- 1 Overview
- 2 Accessibility - Essentials
- 2.1 Disabilities defined
- 2.2 Assistive technologies
- 2.3 Screen readers
- 2.4 Guidelines and Legislation
- 2.5 Testing for accessibility
- 2.6 Beyond automated testing
- 3 Accessibility - Advanced
- 3.1 Accessibility Mode
- 3.2 Define alternate text for the logo
- 3.3 All links and buttons must be descriptive
- 3.4 Title tags on custom templates
- 3.5 Table Syntax and adding HTML
- 3.6 The BR tag
- 3.7 Nested tags
- 3.8 Bold and Italics
- 3.9 Underlined text
- 3.10 Font tag
- 3.11 Declare language
- 3.12 Use title bars (headings) and tabs
- 3.13 Contrast ratio of text and background
- 3.14 Never use color alone to convey meaning
- 3.15 Include text alternatives for media
- 3.16 Write for web applications
- 3.17 Layout considerations
- 3.18 Session timeout
- 3.19 Playing media and photo-sensitivity
This article is about accessibility as it relates to SmartSimple Cloud. We believe that all people with a diverse range of sight, hearing, movement, and cognitive ability should be able to use the system, and we strive to ensure anyone can access your system in a way that respects their dignity and independence. This article contains information related to ensuring your system is accessible.
If you have questions or encounter anything that seems like an accessibility issue, please contact our support team.
We aim to meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 conformance level AA or higher. View our voluntary product accessibility template for more information.
If you are a system administrator configuring a system please look at the Accessibility - Advanced section below to make sure your system is configured to be accessible.
Note: Meeting accessibility guidelines is a shared responsibility. How you choose to configure your system and the content you enter into the system can affect how accessible your system will be.
Accessibility - Essentials
A disability in web accessibility terms is a condition or barrier that limits a person from interacting with or accessing information or functionality of a web application. It is estimated that approximately 1 in 5 people have a disability. Disabilities are generally classified into 4 areas.
This classification includes people with low vision and the completely blind as well as people with color blindness or other visual impairments such as vision loss due to injury, cataracts and other factors.
This classification includes the deaf and those with a range of hearing loss.
This classification includes people with Cerebral Palsy, Quadriplegia and a range of restricted movement and may include people with arthritis or other conditions or injuries.
This classification includes people with developmental delays, dyslexia, autism, ADHD, Down syndrome and may be expanded to include Non-native speakers and sometimes the elderly.
Assistive technologies are anything used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities. Assistive technologies empower us to overcome or remove a disability. Some common assistive technologies include: Eye tracking devices, switches, sip and puff devices, refreshable braille keyboards, screen readers and screen magnifiers.
The most commonly used screen readers are:
- JAWS (Job Access with Speech) used with Chrome https://support.freedomscientific.com/Downloads/JAWS go to https://webaim.org/articles/jaws/ for instructions on usage
- NVDA screen reader https://www.nvaccess.org/download/ go to https://webaim.org/articles/nvda/ for instructions on usage
- Apple’s OS X VoiceOver (built in screen reader for the Mac)
Screen readers on mobile devices typically use a gesture-based user interface whereas on desktops they use keyboard-based interface.
Guidelines and Legislation
Guidelines and legislation are constantly evolving and vary depending on your locality. Below are some prominent guidelines and legislation. Learn more about web accessibility on The Other Wiki for more details.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG for short, is a set of international standards, published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). These standards contain a set of guidelines with testable success criteria. Essentially there are four guiding principles in WCAG.
- Is it Perceivable: Can I perceive the Interface and information presented?
- Is it Operable: Can I navigate and operate the application?
- Is it Understandable: Can I understand the information presented and how to use the system?
- Is it Robust: Can I use a variety of assistive technologies with the system?
Visit the W3C's page on WCAG to learn more.
Web Accessibility Initiative - Accessible Rich Internet Applications or ARIA for short. ARIA is a set of specific recommended standards for developers. ARIA is generally intended to increase accessibility of web pages with dynamic content and specific user interface components.
Visit W3C's page on ARIA to learn more.
Section 508 (USA)
Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act generally requires federal agencies to provide information in an accessible way.
Visit Section 508 to learn more.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) generally requires US-based organizations to provide access to information for people with disabilities and prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability.
Visit the ADA websiteto learn more.
European Accessibility Act (EAA)
The European Union is officially requiring its member states to abide by Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 (WCAG 2.1) Level AA standards. Visit 
EU Web Accessibility Directive
European Union (EU) Directive on the Accessibility of Websites and Mobile Applications Generally states in regards to web applications that Public sector organisations across the EU must adhere to WCAG standards. The European standard for technology accessibility in the public sector is known as EN 301 549.
Visit National Disability Authority website to learn more.
