The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are meant to serve as instructional for developers and designers alike as they deploy web-based content. While WCAG’s “web-based content” guidelines refer to any website or application developed for use at home, work, or the public, they have not been explicitly designated as best practice guidelines for kiosk and public devices for self-service usage.
When the topic of kiosk accessibility arises, WCAG and Section 508 guidelines are not the first regulation that come to mind. Instead, the American Disabilities Act (ADA) offers specific hardware requirements for kiosk manufacturers and deployers. Details like screen height, keyboard reach, and approach clearances for wheelchair access are critical factors in the accessibility of a device for differently abled individuals.
What About Kiosk Hardware?
Physical kiosk hardware can be easily measured, tested, and monitored for ADA compliance while kiosk software and the applications that run on kiosks are a slightly different beast. The kiosk application or website should use WCAG as instructional for best practices, but the program will need additional accessibility programs and/or hardware support in order to fully function for the differently abled.
Take, for instance, a kiosk built in line with all ADA compliance rules. The web application running the transaction or conveying information should certainly offer the recommended non-text content, video & audio alternatives, and keyboard accessible content recommended to be viewable by those with vision or hearing impairments. Unfortunately, even if the application follows all of the WCAG guidelines, the kiosk may not be compliant if it does not offer physical options, supplemental hardware, and/or add on applications that make these features accessible.
Applying WCAG to Kiosk Applications
For instance, even if the website or application integrates appropriate audio alternatives for written content, it will still require software such as JAWS and a set of headphones for users to hear that content. Similarly, if the website or application incorporates captioning for those that are hearing impaired, the proper accessible keyboard options and/or zoom text app must also be available for users to navigate easily.
In short, developing the website to be compliant only gets physical kiosk deployments half way there. The kiosk needs to utilize the proper accessible tools and hardware to leverage the accessibility features implemented.
Additionally, the prospective user’s physical constraints can heavily impact the design needs of the application. One example; navigational items need to be low enough for those with physical limitations due to wheelchair height and/or an individual’s ability to raise their arms. The location of the navigation can be lowered by adding an accessibility button to the bottom of the screen that shifts the location of all buttons to the bottom of the touchscreen. A second option would be to build the application locating key navigation buttons at the bottom of the page. In both cases, these are application or website design features that could be helpful to consider and would alleviate the need to build adjustable hardware or high/low kiosks.
Design with Accessibility in Mind
As often advocated by accessibility experts, designing with accessibility in mind is an important part to a successful website or application. Kiosk projects are often begun after the application development is complete. Many browser based applications and websites currently deployed, find themselves “kiosked” into a locked down, public facing application. As a result, if the initial website or application is not compliant, it may be a costly expense both in time and in resources for a redesign or post-design accessibility update. In this way, kiosk applications are no different from browser-based applications or websites. They require advanced planning in order to make the appropriate decisions from the beginning that will benefit and improve accessibility without making it a late-game decision to scrap major design features because they can not be made accessible.
Building Accessible Kiosks in 3 Steps
- If your website or application is WCAG compliant, it is very simple to make your kiosk application/deployment compliant.
- Once the website or application is compliant, the kiosk hardware that supports accessibility must still be integrated/included.
- Kiosk hardware & placement must be ADA compliant.
Simply put, kiosks need to follow WCAG guidelines and more in order to meet the minimum best practices for kiosk accessibility.