Understanding Site Accessibility: Supporting Robust Options

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By Patrice Meadows — Apr 5, 2018 11:00 AM


According to Forbes’ analysts, the Assistive Technology Market will surpass $26B by 2024. This market serves those that require assistance perceiving, operating, and/or communicating on or offline. To better serve these individuals, organizations must make sites more compatible with a wide range of assistive devices.

Offering adequate options to help users interpret web content is the foundation of the fourth principle of accessibility which requires content to be robust enough to be reliably interpreted by a wide variety of user agents.

To accomplish this, sites must achieve a certain level of compatibility with common user agents. The specific requirements for compatibility are outlined in sections 4.1.1 (Parsing) and 4.1.2 (Name, Role, Value) of this principle. We’ll share more about each one in the following section.

How robust is enough?

Compliance with this principle hinges on teams’ ability to correctly and consistently structure web content so user agents can programmatically detect site elements and relay them to users. The WCAG recommends starting by ensuring that content is parsed using rules of formal grammar (more on parsing here).

Appropriate parsing ensures;

  • all elements have complete start and end tags
  • elements are nested according to their specifications
  • there aren’t elements with duplicate attributes
  • nearly all IDs are unique

Once teams have confirmed that content is parsed appropriately, they can start reviewing user-interface components to ensure that each element’s name, role, and value can be programmatically determined.

Requirements for names, roles, and values:

  • Names and roles of UI components must be programmatically detectable
  • States, properties, and values that can be set by the user must also have the ability to be set programmatically
  • Notification of changes to names, roles, or values must be available using user agents

Ways to test site compatibility

After checking your site’s structure to ensure that it meets the standards outlined in this principle, it’s a great idea to test your work. There are tons of tools that can help you determine your site’s compatibility with a range of assistive technologies.

Tools to test compatibility:

How do you help users interact with your content? Share your strategies below or tweet us  @hannon_hill.

Don’t forget to come back next week to see which institutions of higher education are doing a great job with site accessibility. You can also subscribe to our blog to get the latest posts delivered automatically.