Accessibility Audit for a Digital Whistleblowing Platform

Improving accessibility of a top digital whistleblowing platform
Application interface presented on a laptop.

About this project

DZP, the largest Polish law firm, was building a digital whistleblowing platform when they asked Netguru for help with improving the accessibility of the tool. Following a thorough audit, the client received a full report detailing usability issues, with a complete list of priorities and suggested solutions to be implemented into the platform.

Scope

Accessibility audit
UX
QA

Region

Europe
About the client

Domański Zakrzewski Palinka (DZP) is the largest Polish law firm, advising polish and international clients from almost every industry. Aside from helping businesses deal with legal issues, the firm engages in disinterested help by working with non-government and social initiatives. DZP believes that social responsibility in terms of accessibility contributes to sustainable development.

Client's challenge: maximizing accessibility of a digital whistleblowing platform

As part of an ongoing digital transformation, DZP wanted to ensure greater accessibility of their digital whistleblowing platform. They approached us for help with assessing its state so that they could subsequently fix whatever was necessary to ensure greater accessibility and user independence. To this end, DZP asked Netguru to audit two products:

1. zgłaszam.to Notify – a whistleblowing platform for reporting irregularities and abuse within an organization for their subsequent processing. The platform is secure, confidential, and anonymous. We investigated two paths:

  • The whistleblower path
  • The employee processing the reports path

2. A website informing about the whistleblowing platform and process

The client also wanted us to offer recommendations on how to best deal with each issue. These were necessary to guide the client in the right direction as they improved the product.

The benefits of maximizing accessibility

Maximizing inclusivity is smart and highly relevant as a business strategy in today’s marketplace, especially from ethical, financial, and legal standpoints. Building software that is easy to use even by someone with a form of disability is not only the right thing to do, but also offers multiple business benefits including:

  • Greater accessibility for all users
  • Increasing tool usability – your customers already include people with disabilities
  • Audience expansion (15% of the population report some kind of disability)
  • Gaining loyal customers and a positive reputation boost
  • Reducing development costs
  • Better SEO and conversion rates
  • Regulatory compliance

The solution: thorough testing by a cross-functional team

In cooperation with DZP, the dedicated Netguru team conducted audits and prepared reports for both products.

We built a dedicated team for this project consisting of a UX designer and a QA tester. This way, we could ensure a reliable audit through engaging two specialists with different professional experiences and accessibility expertise.

The team audited the products for violations of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAGs) that explain how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities.

The dedicated team was able to detect, describe, and recommend solutions to all reported problems. Both the application and the website were still “under construction” at the time of the audit, so it was the perfect time to find issues and fix them ahead of deployment.

Results

  • Detailed audit reports - the client received detailed audit reports in the form of Excel checklists for both products, with detailed descriptions of WCAG violations that required improvement. All of the issues found were described in detail and presented visually with relevant screenshots.
  • Priority roadmap - the reports assigned priority to specific issues, taking into account their impact and importance with regards to non-compliance with accessibility standards. The list of priorities helped the client to prepare an action plan.
  • Most pressing accessibility issues - the checklists also indicated the most serious accessibility issues that, if untackled, would negatively impact the overall user experience and usability of the products.

We also offered recommendations on how to solve the detected issues. The recommendations helped the customer navigate through the process of improving the digital whistleblowing platform.

The accessibility report allowed DZP to:

  • Ensure online care for its customers
  • Open up to new user groups
  • Improve the experience for both customers and the client’s employees
  • Work on website improvements towards becoming AA-level compliant with WCAGs
  • Become an even more equitable and inclusive company

Interested in Netguru’s approach to build this product? Here’s how we did it

To uncover accessibility weaknesses of the DZP platform, our dedicated team conducted automated tests with a variety of tools, complemented with manual testing. Automated tools are a good starting point but they don’t guarantee full compliance (they may report false positives or misread WCAGs), so manual tests are the most reliable method.

Such a detailed audit allows for a deeper analysis, better understanding, more accurate recommendations and ultimately greater improvements.

Methodology

To carry out a detailed accessibility audit, the dedicated team:

  • Investigated automated tools findings using the Inspect tool
  • Created a dedicated WCAG checklist and manually “scanned” the product by going through every item on the list and checking if a product was compliant with the guidelines,
  • Detected unusual errors based on experience
  • Classified the errors and proposed solutions in accordance with WCAGs and best practices

The dedicated team

An accessibility audit requires cross-domain expertise: usability, UX writing, UI design, development, assistive technologies, keyboard navigation, and more. To examine each area as reliably as possible, the team we built for this project consisted of a UX Designer and QA developer – two experts with different professional backgrounds and accessibility expertise.

The team detected, described, and recommended solutions to problems within specific areas, as well as those that intertwine various components of the DZP online whistleblowing platform, e.g., the order and logic of the focus state and the general operation of keyboard navigation.

UX design

The UX Designer looked at the product as a whole in order to identify issues related to a broadly understood design, i.e., usability, user flows/journeys, UX writing, UI design, etc. To this end, they used a WebAIM Contrast Checker – an extremely useful tool for investigating contrast levels and other dependencies, such as the size of fonts.

The tool helps to detect fonts that may be too small or colors that might be confusing for people with disabilities. In the below example, the tool indicated that the red button with the ‘Clear filters’ copy is too small for the given color contrast level and therefore doesn’t meet accessibility requirements.

Quality Assurance

The QA specialist took care of issues related to code, implementation, assistive technologies, and keyboard navigation. To this end, they looked at screen readers on a laptop and desktop computer to understand if these devices were effective at telling the whole story. That is, whether or not the content presented was accurate.

They found out, among others, that the DZP online whistleblowing platform had multiple confusing ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) labels for carousel/slider components and the mobile navigation menu. ARIA is a set of roles and attributes that define ways in which to make web content and web applications more accessible to people with disabilities.

Components mentioned above were labeled as ‘1/3’, ‘2/3', and ‘3/3’, which the screen reader read accordingly. Such labeling is irrelevant as it doesn’t explain to the user what the element actually communicates – unlike a person reading a description of what's in a given carousel element, a screen reader reads only numbers that mean exactly nothing to a user.

The QA also supported themselves with the HeadingsMap tool that helps to check the logic of headings, which is crucial for users who require screen readers. With this tool, our QA discovered that the DZP platform missed some third level headings.

These are only a few examples of how cross team collaboration, cross-domain experience, and using the right tools can contribute to detecting accessibility issues.

“Despite the rapid pace of civilization development, the modern world is still not accessible. As creators of digital reality, we should always ensure that our products are available to everyone, regardless of their health or level of intellectual abilities. That’s why we are more than happy when our clients, like DZP, make accessibility a crucial business requirement.”
agata_zieba

Agata Zięba

Senior UX designer at Netguru

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