Eoin’s time in IA Labs
IA Labs perform audits on websites to ensure accessibility for those with access needs. The aim is to get to a point where all websites are WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) compliant. Past clients of IA Labs include An Post and the HSE (Health Service Executive).
Digital accessibility is vital so all people can use essential services. It’s great that accessibility is now a priority for websites, because before there were only a limited number of things a person with a disability could do on a site, or even nothing at all. For websites run by public sector bodies, accessibility is mandatory. The WCAG offers recommendations for private companies where compliance is not compulsory. However, it is in the best interest of private companies to make accessibility amendments, which can increase the number of potential customers or gain good publicity.
IA Labs does not only focus on websites but also ensures the compliance of phone and tablet apps. These devices are especially important to perform accessibility tests on, as there are those that do not use a computer often now that many activities can be done on other devices.
During my time working at IA Labs, I was asked to browse a number of websites and take notes of various areas that may require modifications. I compiled a list of various tasks that should be performed with no issue on these sites, like filling in certain forms, purchasing an item or searching for an answer to a question. I then tried to evaluate the accessibility of each procedure step-by-step using different internet browsers. When looking at these sites, no stone can be left unturned or else there may be an issue for someone using the site on Edge, Chrome or Firefox.
As a blind person, I can say that this kind of testing is essential. I have lost count of the number of times I would need to ask family or a friend for help when browsing the internet. This means that I would be dragging them away from what they are doing, which could be something important, and their train of thought would be lost. The other issue could be that there is no one around for aid and I remain lost until there is someone to turn to.
Now that more sites are striving to be accessible, I feel as though I can go about my daily business with no hindrance. I can attend classes, shop for groceries online, book appointments, look for accommodation, shop for clothes, buy tickets for the train or a flight, look at job vacancies and much more.
Recently I wanted to send a wedding card to a friend. I was able to buy a digital stamp online, which is a combination of 12 numbers to make a unique code. It was written on a document with the recipient’s address, printed and stuck to the envelope. All I needed to do was put the letter in the postbox. There is still some way to go for online services, but I have confidence that the end goal, to be fully digitally inclusive, is achievable.
Our manual accessibility audits, which IA Labs perform on websites, apps, and digital documents, have helped public and private sector organisations give people like Eoin the same freedom, opportunities and choices the internet offers to all of us. Contact us today and find out more about what we can do to help your web content become WCAG 2.1 compliant.