Accessible Canada Act (Canada)
AODA (Ontario, Canada)
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act or AODA generally states you must adhere to WCAG guidelines. Visit the official Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act website and the Ontario government page to learn more.
Testing for accessibility
SmartSimple Cloud is tested for accessibility by a 3rd party (a completely blind computer user) and tested by SmartSimple employees. Primary testing is done with the JAWS screen reader on desktop computers.
There are a number of tools you can use to test your system.
Wave toolbar - Free - annotates possible problems inline at the page level.
Google Lighthouse- Free - provides an accessibility audit at the page level.
Siteimprove - Free - browser extension
Tenon - Trial - display code snippets and guidelines.
W3C Markup Validator - Check the markup validity of web documents (HTML, XHTML, etc.)
Webaim Web Accessibility Contrast Checker - Check the contrast ratio of foreground and background color (colored text over a colored background).
a11y Web Accessibility Contrast Checker - Check the contrast ratio of content on a web page (colored text over a colored background).
Beyond automated testing
Automated tools may present false positives and may not catch usability errors. As such you may want to:
- Create your own user group of testers (A group of five people is often recommended as optimal for testing).
- Test for usability.
- Consider a 3rd party audit.
Accessibility - Advanced
If you are a System Administrator you need to pay special attention to ensuring the configuration of your system remains accessible. Here is some important information to note when you modify your system.
We highly recommend everyone toggle on accessibility mode on your system. Enabling Accessibility Mode ensures maximum compliance with accessibility standards for all users, such as ensuring interface elements are keyboard accessible.
Toggle this setting on by going to Menu icon > Global Settings > Branding tab > then toggle on Enable Accessibility Mode.
Define alternate text for the logo
The system logo appears in the top left of the header of your system. You must provide equivalent alternative text for this logo. Typically, your alternative text for this image would be your organization name or the name you have given your system.
Modify the alternate text for your logo by going to Menu icon > Global Settings > Branding tab > and enter your desired text into the Logo Text input.
If you are adding a link or a button inside your system never say click here! A user with a screen reader tabs from link to link and will have no idea what will happen when the link is read out of context.
Links must be descriptive (describe destination, state the purpose or what will happen).
Examples of good link/button text are: "Open budget" "View demo", "Start application", "visit smartsimple.com"
Also do not use open as a button label especially if there are multiple buttons on a page. If you are opening or editing something, be sure to describe or accurately label what you are opening. That way, your screen reader users will know what each button does.
Keep link text short and precise lengthy descriptions are difficult to understand and increase cognitive load. Strive to select a few words that best describe your link, and avoid using the same text for links that go to the same locations.
In some scenarios, you may wish to define the title for a specific page in the system. For example, if you use the Page Layout option of Custom on a signup page, you may want to manually edit the title found between the title tags in the HTML. By default, the title of the page will be called Registration, but you can change this to something more meaningful, such as a specific type of Organization and User Registration.
You may want to use the same text for the title of the signup page as you used for the routing page link.
Table Syntax and adding HTML
If you are entering HTML into your system and adding a table for display purposes, consider indicating it with role=presentation. Tables headers should use TH and table data should use TD. You may also wish to consider adding scope (col, colgroup, row, rowgroup) to headers. Ensuring you are using proper semantic structures will ensure your content is machine readable by assistive technologies.
Secondly make sure you open and close your tags properly. If you open a TR, TH, TD or DIV make sure you have a closing TR, TH, TD or DIV. Just because it looks right in your browser does not mean it will be machine readable by assistive technology.
Visit WebAIM's page on creating accessible tables to learn more.
The BR tag
Don't use BR tags to create visual space. Wrap your text in a P tag or a block level element such as a DIV and add a class or style if needed to control the visual space. The only appropriate place to use a BR tag would be for poetry, song lyrics and arguably address fields. When a screen reader encounters a BR tag it will stop reading, requiring the user to move forward to the next line manually. Using a double BR tag is therefore very cumbersome for users of assistive technology. https://www.w3.org/TR/2011/WD-html5-author-20110809/the-br-element.html
HTML tags should be nested in a proper order, meaning that the tag opened most recently is always the next tag to close. Example if you open a SPAN inside a DIV make sure you close the SPAN before you close the DIV.
Bold and Italics
HTML5 specifications state that important text should be denoted with the STRONG tag not the B tag for bold text. In addition, text should be denoted with the EM tag not the I tag for italicized text. Avoid using the b and i tags as they are not perceivable to user agents like screen readers. https://www.w3.org/International/questions/qa-b-and-i-tags
Generally don’t underline text on the web that is not a link. Underlines are strongly perceived to be a clickable link which will confuse and frustrate users. Use strong or em or header tags to denote importance and avoid the u tag. The U tag is not intended to convey semantic meaning. According to W3C https://www.w3schools.com/tags/tag_u.asp underline text should only be used for things like misspelled words or proper names in Chinese.
