Wave is WCAG approved

November 21, 2023

Wave officially recognized as an accessible learning platform

We believe that learning about information security should be engaging, but also accessible. Which is why the topic of accessibility has always played a leading role in the development of our programs.

After a recent audit, we can now formally demonstrate that as well.

Wave has been held under the magnifying glass of the accessibility guidelines (WCAG) during an assessment by the Accessibility Foundation, after which our learning experience platform was recognized as accessible. “Truly a learning environment to be proud of: accessible to all”, the report reads.

We are happy to tell you all about it.

Accessibility Foundation

An inclusive society that is accessible to all –that is the aim of the Accessibility Foundation. In the Netherlands, 2 million people have a disability: they are partially sighted, blind or deaf, have psychological problems, a physical or mental impairment. They have the right to participate in society, state both the foundation and the central government. A mission we fully endorse. Which is why we have our very own ambassador for the subject in Leon Baauw, program manager of Awareways and former employee of the foundation.

“The assessment by the Accessibility Foundation is confirmation that we are on the right path,” says Leon. “We have been striving from the beginning to ensure that all components of our learning platform meet these standards, and that updates are also tested against those conditions on an ongoing basis. One of the pillars of Wave is that everyone can participate and no one is excluded – because information security is for everyone.”

Awareways colleagues in a meetingroom
Close-up of an Awareways colleague behind a laptop

“Accessibility of digital media is also becoming increasingly important from a government perspective – and quite rightly so. For example, there will be a European Accessibility Act in 2025 to make all online products and services accessible to everyone. And governments are already obliged to request this from software suppliers, because it is important that products are digitally accessible. We are nicely ahead of that with this development.”

WCAG: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

WCAG stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, a collection of laws and guidelines for the accessibility of Web content aimed at people with disabilities.

Accessibility Foundation conducted an audit to verify that Wave’s content and functionality complies with WCAG 2.1. The results of the audit remain valid for 3 years. Shortly after the results were obtained, WCAG 2.2 was introduced as the current guideline.

WCAG audit

Leon: “One of the principles of WCAG 2.2 is to improve the online user experience of people with disabilities, including on cell phones. Extra attention goes to the experience of people with cognitive disabilities or learning disabilities. Of course we will take that on board, and then we will have an audit done on 2.2 as well.”

The WCAG guidelines are divided into four principles: perceivable, operable, understandable and robust. Each guideline in turn is divided into measurable standards. The accessibility of a website or app can be tested against these standards.

“An accessible training platform ensures that everyone can benefit from it,” says Harmen Lanser, Digital Accessibility researcher at Accessibility Foundation. “The fact that Awareways has paid a lot of attention to this was evident from the audit we conducted on the training platform. We saw that the observability, operability and understandability were well set up, making the platform robust. Truly a learning environment to be proud of: accessible to all.”

Wave is WCAG approved
Two phones with a mock-up of training platform Wave

Accessibility by Design

“The pillar that Leon mentioned translated into an approach of accessibility by design,” says Rens den Hertog. As UI Designer, he stands between the creative team and the development team. “‘By design’ means that we included standards from the start in Wave’s design process. In fact, accessibility is a very simple issue: it just has to be there. I have the privilege of not having physical limitations that allow me to use technology as it is often designed. But technology is there for everyone. It’s great to see what technology can do for people, so that it should be available and accessible to everyone is indisputable to me.”

For that reason, Rens has developed a design system, a kind of storybook with all the elements that can be tested before being added into Wave. “The elements in our system can be tested against the standards there, both in terms of design and from the user’s perspective. It is then up to Development to convert that into workable buttons. That way we can guarantee that our learning environment continues to meet all the requirements and that everyone can get along with Wave, now and in the future, because you see now with WCAG 2.2 that the guidelines are also constantly evolving.”

The Accessibility Foundation’s report has proved very insightful for our team. “My work is very visual, so I got to the problems you can see first, but what was interesting was that you encounter a lot of things you can’t see. That was a good lesson and a nice challenge. Our developers in particular had a lot of work to do with that.”

Accessibility in Wave

Wave is fully accessible for keyboard control. That is, workouts can be completed by using only the keyboard. This is useful for the blind and visually impaired and users who cannot use a mouse or touchpad. We are also looking at compatibility with screen readers and voice-over software, and ensuring that animations and other moving content can be paused.

Color, contrast, text size and attention to improved visibility also play a role. Example: it should be clear and obvious to everyone that you gave a good answer. A correct answer is therefore not only green, but also distinguishable from a wrong answer in other, color-independent ways (for example, underlined). Moreover, there are always textual alternatives, where graphic representations are provided with replacement descriptions.

Two phones with mock-ups of the Wave training platform

Ongoing development

Our ‘explainers’ are a great example of such an element that required a lot of work,” said Joost Kersjes, Awareways frontend developer. “Explainers are blocks of information with explanations that are presented during learning programs. With the first version, we quickly found out that making this element accessible was a big challenge. So we decided to rewrite the code and lean entirely on browser technology (HTML5) to get it done. The browsers have since been working on (their own) further development so that it’s even better supported!”

“Part of that challenge is in recognizing a problem, both in the code and during testing. I also notice that I now automatically consider accessibility in every project, it has really become part of my way of working. I think everyone has the right to use the Internet and online services, and with Wave we want to give everyone the opportunity to grow. Good accessibility is the best way for me as a developer to contribute to that.”

Would you like to know more about accessibility in our learning environment?
Then get in touch at accessibility@awareways.com.


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