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Dr Scott Hollier - Digital Access Specialist Posts

Scitech: a web accessibility case study

Scitech is a household name in Western Australia. Scitech’s work over the past three decades has brought cutting edge science to everyone from adventure-ready kids to inquisitive adults – igniting a lifelong curiosity in the process. Recently Scitech decided it was time to take on a different kind of adventure: building a new website that ensured effective access for people with disability – with fantastic results. Here’s some insights into Scitech’s accessibility journey.

Screenshot of Scitech homepage

As the new website neared completion, a website assessment was conducted by the Centre for Accessibility’s Dr Scott Hollier to determine its compliance to the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Level AA standard. This involved testing with several automated accessibility tools and code validators, a variety of different assistive technologies including screen readers on desktop and mobile devices along with dictation software and several different browsers across Windows, Mac, iOS and Android.

Once the technologies and a baseline were determined, sample pages were identified for the testing. This included a range of pages based on typical content, multimedia content, event pages, interactive elements such as forms and date pickers, and the home page. Once the assessment was complete, it was found that overall, the Scitech website worked well in broad terms, but some accessibility issues needed to be addressed.

Video playback

One of the issues picked up in the testing was that the initial video playback lacked controls. This included controls for fast forwarding and rewinding videos and adjusting the volume. With the issue identified Scitech were able to replace the video plug-in with a more accessible video player, ensuring that all control functionality for the video was available.

Descriptive links

Screenshot of Scitech education page

A common accessibility issue is the use of descriptions such as ‘click here’ ‘or ‘read more’ which are difficult for screen reader users as it’s not clear what the ‘click here’ or ‘read more’ will do. Taking this feedback on board, Scitech worked to ensure their links are more descriptive so that it’s now clear what links will do if selected.

Colour contrast

Screenshot of Scitech exhibition page

A common accessibility issue that can creep in during development is issues relating to colour contrast. This may be through the use of colour alone to identify a change which makes it difficult for people with a colour vision impairment, or poor contrast overall. While the Scitech website prior to launch had considered contrast, there were some elements where colour alone was used and other sections where the recommended 4.5:1 colour contrast ratio had dipped in places. Taking the feedback on board, Scitech rectified the the issues ensuring that the website has an excellent use of colour.

Screenshot of Scitech find us page

Form fields

In the initial review, there were some form fields such as the Search box which were difficult for assistive technology users to pick up. This issue was easily addressed, and the search box now works well.

Mobile Orientation

Another issue that was identified in the accessibility assessment and testing related to screen orientation whereby some elements would not view correctly in both portrait mode and landscape mode. This would mean that if a person had their mobile device mounted in a particular position, there would be aspects of the website that didn’t function correctly. Scitech worked with their developers to address this issue and the website now works great in both portrait and landscape modes.

With the new Scitech website now live, it’s great to see that its accessibility journey is largely complete with ongoing vigilance from its development and content teams to ensure that accessibility issues don’t creep back in.

Many thanks to Scitech for the opportunity to provide the assessment.

W3C WAI publishes WCAG 2.2 first public working draft

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)  Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI Accessibility Guidelines Working Group has published a first public working draft of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.2.

The primary reason for the update so soon after WCAG 2.1 relates to the addition of Success Criteria to support the needs of people with cognitive or learning disabilities. The WCAG 2.0 standard, while widely adopted, was often viewed as being week in providing support to people with cognitive disabilities due to relevant Success Criteria being placed in the rarely implemented Level AAA compliance. Support was also largely overlooked in the WCAG 2.1 dot release. As such, the addition of support to the standard is seen as a welcome update.

According to W3C WAI, the development of the WCAG 2.2 draft will likely feature up to 12 additional Success Criteria, providing additional guidance for users of mobile devices and users of e-books.

In this initial draft, the Success Criteria 2.4.7 Focus visible from WCAG 2.0 and 2.1 has been changed from level AA to level A. In addition, there has been a focus on one new success criterion: 2.4.11 Focus visible (Enhanced) for Level AA implementation. These changes make the original Focus Visible an essential requirement, with the new Success Criterion providing updated guidance at Level AA on optimising its implementation.

