How to Make a Survey ADA Accessible
If you are a consumer-facing company deploying online surveys of your customers, accessible surveys will likely be on your agenda in the next couple of years. Accessible surveys incorporate unique design features so that people with disabilities who use assistive technologies can participate as fully as others.
With the need for survey accessibility growing and with new requests from clients, Versta Research set out to develop robust capabilities to conduct ADA-conforming research. It took six months of intense study and development, plus a decent investment in customized programming. We have tested, revised, and refined all of our research protocols, working with detailed input and testing from an accessibility consulting firm.
In our Spring Newsletter we share some of the most important highlights of what we learned in this process, including these five tips:
- Know your guidelines. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, published by the World Wide Web Consortium lays out specific, testable principles for making online content—including survey content—accessible, regardless of the technology or programming platform being used.
- Know your question types. Some types of survey questions (like drag-and-drop) do not work well with assistive technologies such as screen readers or special keyboards. At Versta Research, we work only with six question types for accessible surveys, which easily covers the universe of questions you might want to ask.
- Know your platform. And know your programmers, too. Given the complexity of the task and the trade-offs involved, it will take years before most survey platforms achieve true accessibility without you stepping in to make it happen.
- Know your HTML. Online surveys are input forms, but they are generated in a more complex way than simple HTML forms. Even with a solid platform and newly customized templates for accessible surveys, you will need to check, test, and sometimes modify the HTML coding to make the correct chains of labelling work.
- Know how to test. Ultimately what matters for accessibility is whether people with physical limitations can fully participate in a survey if they want to. There are several free tools available to help you live-test whether assistive devices can navigate your survey seamlessly.
What does it ultimately take to achieve robust capabilities for accessible surveys? The same skills it takes to do great research: Eagerness to learn and apply new information. Attention to detail. A willingness to go beyond traditional training. Reading How to Make a Survey ADA Accessible is a first step that will have you well on your way.