Spencer Pryce, L9 President
Talk of credit union website accessibility is in the air. While the idea of website accessibility isn’t new, the forthcoming U.S. Department of Justice website accessibility rule for public accommodations under Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act brings a sharper focus to discussions about ensuring credit union websites are accessible to all people.
“We need to change the way we talk about accessibility… Web accessibility means that people can use the web. Not “people with disabilities.” Not “blind people and deaf people.” Not “people who have cognitive disabilities” or “men who are color blind” or “people with motor disabilities.” People. People who are using the web. People who are using what you’re building.”
—Gibson, Anne. "Reframing Accessibility for the Web" post on A List Apart. February 03, 2015.
The goal with website accessibility is that, no matter what input/output devices people use, they can successfully interact with your credit union’s site and all the content on it. Creating an accessible site goes far beyond simple steps, such as your web specialist specifying a text alternative to be read when an image isn't visible. There is much more to consider.
When it comes to understanding and meeting accessibility standards, we’re fortunate that credit unions can benefit from the work of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an international community that develops open standards to ensure the long-term growth of the Web. In 1997, the W3C started the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), and it’s from the WAI that we have a framework for how to approach the accessibility of your credit union’s website. The WAI guidelines are regarded as the international standard for Web accessibility.
The primary set of guidelines is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, usually abbreviated as WAI-WCAG 2.0. The other set that may apply to your site is the Accessible Rich Internet Applications Suite, or WAI-ARIA. We’ll look at each in more detail on the following pages, but you’re encouraged to review the full guidelines— we’ve whittled them down considerably in this paper.
More: Links to the latest, full versions of WAI-WCAG 2.0 and WAI-ARIA are in Appendix C: Information Sources.
In the WAI-WCAG 2.0 document, there are several layers of guidance, including overall principles, general guidelines, and success criteria. A web page on your credit union’s site conforms to WIA-WCAG 2.0 if it meets the guidelines for one of the Conformance Levels — either Level A, Level AA, or Level AAA — and if it meets that level for the full page and the full range of processes on that page.
At L9, we believe that targeting Level AA conformance is the most realistic approach that balances accessibility for a wide range of people visiting your site with the attainability of that accessibility. Level A sets a minimum level of accessibility that doesn’t achieve wide accessibility for many situations. On the other end of the spectrum, Level AAA is not recommended because it is likely not possible to satisfy all Level AAA success criteria for some content on your site. The WAI-WCAG 2.0 document suggests that Level AAA conformance not be required as a general policy for entire sites for this reason.
We’ll look next at the four high-level principles in WAI-WCAG 2.0: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust (or POUR).
More: To get an idea of the scope of the WAI-WCAG 2.0 success criteria for Level AA, refer to the WAI’s Quick Reference checklist. Find the link in Appendix C: Information Sources.
People visiting your credit union’s website want to read, interact, and have a good experience with it. We all want them to! For you to build a site that allows anyone to use it successfully, regardless of the devices being used, you’ll need to consider the four principles of accessibility in WAI-WCAG 2.0. Your content must be:
Those four POUR principles help organize the guidelines and success criteria in WAI-WCAG 2.0. Let’s look at them a little closer. The next few pages will give you an idea of how the POUR principles relate to your site. The examples shown for each principle are a small sample of the accessibility issues that you might find with your credit union’s site.
More: For a complete list of guidelines for each POUR principle, see Appendix A: WAI-WCAG 2.0 Principles & Guidance Tables.
Does your credit union’s site present information that can be seen, heard, and felt? Does your site support a wide range of output devices? Does your content retain its meaning regardless of how it’s presented to your visitor?
When a visitor to your credit union’s website wishes to engage with it, is the full site built to be keyboard accessible, which in turn allows the use of other input devices? Does your site allow for finding, navigation, and orientation, regardless of the device used? Does it allow people to bypass repeated navigation elements? Do visitors have enough time to interact with your content? Is it visually safe?
Are uncommon words or phrases defined? Are acronyms expanded? Can output devices correctly present the language and direction of the text to the visitor? Are the placement, identification, and function of page elements and navigation consistent? Does error handling allow your visitor to correct mistakes?
Is your site’s code valid? Have names and roles been set for user interface components? Is information in your content available to people using a wide range of input/output devices in ways that allow them to recognize and interact with it?
A credit union and its web developers should approach WAI-ARIA conformance with the same determination as with WAI-WCAG 2.0 conformance.
WAI-ARIA defines methods to improve accessibility of site features using dynamic content and advanced user interface controls, including elements such as expandable menus, calendar functions, drag-and-drop features, buttons, drop-down lists, etc. WAI-ARIA provides a technical framework that allows typically non-accessible code to provide data to assistive technology.
WAI-ARIA roles, states, and properties supplement the markup associated with page elements. Role values pass information to assistive technologies about how to process the elements; states and properties reflect the current state of rich Internet application components. WAI-ARIA also includes methods for establishing focus on an element when standard markup does not.
Start now. The U.S. Department of Justice web accessibility rules have been delayed more than once and are now expected in 2018. Until then (assuming the DOJ meets the date), credit unions and other places of public accommodation remain in a position of addressing website accessibility without definitive legal standards or regulations to follow. Lawsuits filed in 2015 against high-profile companies— such as Home Depot, J. C. Penney, the NBA, and Patagonia— alleging that their sites are in violation of Title III of the ADA are a clear call to other companies to take action on website accessibility now.
L9 encourages credit unions to take steps now to conform to WAI-WCAG 2.0, Level AA and to WAI-ARIA 1.0.
Step 0. Before you dive into the technical details, understand the scope of this undertaking. Included in this paper are links to source documents and other information. Explore beyond those, too.
Now is an excellent time to begin making your website more accessible to all of the people who want to use it. There’s no doubt that website accessibility regulations affecting credit unions and other public accommodations will be enacted; it’s just a matter of when that happens. There’s nothing to be lost by working on improvements in advance of the formal rule changes.
You’ve probably already employed some accessibility practices, but most credit unions will likely find they need to take accessibility to a higher level. This is not about a one-time exercise in polishing your website code. It’s about an ongoing process to serve the widest range of people who want to do business with you.
L9 can help. Please get in touch for more details.
L9 has provided website design and development services to credit unions since 2001 and to other businesses since 1995.
We tailor our web management systems to fit the needs of financial institutions and develop them from the ground up to best support our clients’ growth and goals. Our custom web application development matches your ideas with our expertise to let us create something great!
Together, we make the most beautiful, functional, and usable websites for credit unions and their members.
For more information, please contact:
Spencer Pryce, L9 President
L9 is a full-service web design and development company. Since 1995.
Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.
User interface components and navigation must be operable.
Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.
Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.
This is how people might interact with your site today.
More: To learn more about input and output devices, refer to these sources.
(For comparison to WAI-WCAG 2.0)
Section 508 applies to Federal departments and agencies, but it does not regulate the private sector. Section 508 standards are comparable with the older WAI-WCAG 1.0. The United States Access Board, a Federal agency, develops and maintains a wide range of accessibility standards, including those for information and communication technology.