WCAG - make your surveys available to everyone

Making your questionnaire surveys available to everyone increases your response rate, and leaves all respondents with a nice user experience. This also includes people with visual impairment, color blindness or physical disabilities.

 

A high response rate is crucial when asking about your respondents' attitudes and levels of satisfaction and well-being when using a questionnaire system like SurveyXact. The easier it is to answer, the higher the response rate, while ensuring that the survey is as representative as possible. It’s quite simple – the more people responding, the better your opportunities to act and implement meaningful change.

But did you know that up to 15 percent of the population has a disability, which means that they have to use screen readers, for example, to be able to get digital information such as websites, documents, and the questionnaire surveys you create with SurveyXact?

It is therefore a really good idea to be aware of web accessibility – also when preparing questionnaire surveys. It is actually mandatory for government websites and applications.

On September 23, 2020, the existing EU legislation was expanded to make it now mandatory for all public websites – new and old – to comply with the international standard for web accessibility - WCAG 2.1.

With hundreds of customers in both the public and private sectors, we are proud to set the standard for how legislation applicable to the processing of personal data should be complied with in our industry.

What is WCAG 2.1?

WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) is an international standard for web accessibility which, since 2008, has aimed to give everyone, regardless of impairment or disability, the same opportunities to access the internet.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) developed the Web Directive, which is based on four main principles, namely that websites and digital services must be; 1; perceivable, 2; operable, 3; understandable, and 4; robust.

The WCAG standard has been continuously updated and revised, and the current WCAG 2.1 from 2018 embraces even more specific disability groups than before – and thus also stipulates more requirements.

In 2018, the EU made it mandatory for all new public websites and applications to comply with the updated WCAG 2.1. On September 23, 2020, this law was then expanded to include older websites that were previously exempt.

What does WCAG mean for your questionnaire?

A questionnaire, with or without legal requirements, should comply with the WCAG 2.1 standard. As a public organization, you should do everything you can to ensure that everyone has equal access to your offerings. This is, first and foremost, to protect citizens' rights. But it also means that you get more answers, more representative data, more insight, and a better basis for decision-making.

The WCAG standard is divided into three levels: A, AA and AAA, and EU law requires public websites to comply with the AA level. This stipulates no less than 50 guidelines that you must comply with.

SurveyXact allows you to easily make your surveys available while complying with WCAG 2.1 AA. We have ensured that you can create questionnaire surveys in a way that as many people as possible can answer, with or without disability.

But you can easily do the opposite as well. It's all very much about your choices when creating your questionnaire. The most important thing is to put yourself in the respondents' shoes while creating your questionnaire.

The four principles of accessibility

The WCAG standards are built upon four focus areas that make websites accessible to, and usable by, all users, regardless of prerequisites.

 

1. Perceivable

It must be easy for all users to perceive the information presented to them in a questionnaire. This means ensuring that everyone understands the questions and that everyone, including those with impaired vision, can navigate their way through your survey. This means, among other things, that all "non-text” elements, such as images, graphic elements and any audio and video content, must have a descriptive text, so that it is comprehensible to a screen reader or other assistive technology. 

Keep in mind that a very pedagogical illustration of an arrow to click on is not very useful if the respondent cannot see it.

All content must therefore be completely clear to respondents with impaired vision and those with cognitive issues or learning difficulties, by using descriptive text. Thus, every element of your questionnaire can be perceived using technical aids such as screen readers. 

 

2. Operable

It must be possible to answer all questionnaires by using just a mouse or keyboard. It is therefore important that it is always clear where on the page a person is, in order to be able to orientate oneself. 

 

3. Understandable

All content in your questionnaire must be so easy to understand that everyone, with or without disability, can understand and follow the instructions without additional guidance. You can ensure this by, among other things, being consistent in the names and descriptions of functions and navigation tools. Being pedagogical is also important in this context. How should the respondents answer the questions? Should they press a particular key? Where should they click to progress when they have answered? Explain everything with simple and easy-to-understand text.


4. Robust

In WCAG terms, robustness means "technically compatible". In short, this means that the entire questionnaire (navigation, function, content, etc.) must support common browsers and assistive technology. It may therefore be a good idea to avoid adding special features with scripts and code.

So how do you adhere to the four principles?

Most importantly – keep your questionnaire simple and use our standard templates. If you start with our generic standard template or your own customized standard template, you are well on your way to being web accessible, and complying with WCAG 2.1 AA.


You should also focus on the following:

  • Describe all images with supplementary text.

  • Links should be clearly described, so that the respondent knows where the links lead to.
               
  • Describe in general terms how the individual input fields and validations shall be understood, how the respondent navigates in your questionnaire, and where and how the respondent provides the answers. Be pedagogical and put yourself in the respondent's shoes.

  • Avoid dropdown menus and creative question types, such as sliders or rankings, as they do not comply with several of the criteria in the WCAG. You should therefore stick to the most common question formats. 
     
  • Also, be aware of font size and contrast ratio. Transparent backgrounds and bright colors look great, but may be very difficult to read by respondents with impaired vision. Therefore, stick to our standard templates, in which we have ensured the correct contrast conditions.

  • In general, stick to the standard elements. If you use special scripts or similar, they may not be read by a screen reader or other assistive technology.

 

  • Question types we recommend:
    • Category questions
    • Matrix questions
    • Text fields
    • Comment fields
    • Numerical fields
    • Body text
    • You are also welcome to use SurveyXact's standard smileys in matrix and category questions

Must private companies also comply with WCAG?

Yes and no. Private companies are not obliged to comply with WCAG 2.1 AA. No fines are imposed by the EU or the W3C because of how inaccessible a company's website or questionnaire is.

But it is good practice and due diligence to put oneself in the respondent's shoes. Because no matter why you are collecting data, a high response rate is preferable. Private companies should also have a sense of social responsibility – and it is also relatively simple. Finally, it is not unlikely that the WCAG requirements will be imposed on the private sector at some point in the future. So why not be ahead of the competition?

Do you want to know more?

You are welcome to contact Stakeholder Intelligence’s manager, Ulrik Risbøl Lange, if you want to know more about how you can increase the accessibility of your surveys.

 

 
Ulrik Risbøl Lange
Manager
Rambøll Management Consulting

E: url@ramboll.com
T: +45 51 61 78 19

 

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