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Making All Your Users Feel Welcome: Arkose Labs Challenges Are Now Certified WCAG Compliant

July 13, 20237 min Read

Arkose MatchKey challenges

Accessibility is a must-have for any B2C website or digital application. It’s the only way to be inclusive of all of your consumers, provide a great user experience for everyone, and – in many cases – meet legal regulations and requirements.

That’s why we are beyond thrilled to announce that Arkose Labs has been certified WCAG compliant for all of the enforcement challenges in Arkose Bot Manager. 

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 1 certification is the gold standard for web accessibility. We have long worked to ensure that our enforcement challenges are accessible, and by achieving WCAG compliance certification, we are able to demonstrate that the widest possible range of users can use our challenges. 

Many vendors claim that they are compliant with WCAG, but those claims are usually lacking the documentation or certification to back them up. We’re all in, and this certification is proof that we conform to the WCAG 2.1 Level AA standard. 

Accessibility Is Fundamental to User Experience

Businesses strive to minimize friction and create seamless digital experiences for their customers. This typically requires categorizing all incoming traffic for websites and apps as good or bad, where desired traffic experiences little friction, while harmful and malicious traffic encounters significant obstacles or is outright stopped. But this binary approach can lead to potentially blocking legitimate users and allowing malicious actors to gain access. 

To address this issue, app security teams monitor traffic to recognize patterns and anomalies, then introduce targeted friction in the form of stepped-up authentication, CAPTCHAs, or other challenges. These interactive challenges can effectively deter bad actors, but they must be robust enough to resist automated scripts and advanced bots. Additionally, these challenges should be user-friendly and inclusive, accommodating users of all abilities. 

This is where accessibility plays a crucial role in ensuring a positive user experience for all customers. Here at Arkose Labs, accessibility is core to our mission of helping create an online environment where all consumers are protected from malicious activity.

This means that accessibility is considered right from the outset in everything that we develop, including the enforcement challenges and puzzle elements of our Arkose Bot Manager platform. It isn’t an afterthought or something that can be bolted on to an existing product. With this approach, our customers get both the intuitive usability and the strong security that we’re known for.

It’s also something that sets us apart from other bot detection and mitigation vendors. For instance, most other vendors who offer an audio challenge use a speech-based challenge. These challenges offer limited language support, and existing (let alone advanced AI-learning models) speech-to-text software can be used to quickly solve and automate these speech-based challenges. By contrast, Arkose Labs audio challenges are based on non-speech tones and sounds, which are inherently more secure and universal.

The Arkose Labs Approach, in Practice

Our commitment to accessibility extends to addressing four broad categories of disabilities:

  • Visual: The visual challenges are thoughtfully designed to accommodate minor visual impairments. For those with more severe impairments or complete blindness, an audio challenge provides an alternative solution.
  • Motor: Both visual and audio challenges are fully compatible with keyboards, facilitating seamless operation with a wide range of alternative input devices.
  • Auditory: Visual challenges are designed to accommodate users with any level of auditory impairment, allowing them to engage with and successfully solve the challenges.
  • Cognitive: The challenges are crafted with clear and simple language, while also providing users with the opportunity to retry, enhancing accessibility and ensuring a positive user experience.

Because we prioritize inclusivity, we wanted to ensure that individuals with diverse abilities or disabilities can fully utilize our enforcement challenges. These challenges are inherently accessibility friendly in that they:

  • Offer two alternatives: a visual challenge and an audio challenge
  • Enforce no time limits on providing an answer
  • Provide hints if a wrong answer was given 
  • Allow unlimited attempts at getting it right
  • Utilize plain language in the instructions
  • Use familiar, everyday images or sounds in challenges

Key product features underpin this approach. For example, when challenges are scaled, there is no loss of information or functionality and no horizontal scrolling. Enforcement challenges use minimal or no animations. And challenge images may use color, but it’s always possible to identify the correct/incorrect options with impaired or no color vision.

It’s important to point out that we realize that we couldn't do it all on our own, so we actively involved external consultants to help us out in this endeavor. It’s also vital to note that it wasn’t just about getting certified and ticking the boxes for compliance. These consultants  also perform user testing on our challenges, providing us with valuable insights into how users with different impairments experience our products. This hands-on approach allows us to gain a firsthand understanding of the accessibility requirements of our users and receive invaluable feedback on what truly constitutes a positive accessibility user experience.

The Certification Process

After dedicating extensive efforts to incorporate accessibility into our products behind the scenes, we were ready to pursue outside certification. We handed off our product demo to an external agency, requesting that the product be tested against the latest version of the WCAG guidelines. These guidelines are level AA, a conformance level used in most accessibility regulations around the world, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and EU Web Accessibility Directive.

We then gave the agency guidance on our supported scope. Internally, we were committed to supporting a wide range of browser and screen reader combinations. We also wanted to support other assistive technology (AT) that may be used to help perceive and operate the enforcement challenges, including screen magnification software, Braille displays, and alternative input devices such as sip and puff devices. 

Much of the certification process involves manual testing, which has significant advantages over automated testing. Tools that perform automated testing generate a substantial number of false positives as well as false negatives, making them tolerable for a first pass but insufficient on their own. The agency manually tested all our challenges against the WCAG success criteria 2, and we went through the cycle of submitting, tweaking, and resubmitting our challenges until ultimately, we passed the certification test.

As of June 2023, the Arkose Labs Enforcement Challenges are fully conformant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Level AA. This covers all current game types: 

  • MatchKey Game
  • Tile Game
  • Audio Game

…all certified on our new EC UI 2.0 frontend in standard mode. 

Accessibility without Compromising Security

Accessibility is critical to Arkose Labs’ goal of creating a safe digital environment for all. It also must be balanced with security to create a robust and inclusive digital environment. Security is crucial for protecting sensitive information and safeguarding systems from unauthorized access or malicious activities. 

Our commitment to accessibility goes hand in hand with security, privacy, and usability. In contrast to alternative speech-based options, our groundbreaking sound-based challenges offer enhanced defense against attacks utilizing speech-to-text tools. Our audio challenge surpasses the limited language options provided by competitors, supporting a wide range of 109 languages compared to their typical maximum of around 13. Crucially, our accessibility solution is seamlessly integrated directly into the challenge, eliminating the requirement for users to navigate away or share personal information. For a comprehensive evaluation of our level of conformance against each and every success criterion of WCAG, please see the Arkose Labs Accessibility Conformance Report.

We look forward to continuing this important conversation with you. Please reach out if you would like to discuss how Arkose Labs can help your business meet your accessibility goals. And if you are interested in exploring a specific aspect of our accessible challenges, Arkose MatchKey is an excellent starting point.