Award Force: an awards platform accessible to everyone

by | Feb 1, 2021 | Articles

Software accessibility is more important than ever before. Why? Currently, more than one billion people worldwide have a physical or mental disability. And, during the global pandemic, a large swath of the workforce now works from home, underlining the need for accessible, usable software.

We believe all users should be able to use Award Force in the way that works best for them. That’s why we continually work towards improving accessibility and usability for all and strive to ensure our awards management software complies with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). 

Created by the World Wide Web Consortium (WC3), the WCAG is an internationally recognised standard to make the web as accessible as possible. The latest revision, WCAG 2.1, focuses on improvements to mobile accessibility and people with low vision or cognitive and learning disabilities. 

Read on to discover how Award Force complies with the WCAG 2.1 standard and helps people with disabilities use our software in a way that suits them best. 

Text-to-speech

Many people who are visually impaired use screen readers to navigate the web. Screen readers convert the text on a page to speech. But the visually impaired are not the only ones who use text-to-speech technology. People with dyslexia or those who have difficulty reading text also find screen readers helpful.

Award Force has been designed to be easily used with screen readers. For example, each element on the page has been labelled with screen readers in mind, ensuring the functional purpose is clear and the listener is able to discern its purpose easily. 

Keyboard navigation

Keyboard accessibility

Award Force can be navigated completely from a keyboard. This is useful for those who have a physical disability and can’t use a mouse but also by those who have injured their arm temporarily or for whatever reason, don’t use one. 

Breadcrumb navigation

Breadcrumbs for accessibility

Breadcrumbs are a secondary navigation aid that allows users to easily navigate back to a previous page. Just as Hansel and Gretel used breadcrumbs to trace their way back home, breadcrumb navigation serves the same purpose.

The Award Force platform, in addition to its helpful left-hand navigation, offers breadcrumbs for users to easily navigate to a previous page using the breadcrumb trail at the top of the page. 

For those who use screen readers, it also provides an effective method for orientating their location and understanding where they are in the page hierarchy.

Video captions

People who are deaf or hard of hearing depend on video captions to understand video content. Every video uploaded in Award Force has the option to have a caption file uploaded to accompany the video. The captions can be seen by all users inculding judges, entrants and program managers.

Video captions are also useful for those who understand information better when they both see and hear it or people simply in environments where playing sound is not suitable. For example, in loud environments where hearing the content is difficult or quiet environments where the sound may be disruptive to others.

Mobile accessibility

Every year more people use their mobile phones for everything from search and shopping to watching videos online. This also means that it’s likely that more people will also enter an awards program on their mobile device. 

For those with visual impairments, users may want to zoom in using their web browser to see the content better. Some applications do not respond well to zoom events but since Award Force is 100% responsive, it reacts well to different device types and zoom levels.

As you configure your program, there are also options to upload mobile versions of your brand assets, which means that regardless of screen size, both your brand and sponsors look great.

Fonts

Font for accessibility

The Award Force awards management platform uses the Open Sans font throughout the application. This consistent use of font is essential for people with reading disorders, learning disabilities and/or attention deficit disorder. The use of a large font for section headings is also helpful for the visually impaired.

Flexible colour and contrast

Colour contrast is incredibly important in improving accessibility. Some 8% of men and 0.5% of all women worldwide suffer from red-green colour blindness.

Award Force provides a wide range of control over so many elements within the interface. For example, you can change the colour of buttons, menus, text and even the colour of elements in a hovered state (the active state – like a highlighted menu label). 

Functionality for accessibility

Award Force is constantly innovating and improving, and some of our latest product improvements help us comply with WCAG 2.1. Here are a few of our most recent accessibility improvements:

  • Hoverable / dismissable popovers. Users can now hover over a popover with the mouse or push escape to dismiss it. This is important for users who may not be able to read the full text in the popover because they have zoomed in with their browser.
  • Zoom improvements. We removed the sticky tab from the single column view in the entry form. Users with vision impairment often zoom in with their browser window and depending on their browser width, will switch to a single column view.
  • Colour improvements: There’s now a hover colour on menu items that have keyboard focus and we added role=”button” to menu items that expand to assist users with screen readers.
  • Video captions. Entrants now have the ability to upload a captions file to accompany any video they upload. 

What can you do to improve accessibility?

In Award Force, you have expansive control over the colours and content in your account. How can you ensure your program is more accessible?

Provide colour contrast

Web colours for accessibility

You can change almost any colour in your Award Force account. This gives you great flexibility to get your account looking the way you want and to match your brand. But also keep in mind the colours you use and the colour contrast between the background and foreground colours. 

People with low contrast sensitivity (common as we age) may have trouble seeing the buttons, links and content if there’s not enough contrast. Colour contrast can also help people who may be outside or in different lighting conditions. If you’re not sure if there is enough contrast you can use one of the colour contrast analysing tools listed by the W3C.

Use clear, concise and understandable content

If your content is not clear, non-native speakers and people with cognitive disabilities may find it difficult to understand. 

To make your content clear and concise, consider the use of headings to make the structure and hierarchy clear, use bullet points for lists and ensure there is sufficient separation within the text. Also, avoid the use of jargon, overly complex language and unexplained acronyms.

Take advantage of multimedia options such as video or audio to provide details about your program. And try to avoid presenting all your content upfront. Award Force offers a number of content block locations to share information with entrants and judges right when they need it. For example, you can use a content block shown only after entry submission to provide information entrants need only after submission.  

Each field in the Award Force entry form has the option to add hint text in addition to the name of the field. This can be used to elaborate on what is required and link to additional information if required.

You can also configure various terms and interface text to align with the terminology of your program. For example, your program may use the term “nominations” rather than the default term “entries”. Ensure any changes you make are easy to understand and consistent across your account to avoid confusion.

Your awards program: welcoming to all

As you can see web accessibility doesn’t only help those with disabilities, it helps everyone. 

By using the built-in accessibility functions of Award Force awards software and following a few best practices, you can put inclusivity at the forefront of your awards program. It’s not simply about compliance, it’s about people. 

Want to experience accessibility in the Award Force software? Watch our demo videos, take a self-guided tour or book a call to learn more 

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