The Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre (SSMIC) is a non-profit organization that exists to support new and growing businesses in the science and technology sector. They facilitate a broad range of solutions for businesses and support projects that foster effective partnerships, encourage sustainability, and develop talent in and for the Algoma (Ontario) region.
Their areas of expertise include data visualization, data analytics, smart city solutions, location intelligence, and health and human services. Within their health and human services focus, SSMIC’s software development team, Acorn, leverages public data and community partnerships to develop applications that provide access to critical registrant data to first responders, emergency medical services, and public health and safety organizations.
SSMIC engaged PQA to perform a preliminary accessibility assessment of the Priority Water Customer Registry application, a platform developed to monitor water delivery and access to priority businesses and residences within the municipal boundaries of one of their Canadian clients.
The goal was to assess this application for accessibility conformance to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) as per the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). There are three conformance levels that an application should meet to qualify as accessible according to the guidelines: A for minimal compliance, AA for acceptable compliance, and AAA for optimal compliance. The SSMIC application was required to meet the AA level of the WCAG version 2.0.
The PQA project team was given four weeks to complete the accessibility testing and present SSMIC with final deliverables, which were to include a Web Accessibility Non-conformance Audit report for all the modules of the application.
A step by step approach
The accessibility testing engagement began with an initial consultation between the PQA’s Delivery Manager and SSMIC’s Manager of Software Development. SSMIC introduced the Priority Water Customer Registry application and provided a walk-through for both the front-end and back-end user journeys. From this initial consultation, PQA was able to provide SSMIC a detailed list of access and documentation requirements that SSMIC quickly assembled and provided to PQA.
PQA evaluated and selected the best tools for this project and built out an Excel workbook for the assessment with a separate worksheet for each module where accessibility issues were documented. This cost-effective approach provided both PQA and SSMIC with access to documentation without the added cost of special tools or software subscriptions.
Within each Excel worksheet, a summary of issue types by guideline category (WCAG A, AA) was documented. Issues were further categorized as either errors, alerts, features, structural elements, ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications), or low contrast ratio. The worksheets describe the issue, provide an explanation, provide a solution for correction, as well as a link to the corresponding WCAG guideline. In addition, PQA provided detailed reports on mobile and keyboard related accessibility issues.
The accessibility testing was conducted mainly using the following tools:
WAVE – Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool
WAVE identifies many accessibilities and Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG) errors, but also facilitates human evaluation of web content.
NVDA – Window Screen Reader (laptop/desktop)
NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA) is a free and open-source screen reader for the Microsoft Windows operating system.
VoiceOver – Mobile Screen Reader (IOS)
VoiceOver is a screen reader program that comes on the iPod Touch, new Mac computers, iPhones, and iPads.
Keyboard Accessibility, Usability and Mobile
Manual testing was completed to ensure each of these elements was tested.
Providing a clear game plan for accessibility
The accessibility testing carried out by the PQA team identified the specific issues that needed to be addressed to reach accessibility testing standard WCAG 2.0 AA, in compliance with AODA. We were able to provide the developers at SSMIC with a clear game plan for how to overcome the accessibility challenges in the application. The recommendations provided will help to improve the end-user experience and ensure that more customers can successfully access the application.
The specific results of PQA’s accessibility testing effort are displayed in the table below. Each of the accessibility testing tools has been run and the related issues group by WCAG standard is depicted.
|Level A||Level AA||Unknown||Total|
|WAVE: Automated Web Accessibility Checker||51||21||72|
|NVDA: Desktop Screen Reader||176|
|Voiceover: IOS Screen Reader||79||3||82|
1. In the table above, only Errors and Contrast issues using the WAVE tool have been reported as they are the two must-fix categories to achieve accessibility compliance.