Project Accessibility Assurance Standards
Palantir.net practices to ensure products adhere to modern accessibility standards.
Palantir.net has numerous college and university clients who require ADA, 508, and WCAG 2.0 level AA compliance for their websites, which we help ensure the system we build for them provides a platform on which they can be compliant. We also have government, non-profit, and NGO clients with the same requirements for accessibility compliance.
Palantir has been building accessible websites since the standard was introduced. For the majority of our clients, WCAG 2.0 level AA, ADA, 508 compliance is contractually obligated. Our automated tools and manual testing tools adhere to the WCAG 2.0 level AA standard, which is also what our best practices and heuristic evaluations of design follow.
We employ many of the tools, practices, and techniques documented in The A11y Project in order to design and build accessible products for our clients. Most of these tools and techniques are based on the WCAG 2.0 level AA standard (at a minimum).
We ensure that the code we develop adheres to accessibility standards by employing a three-tiered approach to accessibility assurance.
Following best practices in accessible design
We conduct heuristic evaluation of static designs, including (but not limited to):
- selecting colors for text that have a high contrast ratio with the background, specifically styling interactive elements, such as links, using a variety of indicators rather than relying on color alone
- including notifications and feedback for interactions such as an error message, or a success confirmation
- designing large links, buttons, and controls
- creating unambiguous and consistent navigation options
- composing clear layouts with organized content
- numerous others
We also use a handful of Chrome accessibility extensions including:
- Chrome Accessibility Developer Tools
- Color Contrast Analyzer
- WAVE toolbar in Firefox
Automated, continuous code testing to identify any accessibility issues in the styleguide code
Gulp Accessibility is built into our toolset. Gulp Accessibility uses AccessSniff and HTML Codesniffer to grade the site’s accessibility using the different levels of the WCAG 2.0 standard.
Testing of individual, rendered pages of the final product
We use various plugins and approaches including Siteimprove and WAVE plugins for Chrome, and sometimes Tenon, which can all assess that the code and content entered in the CMS are producing rendered pages that ultimately meet accessibility standards.
User Experience for Everyone
The most effective way to see if a product or tool meets the needs and preferences of users is to have them test it, including people who require assistive technologies. User research and usability testing are one of the most effective ways to evaluate accessibility. We can perform usability testing with all categories of users, including those with specific disabilities who require assistive technologies.
The most generic approach to this form of testing is to utilize UserTesting.com because the site provides both the testing infrastructure and the recruitment of vetted testers who meet the audience and demographic criteria requested. We can also perform in-person usability tests on behalf of clients who provide us with access to audiences that use assistive technologies. Through observation and inquiry, both virtual and in-person usability testing can identify usability issues that may not be accounted for in the standards but still pose problems for users.
All of our designers, developers, and engineers follow WCAG 2.0 level AA design and coding standards because those are built into the testing suite of the software tools we use. If any code breaks from those standards, the automated tests will fail, prohibiting that code from being merged into the project. This works both as quality assurance for accessibility standards and also as on-going training for our designers, developers, and engineers about what will pass accessibility standards. In other words, everyone has a depth of experience in accessible coding practices.
Culturally, Palantir holds inclusion and accessibility in extremely high regard as a company value. Our internal tooling efforts support our team’s mentality that it is everyone’s job to uphold accessibility standards to the best of our ability on all levels and stages of our projects.
Our Accessibility Roadmap
Palantir is fully committed to continuous improvement in making our web products accessible to all users. We regularly monitor the standards established under guidelines from the ADA, section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the WCAG — among others, such as The A11y Project, which don’t have the enforcement powers of federal and state law, but are the sources of new practices, techniques, and tools which lead the way for accessibility standards.
Palantir has already integrated some automated testing tools into our software stack to continuously test new front-end code, as outlined above. As new tools become available to simplify and expand the process of usability and accessibility testing, we will continue to experiment with those tools, evaluate them, and integrate those that help make our website accessible for all.
Can we ensure the final website will (always) be accessible?
No. And if anyone does, you should be wary of that claim. An accessible website relies on accessible design, accessible coding practices, accessible content creation and inclusion of disabled users in periodic usability testing and site evaluation. As the writers of the code for the website, we can assure you that we have built a system which supports accessibility to the extent we can control it through design and code. Palantir neither creates, propagates, nor maintains the content on your website, thus we can't ensure that your site is ultimately following web accessibility standards. It is the responsibility of your content editors to follow the standards for the content they place in the site.
For example, we cannot stop content editors from uploading images (such as a descriptive infographic) to the site with text that can't be read by screen-readers, or editors who fail to provide good, descriptive alt-text, or who create hyperlinks on non-descriptive text (e.g. "click here").
Accessibility is an on-going practice in maintaining a site, and you as owners and administrators of that site have an inescapable responsibility to it. Accessibility is not a final state of being, but an essential part of website’s ever-changing and growing process. We recommend clients create an editorial style guide for their users that provides guidelines on how to make sure all content created and uploaded is as accessible as possible.
To learn more about our commitment to accessibility, read our Accessibility Statement.