The New Success Criterion is described as follows:

“When a User Interface Component displays a visible keyboard focus, all of the following are true:

  • Minimum area: The focus indication area is greater than or equal to the longest side of the bounding rectangle of the focused control, times 2 CSS pixels.
  • Focus contrast: Color changes used to indicate focus have at least a 3:1 contrast ratio with the colors changed from the unfocused control.
  • Contrast or thickness: The focus indication area has a 3:1 contrast ratio against all adjacent colors for the minimum area or greater, or has a thickness of at least 2 CSS pixels.”

The changing of Focus Visible to Level A, and the specific guidance on border size and colour contrast at Level AA, is likely to significantly improve the web navigation experience for people who have vision or cognitive disabilities.  While it is very early days on the WCAG 2.2 development, it is an encouraging beginning and has the potential of providing some additional support while the next-generation Silver standard remains in development.

Feedback on the draft can be provided to W3C via the WCAG 2.2 GitHub process or by e-mail

PWAC + OZeWAI 2020 conference highlights

This year the Perth Web Accessibility Camp hosted Australia’s national accessibility conference OZeWAI to bring a fantastic combined event in my home city of Perth for the first time. Here’s some of my personal highlights.

There was a great Keynote presentation titled Global Impact of W3C Accessibility Standards on Business and Industry by Karen Myers from W3C. Karen shared about how the W3C is continuing to support the development of web standards through updates with existing standards such as WCAG, and how groups are also working on emerging technologies. Often in Australia there’s a sense of isolation from the work of the international community, and having Karen speak at the conference helped to bridge the Australian community with the international work.

My own presentation followed on from Karen’s lead, discussing my W3C work involvement with the development of the XR User requirements (XAUR). The presentation focused on the W3C work about user needs and requirements for people with disability when using virtual reality or immersive environments, augmented or mixed reality and other related technologies (XR). The presentation focused on a recent working draft that outlines accessibility user needs for XR and their related requirements. This is followed by information about related work that may be helpful to understand the complex technical architecture and processes behind how XR environments are built and what may form the basis of a robust accessibility architecture. It was great to have an opportunity to present work that had only just been approved for release by the APA working group a week earlier.

From a learning perspective there were several presentations that I found really helpful including Matt Putland’s discussion on accessibility law, Ben Long’s children’s book, Vithya Vijayakumare’s excellent presentation on video accessibility and Jason McKee from AccessibilityShield who travelled over from the USA to talk about How the Disabled Built the Internet. Amazing to think that if a few people with disability weren’t included in critical decision-making in the early days of the Internet, things would be very different for us today.

While the overall quality of the presentations were fantastic, the standout for me this year was titled What does peanut butter have to do with accessibility? presented by Gisele Mesnage. The presentation focused on Gisele’s experience in lodging a complaint against Coles, and how the outcome led to Coles not only addressing the accessibility issues with its grocery website, but also won an Australian Access Award for best corporate website as a result. Gisele emphasised that we need to move our laws from ‘smooth’ laws to ‘crunchy’ laws so that companies will make things accessible by default rather than having a need for the complaints process. It was a great talk and even featured peanut butter props!

Of course no PWAC would be complete without The Great Debate. Now in its 7th year, the topic for the light hearted banter was ‘Emerging Tech makes Web Accessibility Redundant’. I was on the Affirmative side this year with each speaker having only three minutes to try to argue their point. As usual it was a lot of fun for the audience and the participants.

Thanks to the PWAC and OZeWAI committees for what was a great conference. Links to all the presentation videos can be found in the PWAC + OZeWAI Programme listing.

W3C WAI updates WCAG-EM Report Tool

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) has updated its report generation tool based on the Website Accessibility Conformance Evaluation Methodology (WCAG-EM) 1.auditing processes.

