Topic: August 2017 – Criterion

Using POUR to YOUR advantage

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) outline four major adjectives that should describe your web content. Those adjectives form the acronym POUR: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.

If you are not familiar with accessibility at all, understanding these adjectives and what changes they imply for your website may have you feeling overwhelmed. Take heart. For private companies with 15+ employees and federal contractors, it may feel like accessibility is a thorn in your side. However, there are benefits that come from making your website ADA compliant.

Let’s take a look at POUR.

Perceivable

One out of five Americans have a disability. A major reason to have your website perceivable is to be able to reach that clientele. When a person with a disability "enters" an online store, accessibility is critical. If things are not accessible, he/she will move on to a new website. Providing text alternatives for non-text content allows someone who has a visual disability to "perceive" an image in his/her mind even if it cannot be visually seen.

In addition to bringing in a new clientele, your current customers will appreciate the perceivable principle. Providing full descriptions of images, links to data tables and complex graphs, captions and video scripts for multimedia, proper color contrast between foreground and background are all ways in which you allow your website content to be more easily perceived by all users. Alternative text for images actually improves your search engine optimization ranking, and all of these guidelines will keep users on your site longer.

Operable

Some people with disabilities may utilize assistive technology—things like braille keyboards, haptic notifications, speech input, voice over, etc. People who do not have reliable muscle control in the hands will use adaptive keyboards. Others may use one-handed keyboards, mouth sticks, head wands, or single switch devices.

When a person who doesn’t use a mouse arrives at your website, your goal is to offer them the access they need to stay on your site. Without operable standards in place in your web design, one in five Americans may not even be able to enter your site.

Providing focus indicators, logical and understandable navigation patterns and tab order, allowing extension of time limits, giving the user control over stopping or adjusting moving content, applying descriptive headings and labels, and offering more than one way for users to locate a web page within a set of other web pages makes your site more humanly navigable both for users who only use keyboards and for the many users who get stressed and leave websites that aren’t easy to operate.

Understandable

Imagine that you created a website full of information and graphics that were both perceivable and operable. You’ve added alt text to all your images, and you have a focus that follows the right pattern, you added captions to your videos, etc. You then publish your site, and you are confident you will gain a lot of customers because of it.

In the morning you wake up and look at your site. To your surprise, the whole thing is in French! You know that the mistake needs to be corrected immediately because the English-speaking audience you are hoping to attract are currently going to your competitors’ sites.

While this analogy does not discuss all the nuances of this issue, it does prompt a better understanding of why perceivable and operable are not the only factors in the international guidelines. Language and functionality are two important aspects necessary to focus on in order to have an understandable website. These include but are not limited to using language attributes, page titles, providing instructions when asking for user input, and providing help when errors are detected in the user’s input.

Robust

Content must be stoutly built to handle different assistive technologies both current and future, and different versions and types of web browsers and operating systems. This involves allowing users as much control as possible so they can access content in multiple browsers including older versions. Much of this is done by a web developer who understands how to tag, nest, and uniquely ID elements on the webpage as well as programming names, roles and values correctly.

Disabilities Aside.

Set disabilities aside for a moment.

Human beings do not all receive and retain information the same. Some people are visual learners, and others are tactile/kinesthetic, or auditory.

Customers like to have control. There is a psychology behind this desire for control. In fact, according to a Forbes article, customers have control whether you want them to or not. They can and will post their feedback of your company on social media.

The more options you have for your content, the more likely your current and potential clientele will interact with the content on your site as they wish. This means that you, as a company, are giving them control from the moment they arrive on your site. The POUR principles of WCAG will help you keep your current customers and gain many more, including those with disabilities.

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