A new AODA requirement for Ontario websites will come into force on January 1st, 2021. Under the Information and Communications Standards, organizations must make their websites and web-based apps accessible. Organizations must do so by making their websites compliant with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA. This international standard gives web developers guidelines on how to make their webpages accessible to computer users with disabilities. Some of these guidelines outline how to make websites accessible to users who operate or interact with them in different ways. Here we will describe a few of these web accessibility guidelines for compatibility with assistive technology.
Web Accessibility Guidelines for Compatibility with Assistive Technology
Web designers must ensure that users can navigate their websites using a keyboard rather than a mouse. Moreover, designers must not limit the amount of time that users have to input keystrokes. Furthermore, users must also be able to navigate anywhere on a webpage using the keyboard. For instance, they must be able to move focus toward or away from every part of the page using their keyboards.
In addition, users have many standard keyboard commands for moving focus around a page, such as:
- The arrow keys
- The tab key
Designers have the option of requiring different commands to navigate a page. However, when users need to use non-standard commands to navigate, designers must alert them when these commands are needed, and what they are.
Furthermore, users must be able to make the keyboard focus indicator visible, if desired.
In addition, when a user changes a focus or setting, the website’s context should not change. However, if designers need to include a context change, they must alert users that changing the setting will also change the context.
Finally, designers must ensure that websites will work well for users who operate them in different ways. For example, website functions must be compatible with assistive technologies people currently use, as well as future assistive technologies. The guidelines list some of the technical requirements that enhance this compatibility, including:
- Content using markup languages
- User interface components that designers develop
The WCAG webpage provides the full list of requirements, as well as technical guidance on how to implement them. The AODA only requires websites to follow guidelines in version 2.0, level AA. However, the WCAG webpage provides guidelines at level AAA. In addition, the page also includes new guidelines added in Version 2.1. For example, some additional guidelines for making websites compatible with assistive technology are:
- Hovering or focusing on content
- No exceptions for keyboard commands
- Criteria for keyboard shortcuts
- Guidelines for using input methods other than keyboards and mice, including:
- Pointer gestures
- Multiple input methods
- Status messages compatible with assistive technologies
While websites do not need to follow these guidelines, they can choose to follow them as a best practice. Websites that follow more guidelines have the chance to welcome more visitors and do more online business.