In its press release, the Tool has received several updates, described as follows:

“The tool helps you generate website accessibility evaluation reports according to Website Accessibility Conformance Evaluation Methodology (WCAG-EM). It now lets you select:

  • all success criteria in WCAG 2.1
  • only success criteria added in WCAG 2.1
  • all success criteria in WCAG 2.0

The updates also include a basic import feature so you can import results in JSON format from automated tools. We are exploring further refinements to this new feature, and welcome your feedback.”

It’s great to see the W3C WAI continuing to update tools to make it easier to undertake accessibility assessments.

CES 2020: some interesting developments for people with disabilities

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is the world’s largest consumer technology exhibition and showcases the products likely to appear in our shops in the coming months. With over 40,000 new products and concepts on display, it stands to reason that there are some interesting products that open exciting possibilities for people with disabilities.

This year the big brands are continuing to refine new products such as foldable smartphones, driverless cars and 8K televisions which may offer promise in the future, but aren’t quite there yet for the everyday consumer with a disability. There were, however, some innovative niche products which are certainly of interest in the disability space. Here’s my pick for some of the interesting consumer electronics likely to help people with disabilities that will hopefully be available soon.

The Y-brush: clean your teeth in 10 seconds

When you look up a list of the most important inventions in recent centuries, the toothbrush always appears due to its significance to our overall health. It’s no surprise then that a toothbrush that allows you to brush your teeth in less than 10% of the time it usually takes was one of the big hits at CES this year.

The toothbrush achieves its task by cleaning an entire row of teeth in one go. It works by inserting the toothbrush in the mouth, biting on it to activate, then waiting five seconds while it brushes the entire row of teeth. The brush can then be flipped to clean the other row for another five seconds.

While aesthetically the brush doesn’t look particularly appealing, for people with disabilities it has the potential to be significant. People with a mobility impairment often find tasks such as brushing teeth challenging, so this simple and time-saving process is likely to be helpful for individuals and carers of people with disabilities as no rapid movement is required.

Samsung Selfie Type invisible keyboard

Recently I was setting up an Android TV box and found it difficult as I couldn’t set up the accessibility features until I had entered in my account information. As I’m legally blind, the on-screen keyboard wasn’t much help to me and I ended up having to hunt down a USB keyboard so I could manually type in my credentials. This is just one example of where the Samsung Selfie type keyboard could prove very useful for people with disabilities.

Using the camera in your smart device, you can put your fingers on a nearby surface and start typing as if you were using a keyboard. The camera calculates the location of your fingers on a QWERTY keyboard and starts to input your keys selections. While accuracy may vary, people at CES that have tested the prototype report that after a short bit of training, the virtual typing becomes reasonably accurate. The idea that I always have a keyboard available is something I personally find very exciting when assistive technologies on smartphones and other devices aren’t always available in every situation.

Code Jumper

There was also several disability-related benefits to products that were winners for the Best of Innovation awards.

Code Jumper is one such innovation which was developed by Microsoft and the American Printing House for the Blind (APH). It works by putting code blocks using audio to represent sequencing and variables to teach people who are blind and vision impaired how to code. This may improve employment opportunities for people who are blind and is a very exciting initiative.

Norm Glasses

Another interesting product is the Norm Glasses which contain a computer within the glasses. The accessibility aspects of this is that they have the ability to display captions during video playback and are based on Android so it contains basic smartphone capabilities such as the Google assistant and turn-by-turn navigation which has the potential to bring in augmented reality in an accessible way. Still very early days in this space but certainly the potential for real-time captioning and audio navigation could open new doors for people with disabilities in engaging with the environment.


Perhaps one of the most interesting devices from CES 2020 this year is more about its future potential for people with disabilities than what it is currently able to achieve. The Next Mind allows for thought control interaction with virtual and augmented reality. It works by translating thoughts into commands which has a huge potential for supporting people with mobility, speech and cognitive disabilities to simply think about where they want to go or do and the command is represented in the visual interface. While it will also be some time before this is something that could be used everyday, its potential for a variety of disability groups could be groundbreaking.

That’s just some of my personal picks form CES 2020 this year. For in-depth coverage, please refer to the CES 2020 section of CNet website.