Accessibility testing is an essential aspect of creating digital products that are inclusive and user-friendly. This article delves into two types of accessibility testing: accessibility audits and usability testing for accessibility. By conducting these tests, not only can you ensure fair access for individuals with disabilities and impairments, but you can also mitigate legal risks associated with non-compliance.
Accessibility Testing is a critical step in creating digital products that are inclusive and usable for all individuals, regardless of their abilities or impairments. The goal of Accessibility Testing is to remove barriers and make the digital world more accessible for people with disabilities, such as those who are visually or hearing impaired, have learning difficulties, or have neurological or health conditions.
Web developers must ensure that their products are accessible to all users, and Accessibility Testing is a crucial tool for achieving this. This specialized branch of testing helps to ensure that digital products meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), a set of 13 guidelines organized under four principles: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. These guidelines cover areas such as providing text alternatives for non-text content, making all functionality available from a keyboard, ensuring text is readable and understandable, and maximizing compatibility with current and future user tools.
Why Should Digital Products Be Tested For Accessibility?
Ensuring digital products are accessible to all users is not only a social responsibility, but it also benefits businesses by making their products more accessible for all customers to use, not just those with disabilities. Accessibility should be considered throughout the product development process, including desktop and mobile testing. By conducting Accessibility Testing, businesses can ensure that:
- Critical applications, such as websites, web applications, and mobile apps, are easily accessible and usable for all users
- Individuals with disabilities and impairments can access and use the product
- Users with low bandwidth can still use the product
- Compliance with accessibility-related laws and regulations is met.
The benefits of Accessibility Testing not only help ensure that digital products are inclusive for individuals with disabilities but also offer a range of benefits for businesses. Organizations increasingly recognize that meeting digital accessibility standards is an opportunity to grow their business, demonstrate their commitment to ethical practices, and stand out from the competition.
One of the critical benefits of Accessibility Testing is that it caters to a broader audience than just individuals with disabilities. This includes temporary or situational impairments such as new parents, people with ear infections or laryngitis, people with heavy accents, and even those exposed to bright sunlight who can’t see the screen on their mobile devices correctly.
Another significant benefit is that it helps avoid legal complications. For example, the pizza chain Domino’s was found guilty of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and ordered to improve their website, pay the individual who filed the lawsuit $4,000, and incur legal costs and damage to their brand reputation. This is an example of why it’s crucial to consider accessibility compliance in your digital products to avoid similar lawsuits.
In addition to these benefits, accessibility testing also helps to improve the customer and user experience for everyone, increases market reach by attracting long-term users, reduces development costs, improves SEO and innovation, and doesn’t add a significant workload to web developers if done from the beginning. Many large organizations such as Apple, Google, and Barclays have recognized the importance of accessibility testing and its benefits to the business.
Validating The Accessibility Of Your Digital Product
Comprehensive website Accessibility Testing involves taking a multi-layered approach that covers your entire digital ecosystem and should be an integral part of standard processes. This article focuses on accessibility audits and usability testing for accessibility.
Accessibility Audit Vs Usability Testing For Accessibility
An accessibility audit evaluates and validates your website against WCAG guidelines and highlights any accessibility issues. In contrast, usability testing for accessibility involves people who use assistive technology to complete everyday tasks on your website and investigate any problems they experience.
An accessibility audit is a combination of manual and automated testing using assistive technologies like screen readers and magnification software, as well as computerised tools like WAVE and AXE to check page structure, low contrast, and missing alt text. A thorough accessibility audit provides full coverage that automated testing alone can’t offer.
When to run an accessibility audit should be run regularly as it is less expensive than usability testing for accessibility and can uncover more accessibility issues when carried out by an expert.
Tips On Running An Accessibility Audit
Conducting an accessibility audit can help ensure compliance with accessibility guidelines and efficiently achieve accessibility goals. The following tips can guide the process:
Identify templates: Understand the mechanism you’re auditing by identifying common patterns and pinpointing web pages that use the same template to avoid duplication of work.
Prepare assistive technologies: Choose the products or systems such as keyboards, screen readers, and voice-over technology to identify accessibility issues from a wider angle.
Create relevant documents: Prepare a spreadsheet with WCAG guidelines and a presentation template before starting the analysis.
Begin with familiar areas: Explore the website as a user, going through each page and looking for visible problems.
Please explore the website with the WCAG list:
- Familiarize yourself with the WCAG guidelines.
- Find violations.
- Include them in the report.
Utilize Web Inspector: Use Web Inspector extensively. Though it may seem overwhelming initially, especially if you are unfamiliar with HTML and CSS, basic knowledge is necessary to make your accessibility report valuable.
Use automated web accessibility testing tools: Use automated tools to audit and test accessibility, many of which are Chrome extensions, making them easy to use.
Double-check automated tools’ findings: Automated tools may report false information, highlight a different number of errors for the same product, or misunderstand accessibility requirements, so it’s important to double-check their findings.
Prioritize findings: Assign impact and priority scores to results, such as high, medium, or minor, to identify the most critical issues and rank them correctly.
Provide one recommendation per finding: Offer one best solution per issue to provide clear action steps.
Summarize in a report or presentation: Provide a summary of issues, recommendations, and next steps in addition to a detailed description of findings and make it as actionable as possible. Prioritize issues.
Usability Testing For Accessibility
While accessibility audits can provide a thorough assessment of a website’s compliance with WCAG guidelines, they may not always catch every issue or guarantee usability for users who rely on assistive technology. Usability testing for accessibility involves recruiting individuals who use assistive technology in their daily lives to complete tasks on the website and investigate any issues they experience. This testing provides insight into how people with disabilities use the website and can uncover problems that an accessibility audit may miss. Additionally, accessibility-related usability improvements enhance the experience for users who rely on assistive technology and improve usability for all users.
Pros And Cons
The usability testing for accessibility provide valuable insights into how users with disabilities interact with a website or application. It is an effective method for uncovering issues that an accessibility audit may miss. Additionally, it can find general usability issues and provide a learning experience for team members and stakeholders when they observe the testing live.
On the other hand, usability testing for accessibility can be costly, as it involves recruiting at least five individuals who use assistive technology, providing appropriate testing environments, and potentially requiring the use of the testers’ own devices. Additionally, creating clickable prototypes in design software such as Figma or Sketch may not support assistive technologies, requiring additional coding and costs. While it may be expensive, it is essential to remember that usability testing for accessibility can uncover different issues compared to an accessibility audit.
Eliminating Obstacles Through Accessibility Testing
People may only use websites, applications, and other technologies that are well-designed. In light of this, companies must be aware of laws and conduct exhaustive accessibility testing. That makes websites compliant and accessible to all users, but it also has several other advantages, such as boosting user loyalty and enhancing the digital experience.
Project Manager at WTA Process oriented tech enthusiast with a key eye on project metrics