Blog graphic: Our Path to Building Accessible Software for All Users article.
Digital Asset Management

Our Path to Building Accessible Software for All Users

August 15, 2022 6 minute read
Learn more about how empathy helps us deliver technology that’s accessible to all users.
Blog graphic: Our Path to Building Accessible Software for All Users article.

Empathy is central to our values and culture. It’s reflected in our exceptional customer service, respect for our teammates, and commitment to building quality software. Our General Manager of Content Cloud Products, Matthew Gonnering is so passionate about the importance of empathy in business that he made it the focus of his TEDx Talk.

So our interest in building technology that’s accessible to all users is a natural extension of our corporate culture and mindset around empathy and inclusion. Prior to joining Acquia, we at Widen, an Acquia company, infused this passion into our digital asset management (DAM) and product information management (PIM) platform. And we’re now carrying this foundation into our user experience (UX) work on all Acquia products.

Because this work is so pivotal to who we are, we’d like to share more about our effort to meet accessibility standards across all Acquia products. 

Who benefits from accessible software?

One in four American adults (or 61 million people) have some type of disability and accessible products and services — including software — aim to meet their needs. And what’s interesting is that things that are designed with accessibility in mind create a more positive experience for everyone. For example, curb cuts for wheelchairs also help people pushing strollers, rollerblading, or jogging. And glass doors that slide open when approached help anyone carrying bags of groceries or delivering packages.

An inclusive design chart from Microsoft depicting permanent, temporary, and situational instances where people would rely on accessibility accommodations.


The same is true for accessible software. It can help people with a temporary impairment, such as a broken arm. Or account for situational limitations, like reduced access to light or sound. It also considers mobile responsiveness for people using a range of devices, screen sizes, and input modes. Ultimately, accessible software benefits people of all abilities.

A priority at Widen and Acquia


A timeline graphic spanning from 1996 to 2022 representing accessibility milestones at Widen.


Widen’s commitment to designing accessible software began in earnest in 2016 with the formation of our User Experience (UX) team to develop research-based strategies that improve the usability of our products.

"We have a fantastic UX team dedicated to researching and designing experiences for all our users,” shares Mary Blabaum, UX Design Manager. “Incorporating accessibility into our design process ensures that we understand our users’ needs and create accessible software from the start. Many members of our UX team attend accessibility design conferences and enroll in accessibility courses to expand our education and commitment to creating accessible software."

Accessibility as part of our build process

In 2019, Widen formed a cross-functional committee — with representation from UX, product development, quality assurance, marketing, and customer support — to ensure accessibility standards are met in all updates to our current software and new development. They continually implement new processes across teams to support accessibility improvements. 

Testing. Accessibility progress and compliance are regularly measured using various audit tools, including axe, Siteimprove Accessibility Checker, and Google Lighthouse. As our platform is actively updated the code across all applications will come into compliance with these standards, as well as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 AA.

Our testing process also includes the use of screen readers, like VoiceOver; and hardware, like vision modifying glasses and various mobile devices. Our QA test engineers use all these tools — as well as automated, unit, and manual tests — to ensure any new development is accessible.

Patterns library. Our patterns library houses the building blocks of our product design system. It’s an internal resource that helps us scale our design process to be more inclusive and acts as a pressure test to ensure new functionality meets accessibility standards. 

Internal teams reference the library to confirm compliance — and if a component fails, it’s a signal that more work needs to be done before the functionality can be released to the platform. 

A screenshot of Widen's patterns library and the accessibility status overview that's used to determine the accessibility compliance of our software functionality.

Anna Vo, our Staff Software Engineer, explained, “The patterns library has been a huge driving factor in accessibility across our teams because it allows us to share these components. As soon as a component is updated, other applications can update to the newer version.”

Recent audits of our patterns library resulted in updates to our platform’s checkboxes, date picker, and other patterns to meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. and We have added accessibility features across our websites, such as closed captions for videos and more descriptive alternative text for images. Our accessibility statement speaks to Acquia’s accessibility commitment and goals. 

Building empathy from the inside out

Although building accessible software relies on standards and tools, it really starts with a culture that embraces each other’s differences, empathizes with users, and prioritizes inclusivity. For new employees, this starts on day one with an onboarding program that includes hands-on accessibility exercises — using glasses or browser extensions that simulate vision impairment — to experience software through the eyes of users with different abilities. 

During accessibility sessions held every other month, any employee can participate in these kinds of activities that include a variety of accommodations on the computer screen. These sessions show us where we can improve and where we’re successful.

Ongoing accessibility training is also offered through lunch and learn meetings and special internal programs like Cognition Kitchen, which is an informative series held regularly at Acquia to share projects with the full company. It gives everyone a chance to learn more about team efforts — and we recently highlighted our work toward our goal of full accessibility.

Reaching AA compliance

Acquia believes that accessibility is not about disability ... but about usability. It's about future-proofing and staying feature-rich as technology becomes more touch-friendly and voice-driven. 

This mindset fuels our commitment to bringing all Acquia products in full compliance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 AA standards. We will continue to build on our existing accessibility processes and programs to ensure we meet this goal, and make our software the best possible experience ... for everyone.

Read our full Accessibility Statement and get in touch if you’d like to learn more about Acquia’s commitment to accessibility.


Note: This article was originally published on

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