Everyone means everyone: Okta's ongoing path to accessibility
A key pillar at Okta is building a world where anyone can safely use any technology. But for some of us, there are analog blockers as well. For Accessibility Week, we’d like to dig into how Okta makes sure everyone really means everyone.
How do we define accessibility? From a technical design perspective, accessibility is designing our products so everyone can use them equally. This means that, ideally, everyone uses the same interface to get the same information. If that’s not possible, we try to provide multiple ways to access the same resource. Accessibility means all users can access the same information and complete all the same tasks.
Although our accessibility journey began long before, we made great strides in February of 2021 with the introduction of the Odyssey design system, an accessibility-driven and open-sourced design model for building with the Okta platform.
The Odyssey of 2021 included built-in A11Y features, was compliant with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Level AA, included accessibility details such as better color contrast and shapes, and was considerate towards assistive technology like screen readers for people who can’t see.
Meeting government regulations and beyond
When it comes to guidelines, we would be remiss if we didn’t look to arguably the largest service provider — the U.S. government. To help meet our goals for inclusive and accessible design, to every extent possible, Okta follows the best practices found in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, as well as the WCAG 2.0/2.1 guidelines mentioned above. Specifics include solving for poor Internet service, literal access to the Okta website, and allowances for those who are deaf and/or blind.
Okta continually works with an external vendor to evaluate the vast majority of our end-user products against industry standards and adhere to the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT). You can access our VPATs at okta.com/accessibility.
Organizations often view digital accessibility as a compliance exercise, but it’s much more important than that. According to a 2023 Ernst and Young study on digital accessibility and inclusive design in government, 3 in 10 federal and 2 in 10 state and local respondents said regulatory requirements were the main driver in their approach to design. And only 39% of state and local and 43% of federal respondents view digital accessibility as a top priority among agency leadership.
Yet ending the accessibility journey at satisfying legal requirements could still result in a cumbersome user experience. 69% of constituents who responded to EY’s survey firmly believe that technology is vital to the future of their experience with government and private sector services. When it comes to accessibility, thinking about those constituents and focusing on human-centered design is the key. At Okta, we consider what issues users will encounter beyond basic accessibility requirements.
We also recognize that continuous improvement is paramount. And the only way we can improve is an active feedback loop between our customers and product team. Like any other product issue, when an Okta customer finds an accessibility-related issue, they can contact their admin, who can open a service ticket. This ticket flows directly to our engineering teams, where it's prioritized accordingly.
But our focus is not only on product accessibility — Okta culture is just as important. For example, we proudly host an official employee resource group (ERG) focused on neurodiversity to ensure that accessibility is considered internally as well as externally. We also provide accessibility awareness workshops, keeping Okta employees abreast of A11y best practices.
Our accessibility roadmap
Most forward-thinking technology companies maintain a roadmap. As a strategic tool, it helps organizations and teams turn upcoming goals and aspirations into concrete steps and milestones. The biggest and brightest of them even maintain public roadmaps, exposing those hopes with the clear understanding that they may fail.
Similar to the critical features that Okta displays on our public roadmap, our accessibility goals are there too, public and on par with our feature aspirations. To that end, in the fall of this year, we're introducing improved accessibility and federal certifications. It's an accessible login experience that includes screen readers and keyboard navigation for users with disabilities. We also publish new VPATs as we add new features or enhance existing features for which VPATs already exist.
So, what does "everyone" mean? For us, it means customers, partners, employees, competitors, and ourselves. We celebrate Accessibility Week in the hope that accessibility remains a priority for us all.
If you’d like more information about Okta’s ongoing accessibility and compliance work, register for Okta’s City Tour in DC, featuring our Gov Identity Summit. Our online session, “How to Get Started with Human-Centered Design,” will help you workshop how to avoid clunky user experiences and security vulnerabilities.