In the panorama of digital evolution, the concept of web accessibility has transformed from being a mere nice-to-have feature to a critical aspect of web development. The primary objective of accessibility testing is to craft an inclusive digital experience, ensuring every user, irrespective of their abilities, can engage with online content seamlessly.
1. What is Accessibility Testing
Accessibility testing is a branch of usability testing that analyses web services, applications and other digital offerings for their ease of use by individuals with disabilities. These disabilities range from visual and auditory to cognitive and motor disabilities. The focus of accessibility testing lies in identifying how effortlessly people can interact with a website and utilising these insights to enhance subsequent designs and implementations.
2. The Necessity of Accessibility Testing
With approximately 16% of the global population and 26% of the U.S. population having a disability, the importance of website accessibility is underscored. The goal is to eliminate barriers that might hinder access for certain users, fostering equal opportunities and an inclusive digital experience for all.
Accessibility testing is particularly crucial for businesses aiming to cater to a significant user base, ensuring equal access to their services and products. Prioritising accessibility reflects a socially responsible brand image, enhances user experience, improves SEO, and broadens market reach.
3. Understanding Digital Accessibility Standards
The international standards for coding and accessibility are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), both versions 2.0 and 2.1. The WCAG is organised into four key principles, known as POUR:
- Perceivable: Information and user interface components must be presented in a way that users can perceive.
- Operable: User interface and navigation must be accessible to all users.
- Understandable: Content must be presented clearly and logically.
- Robust: Content should be reliably interpreted by a broad range of user agents.
4. Types of Accessibility Testing and Review
To ensure accessibility for all users and maintain ADA compliance, organisations must leverage four types of accessibility testing:
- Automated Testing
- Manual Code Review
- User Experience (UX) Review
- User Testing
Automated testing expedites the testing process, allowing businesses to assess the accessibility of their web applications efficiently. Manual code review ensures that all potential accessibility barriers are thoroughly examined. The UX review focuses on larger site design elements to test usability and accessibility. User testing involves real people with real disabilities to confirm that your site is usable for them.
5. When to Perform Accessibility Testing?
The adage “Test early, test often” holds true for accessibility testing. Integrating accessibility testing during the initial stages of product design and including it in subsequent development iterations till the final delivery ensures quality and saves time and money.
6. Understanding Your Requirements
Before initiating an evaluation process, it’s crucial to identify the project’s key requirements, considering its environment, intended audience, and resources. These requirements could be set by third parties, such as governments, customers, or could be determined by the organisation itself.
7. Who Should Test?
Accessibility testing involves two primary groups: experts and users. Expert testing is vital for understanding how underlying web technologies interact. User testing is equally important as users are the real experts in their abilities and their assistive technology.
8. Expert Testing
Expert testing has four main components: tool-guided evaluation, screening, tool-based inspection, and code review. Tools like automated accessibility checkers, structural inspectors, and accessibility testing platforms, can aid in identifying potential accessibility issues and provide valuable insights to improve web accessibility.
9. User Testing
User testing involves both usability experts and those who use assistive technology in their daily lives. It not only brings developers together with end-users, enhancing the motivation to build accessible websites, but also ensures that the digital assets are usable for people with disabilities.
10. Interpreting Accessibility Testing Results
Once the testing and review process is completed, it’s essential to document the findings, understand the root cause of each error, and remediate accordingly. Updating standards and best practices based on the results, and continuing to perform accessibility testing ensures the best user experience possible and shields the organisation from potential accessibility lawsuits.
11. Common Accessibility Testing Challenges
While implementing accessibility testing, organisations might face challenges such as lack of full control over website functionality due to reliance on third-party tools, significant knowledge gaps, lack of user testers, and resistance to accessibility testing within the organisation. Tackling these challenges through training, user recruitment, and fostering awareness within the organisation can help streamline the accessibility testing process.
12. Choosing an Expert Accessibility Testing Partner
If an organisation decides to work with a third-party expert for accessibility testing, it’s crucial to consider factors like their experience with clients in your industry, their ability to provide clear and easy-to-interpret reports, their role in remediation, and their approach towards maintaining accessibility.
In conclusion, accessibility testing is pivotal in ensuring inclusive and user-friendly websites and web applications. By adhering to accessibility standards and employing a combination of automated and manual testing, businesses can create a digital space that is truly inclusive, catering to the needs of users irrespective of their abilities or disabilities.