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How we worked with OMS to make their application fully accessible

Apr 2021

Background

Oxford Medical Simulation (OMS) provides virtual reality software to healthcare organisations and universities as a more affordable and convenient alternative to other forms of medical training. 

Bit Zesty has been working with OMS since 2017 to build and maintain the web application that integrates with their VR software. It provides core features, including personalised feedback for students on simulation training sessions, analytics for healthcare organisations to assess their students’ performance, and subscription management.

The brief

As a result of new partnerships formed between OMS and educational institutions globally, a need arose to ensure that the web application meets accessibility standards to comply with different country laws and ensure that individuals with disabilities can use the platform effectively.

While the web application was initially built with accessibility in mind, over time, a number of features were developed rapidly to accommodate a fast-growing customer base. Therefore it was inevitable that some areas of the app were no longer meeting all accessibility requirements.

Our approach

We carried out an accessibility audit of the app where we did accessibility conformance testing to determine its compliance with the WCAG 2.1 AA accessibility standard – an internationally recognised accessibility standard.

The team produced a report on any failures, including references to specific areas within the app that did not meet requirements, which were then mapped to the WCAG 2.1 requirements, known as Success Criteria. Recommended remedial action was also provided.

Following the audit, we worked with OMS to prioritise and implement the recommended changes, performing QA with assistive technologies to ensure the needs of these users were being met. After the high priority items were actioned, we also implemented further UX enhancements to improve the usability of the app for users with disabilities.

The plan is to schedule accessibility audits on an annual basis – this is good practice to ensure the application remains compliant and accessible to all users.

A closer look at some of the changes we made

The audit identified that the users using screen readers didn’t receive an announcement of some of the dynamic content changes, such as error and status messages. Not only was this confusing for the users, but it also didn’t comply with Success Criterions 3.3.1 (Error Identification) and 4.1.3 (Status Messages). We rectified this by adding an ‘aria-live’ attribute, which ensures that the assistive technologies announce the dynamic changes. (ARIA stands for Accessible Rich Internet Applications, and it is a set of attributes created to make the web more accessible).

Also, we were required to re-think the existing auto-logout feature to comply with Success Criterion 2.2.1 (Timing Adjustable), which states that users should be given adequate time to interact with content and be able to adjust or turn off the time limit before encountering it. We implemented a warning to the user 5 minutes before their session expires that offers them the ability to extend the duration of their session. 

The impact

Now that the application is fully accessible, OMS can re-assure its clients that it is meeting all accessibility requirements. Most importantly, we can now be confident the users with disabilities can use the application easily.

If you want to learn more about accessibility, please feel free to get in touch