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Tetiana Chuiasova, Automation Quality Assurance Engineer

Dec 18, 2023 15 min read

How To Do Accessibility Testing: Strategies for Success

In this article, we will explore the importance of accessibility testing, its benefits, and how to perform accessibility testing, including automated and manual accessibility testing. 

How To Do Accessibility Testing

Accessibility testing involves evaluating features and functionalities to help guarantee that all users can interact with the software effectively, regardless of their abilities. In this article, we will explore the importance of accessibility testing, its benefits, and how to perform accessibility testing, including automated and manual accessibility testing. 

What is Accessibility Testing? 

Accessibility testing helps to ensure web and mobile applications are usable by individuals with disabilities such as vision or hearing impairments, color blindness, or other cognitive challenges. This testing type, a subset of Usability Testing, encompasses evaluating the features and functionalities to guarantee all users can interact with the software effectively, regardless of their abilities. 

The usability of an application is measured based on four main principles: perceivability, operability, understandability, and robustnes. 

  • Perceivability refers to how well the UI components or information are presented and can be understood by users through their senses.  
  • Operability refers to the ability of all users to interact with application components and navigation.  
  • Understandability refers to how easily users can comprehend conveyed information and the application interface.  
  • Robustness refers to the presented content's ability to be interpreted correctly across various technologies or user devices. 

Users with disabilities cannot use the application or website if this principles are not satisfied. Next, discuss why accessibility testing is vital for software product companies and how to perform accessibility testing. 

Why Is Accessibility Testing Important? 

The increasing reliance on digital tools and applications has expanded the user base, including individuals with disabilities. Consequently, product companies must prioritize making their applications accessible to a diverse audience. 

Governments across the globe are pushing for web content accessibility through the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. Legislation is being enacted to ensure software products are accessible to people with disabilities. 

A study conducted by Nucleus Research finds that 70% of global websites remain inaccessible to individuals with disabilities, presenting an untapped market potential. Likewise, more than two-thirds of U.S.-based E-Commerce stores are missing out on over $6.9 billion in potential revenue due to their lack of accessibility to users with disabilities. 

Accessibility testing should not be limited only to persons with disabilities but also consider older individuals, children, left-handed users, non-native English speakers, and more.

Accessibility testing goes beyond addressing the needs of individuals with disabilities, extending its impact to older users, children, left-handed individuals, non-native English speakers, and various user groups, fostering inclusivity and improving user experiences for everyone. 

Explore four key business advantages of accessibility testing for websites and product companies.

Benefits of Accessibility Testing 

Expanded User Base

Websites and products that are accessible cater to a broader audience. Performing accessibility testing on time can enhance the accessibility of websites and products, making them available to a more extensive user base. By implementing a well-defined accessibility testing strategy, it becomes feasible to present website/application content through various means, including images with Alt Text, written transcripts, video captions, and resizable text.

Accessibility testing should be an integral component of the software testing process, starting from the early stages of software development. Delayed accessibility testing can lead to software defects and increased expenses. 

Enhanced Code Quality 

Accessibility testing effectively expands the scope of usability testing and contributes to creating a high-quality codebase for the final product. It is primarily due to accessibility testing tools identifying coding errors that could otherwise result in software defects. How does high-quality code benefit? It minimizes the occurrence of bugs and provides a superior user interface and user experience, along with quicker loading on any user device. 

Legal Compliance 

Meeting accessibility standards is essential to comply with regulations like the Americans with Disabilities Act. Accessibility testing helps companies avoid legal complications and provides equal product and service access. 

Improved SEO  

Accessibility-friendly websites contain feature-rich text content, making it easier for search engines to locate them when searching for relevant content. A higher SEO ranking implies that search engines are more likely to drive increased traffic to the website, leading to more conversions and revenue.  

Additionally, accessibility testing contributes to developing applications and websites with simpler interfaces and navigation, reducing bounce rates and encouraging greater user engagement. 

How to do Accessibility Testing?

