Software Accessibility Checklist: SaaS and ADA Compliance

Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms have changed the way businesses are run. Because they allow users to log in via a web browser anywhere there’s an internet connection, companies can quickly adopt new tools without having to host and manage the software themselves. This enables teams to access important tools on the go, whether that’s working from home, at remote locations, or on a “working” vacation in the Caribbean.

Access is one of SaaS’s top selling points, yet not all SaaS platforms are fully accessible and ADA compliant for people with disabilities. In this post, we’ll cover the basics of software accessibility and provide a checklist of features your SaaS product should include to become accessible and usable by all users.

What is software accessibility?

Software accessibility is a part of digital accessibility, which is the practice of building digital products all people can use, such as websites, mobile apps or software. Accessible software is built with functionality that enables people with hearing, vision, motor function, or cognitive disabilities to use the software and access digital content, typically through assistive technology. This includes screen readers, video captioning and subtitles, transcription, magnifiers and more.

Because SaaS products are accessed through a web browser, many of the standards that apply to websites also apply to the SaaS user interface, including keyboard inputs, using proper labels, heading tags, and alt text for images to list a few.

Why software accessibility is important

Making a SaaS platform accessible has many benefits, largely that it creates a more inclusive user experience for all and ultimately opens your products up to a wider audience.

It’s also required. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects people with disabilities from discrimination and ensures access to public places, including the web. Because internet use is such an integral part of life today, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes access to information, communications and web technologies as a basic human right.

Other advantages to developing accessible software:

  • Purchasing decisions: All companies are evaluating their operations to ensure they are ADA compliant, including third-party vendor tools and SaaS software. When searching for a new product, accessibility is becoming part of the buying decision.
  • Better overall user experience (UX): ADA compliance is forcing companies to review their public-facing products and many are finding Confusing and inaccessible user interfaces are being replaced with more user-friendly interfaces.
  • Improves Customer Retention: When you create accessible software, apps and websites they are easy to use by everyone and as your user base ages, their vision may decline, they may develop a mobility issue from an injury. Because you created an accessible product, you will retain them as a loyal customer.

Software accessibility standards: What you need to know

In addition to the ADA, which codified accessibility, the standards organizations should use when creating digital content can be found within the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and what is known as Section 508 requirements. This amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits the Federal government and its vendors from discrimination based on disability.

Organizations that wish to do business with the Federal government must submit a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template, or VPAT, which follows the WCAG standards. Private sector organizations now use these statements as well to ensure they are “buying accessible” when selecting a vendor.

So what’s in these WCAG standards? Put in place to ensure that all digital experiences: browsers, devices, self-service kiosks, content, and other elements of the web browsing experience are relatively consistent, they include guidelines for web design and applications, web architecture, XML, and more.

SaaS companies can get a leg up on the competition with a VPAT because it provides clear documentation on how your digital product conforms to WCAG criteria

How to Create Your Software Accessibility Checklist

To meet software accessibility standards, you first must implement them. Having a checklist of requirements will help you stay focused on the end goal as your product, design, operations and development teams work together to meet them. But getting that list started can often be a bigger challenge than companies bargain for, so it helps to have a cheatsheet.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), created the WCAG for a consistent web experience, but when it comes to web accessibility standards, they fall under the purview of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). On their “Design and Develop” page, you can find ample resources for development and product design teams. This is a great place to begin your accessibility journey and learn more about what might impact your SaaS product.

The site also includes a “How to Meet WCAG (Quick Reference)” guide which is lengthy yet comprehensive, serving as a good starting point for creating your in-house compliance checklist.

TPGi also offers a free Section 508 checklist which can serve as a starting point to ensure your digital content conforms to requirements.

Getting Help With Your Checklist

Of course you may want to simply outsource the task of creating the software accessibility checklist and in-house standards. Working with a company like TPGi ensures your team is aligned on goals by following a custom accessibility strategy in order to create accessible and usable experiences for all customers.

Leaning on experts to get your SaaS product into ADA compliance can reduce legal risk, save your company time and valuable resources. Talk to one of our accessibility experts today about building your company’s software accessibility checklist and developing a long-term strategy for compliance.

Categories: Accessibility Strategy, Business, Development, World of Accessibility


Add Your Comment