The font tag is not supported in HTML5. Use semantic elements to indicate emphasis or structure and CSS to handle styling.
Your system will automatically declare the language on system generated pages, but if you add a static content or a page in a SmartFolder you will need to declare the language.
Example in the HTML tag add lang="en" for English and lang="es" for Spanish and lang="fr" for French.
Visit ISO Language Codes to learn more.
Use title bars (headings) and tabs
Chunk like content under the Layout – Title bar custom field to make it easier to navigate to sets of content. The layout – title bar custom field is H2 (heading level 2). In contrast the name field at the top of object pages is an H1 (heading level 1). By using the title bar field, people using assistive technology can quickly jump or skip content to get from one header (section of content) to another.
Note: Many users prefer longer pages over many tabs. Some users may find it difficult to navigate between tabs, especially scrolling tabs when there are more tabs then can fit on screen. Also, your users may prefer to scroll down over navigating left to right as this a common practice on mobile devices. For these reasons your users may prefer longer pages with title bars over many tabs. You may also want to consider enabling the Title Bar Navigation Pane. Enabling this setting will display a navigation pane on your forms that allows your users to easily navigate between various titled sections of a form. This setting is found under menu icon > global settings > branding tab.
When configuring portals, each portal section Title will display as an H2 heading. If you want the text specified for Caption of the Main Menu link to be displayed as an H1 heading, toggle on Display As Title.
Contrast ratio of text and background
Be extra careful if you are placing text over an image as the same rules apply. System colors can be modified by changing the branding.
Never use color alone to convey meaning
When adding content to your system be mindful you cannot use color alone to convey meaning as a color-blind or visually impaired user may not be able to detect the difference. Make sure content you add has accompanying text, icons or divide the content up in a meaningful way.
Include text alternatives for media
When you upload media such as images to the Upload - Multiple Files Storage custom field set to Enable Media library. The Alt tag will be the title which the user can edit after the upload. By default, the title and Alt tag use the file name. Screen readers and other assistive technology rely on this Alt text to describe an image for the visually impaired. It’s also useful to have if the image fails to load.
When uploading video to the Upload - Multiple Files Storage custom field set to Enable Media library, if you enable Closed Captioning users can upload closed captioning files in multiple languages.
If you are adding custom content in a SmartFolder and calling it elsewhere in your system, make sure you include alt tags or transcripts for your media in the HTML.
Alt text must describe the purpose or intent of the media.
Write for web applications
When writing text instructions or captions or any other text-based content that will appear in your system, keep the following in mind:
- Use the clearest language possible and avoid jargon
- Chunk content into small parts
- Keep sentences under 25 words
- Keep it concise, the more you write, the less likely it is to be read
- Check the reading level of your content. Microsoft Word has a built-in readability check plus there are sites like Readable that will check your readability and give you suggestions.
- If you reference a button or link make sure you mention it by name. Do not rely on location or color.
Here are some articles on writing for web applications:
- 16 Rules of Effective UX Writing - UX Planet
- Writing for Web Articles & Videos- Nielson Norman Group
Do not use location, text size or color alone to mark important information or secondary information. A user with a screen reader is not going to know the second column with smaller text is less important.
Whenever possible use a single column layout for usability and Accessibility.
Some studies suggest single column forms can be filled in faster and people feel more comfortable filling them in.
By contrast multiple column forms can lead to:
- Skipped fields
- Data entered into wrong fields
- Confusion over reading order
- Create problems for assistive technology such as screen magnifiers
This helpful article provides further details on the design issues surrounding multiple column layouts and why they are best avoided.
If you choose to set up a Session Timeout to ensure connections are not left open, remember assistive technology users may take three times longer to complete a task than other users. As such you might want to consider a timeout of 90 minutes or something between 30 minutes and 3 hours depending on your users and the type of data in your system. If you do not set a session timeout the system will automatically timeout users after 24 hours.
If you use the session timeout, your users will get an alert with an option to continue working if they have been inactive for the set time.
The session timeout settings are located Menu Icon > Global Settings > Security Tab.
Playing media and photo-sensitivity
If you are using the Upload - Multiple Files Storage custom field with the media library functionality enabled, your users can choose to play that video and audio. Videos and music intentionally do not play automatically. Screen-readers navigate by listening, so any sound playing when the page loads will interfere immensely. An exception to this is, if the user specifically requested the video.
If you add your own media content and supporting HTML into your system, ensure you do not auto play any video or audio media. Avoid using blinking or flashing media that flashes more than 3 times a second as this can induce seizures in users with photosensitivity or epilepsy. See this WCAG article for more details.