footer of the page https://www.google.com/covid19/, the color contrast ratio of the links is below 4.5:1. To replicate this barrier, launch the page and measure the color contrast ratio. Remediating this barrier would involve adjusting the color code in the stylesheet to meet the contrast ratio criteria.

Guideline 3. User Control

  • Keyboard only (2.1.1): All content and functions on a website must be accessible by keyboard only (i.e., no mouse).
    • To fully comply with keyboard only use, there must be a mechanism to close and collapse the toggle menu. To replicate this barrier, launch https://www.google.com/covid19/ and navigate using the left and right keys and expand the toggle menu. The user is unable to collapse the menu. A link to close the toggle menu should be present. To fully remediate this barrier the link to close this menu page focus should automatically shift to this link as soon as the menu is expanded.

Guideline 4. Understandable

  • Focus order (2.4.3): Users must be able to navigate through a website in a logical, sequential order that preserves meaning.
    • When navigating the page, screen reader focus will move to links within the toggled menu even when in a collapsed state. Replicating this barrier includes launching https://www.google.com/covid19/ and navigating through the page. To remediate this barrier, remove focus from hidden links when the toggled menu is not in an expanded state. 
  • Focus indicator (2.4.7): Any “user interface control” that receives focus from a keyboard user should indicate that focus on the currently selected element.
    • On selected tabs, the focus is not clearly visible. When navigating the page https://www.google.com/covid19/, either a change in the background or border should signify the selected tab for the user. 
Focus indicator (2.4.7): Any “user interface control” that receives focus from a keyboard user should indicate that focus on the currently selected element. On selected tabs, the focus is not clearly visible. When navigating the page https://www.google.com/covid19/, either a change in the background or border should signify the selected tab for the user.
Considerations

The web continues to mature, and sites continue to evolve. From small businesses to Fortune 500 companies, adherence to WCAG 2.0 guidelines will continue to be the first step in mitigating risk online. Proving that a business continues to comply with the standard is critical in avoiding potential lawsuits. Unfortunately, adherence to guidelines does not guarantee protection but does support the claim of an active Online Compliance Policy and Strategy.

Web pages built with accessibility features tend to be more convenient and available,  even for users without disabilities. It is not difficult for most websites to implement accessibility features. It seldom changes the layout or appearance of web pages in significant ways. Accessibility techniques make web pages more useful both for people using older computers and for those using the latest hardware. The Access Board maintains information on its website at www.access-board.gov. The Department of Justice has information about accessible web page design in an April 2000 report available at www.usdoj.gov/crt/508/report/content.htm. 

An online course for developers interested in inaccessible design is available through the General Services Administrations created with the Access Board, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Education. The course provides an interactive demonstration of how to build accessible web pages and is available at www.section508.gov. The website also includes the Federal government's initiative to make electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. An additional resource created by the Web Accessibility Initiative is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. These guidelines help designers make web pages accessible to the broadest range of users. 

 

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