When Forest Hill-based CadmiumCD recently updated one of its products, building to standards of web accessibility was part of the process.
The event tech company makes software used by organizers and planners of conferences, trade shows and educational meetings. For the 19-year-old company, this goes back to the mission of the web itself as a tool designed to work for all people, “whatever their hardware, software, language, location, or ability.”
“As a software company that services and supports global users with various backgrounds and needs, we take it as our duty to uphold this mission to the best of our ability,” said Michelle Wyatt, CadmiumCD’s cofounder and CEO.
In making the updates, CadmiumCD looked to align standards that were updated last year by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Known as Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, the version 2.1 update released last year was the first in a decade. Seeing adoption on public websites in the European Union, Marketing Manager Michael Doane said the company “wanted to stay ahead of the curve.”
With the update, W3C sought to create standards that would make content available to a wider range of people with disabilities, including blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, and cognitive disabilities. Additionally, smartphones weren’t as advanced or widely used when the initial version was released in 2008.
CadmiumCD applied the standards to its submission and review software for conferences, which is called Abstract Scorecard. (It’s one of a dozen products that the company offers.) Amid updates around usability of the product that also included ability to use Google Translate and mobile responsiveness, accessibility became a focus.
There are three levels of compliance with the standards: A, AA and AAA. CadmiumCD received AA for the portion of the website used by people submitting to an event.
Doane said that many of the standards are applied at the code level. For example, for people who are blind or visually impaired, among the areas is ensuring that a person who cannot view an image will still be able to know what it’s conveying to a user. One resource is a product that reads aloud through a webpage, so instead of “click here,” a page can say “follow this link” to make the navigation clear.
Throughout the process, Doane said there were many free resources available, including the W3C website itself. CadmiumCD also worked with a third party company to ensure compliance. After the initial work by the team, more ways to improve were identified throughout that process.
“Having that outside perspective was so crucial,” Doane said.
In all, Doane said it was a six-month effort, including three months of rewriting code and site testing, then three months working with a third party company. Doane said it definitely represents a time commitment, but it’s key to a focus on all users.
“It’s worth it in the end because you have a website and product that’s so much more usable to a wide and diverse audience,” he said.
Accessibility and events were also the subject of a recent Twitter chat hosted by Doane.
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