To ensure that websites and web applications are accessible to users with disabilities, it is necessary to evaluate how well the application meets their needs. Here are some examples of specific needs that users with disabilities may have: 

Screen Reader Users 

  • Need: Users with visual impairments rely on screen readers to navigate websites. 
  • Example: Providing alternative text for images and ensuring proper HTML structure for screen reader compatibility. 

Keyboard-Only Navigation 

  • Need: Users with motor impairments may navigate using a keyboard instead of a mouse. 
  • Example: Ensuring all interactive elements are accessible and navigable using keyboard controls. 

Color Contrast for Low Vision 

  • Need: Users with low vision may have difficulty distinguishing specific colors. 
  • Example: Ensuring sufficient color contrast between text and background for readability. 

Once you have done this, you can proceed with accessibility testing. In the Software Development Life Cycle, accessibility testing can be carried out using both manual and automated approaches. There are two main types of Accessibility testing: 

manual accessibility testing and automated accessibility testing 

Manual Accessibility Testing

Manual Accessibility testing involves a combination of keyboard interactions, assistive technologies, and browser plugins to evaluate the accessibility of websites and web applications. This testing method is crucial for identifying issues that cannot be detected through automated means. Nonetheless, conducting accessibility tests manually is a time-consuming process and is susceptible to human errors. So now you know how to do accessibility testing manually. 

Automated Accessibility Testing 

Automated accessibility testing is the most effective way to test websites and web applications. Testers can utilize accessibility testing tools to test various websites and web applications. It's cost-effective, and helps to reduce test execution time, and focuses on critical areas that need attention, making the entire process faster. 

Different Ways to Test Accessibility

Accessibility testing can be challenging for testers who are unfamiliar with disabilities.  

There are different ways to test accessibility depending on the disability. 

Vision Disability

If a user with a vision disability tries to access the XYZ Website, his main option is a screen reader. A screen reader is software that narrates your web content, including text, links, buttons, images, and more. When you start a screen reader like Jaws and visit a website, it describes the entire content. For example, when you open your browser, JAWS will announce it, and as you type a website's address, it reads each character. When the page loads, it provides information like "Google.Com. Home page". 

When you navigate to specific elements like Google Search, JAWS identifies and announces them. A screen reader reads text character by character and identifies links, buttons, and other elements, making it easier for blind individuals to understand the content. 

However, if a website needs to be better designed or developed, the screen reader might need help to narrate the content correctly. This results in accessibility issues for users with vision disability, potentially causing significant problems for the website's business, as crucial elements may be misinterpreted or missed. 

Color Blindness 

Color blindness disability means not being wholly blind but not being able to view some specific color properly. Red and Blue are the standard colors people cannot see appropriately if they have color blindness. For instance, if a website primarily employs red and an individual with a color blindness disability attempts to use it, they may encounter difficulties. So, a website should be designed in a certain way so that a person with a color blindness disability does not have any problem accessing it.  

Consider this scenario: a website that prominently displays a red button. To enhance accessibility for color-blind users, outlining this red button in black can significantly improve their ability to access and interact with it. In general, black and white are considered universal colors that can significantly aid accessibility for individuals with visual impairments. 

Visual Impairment due to Poor Vision 

Individuals with poor vision or eyesight-related retinal problems often encounter difficulties accessing websites. To enhance such user experience, consider the following aspects: 

  • Avoid Small Text: Small text can be a significant barrier for individuals with poor vision. Opt for larger, more legible text to improve accessibility. 
  • Zoom-Friendly Design: Recognize that users with vision problems may need to zoom in on website text for comfortable viewing. Ensure your website's layout remains intact and user-friendly when text is enlarged. It prevents a negative user experience and frustration. 

User with a Hearing Disability  

One of the categories of people with disabilities are those with hearing impairment. For a deaf person, accessing website content may not be challenging "as" they can read the text. However, they may need help with audio and video content. To cater to their needs, it is essential to have Alt text, which stands for Alternative text, for any video or audio content on the website. This text provides an alternative means of accessing the content for those who cannot hear. For instance, if a video demonstrates how to book an airline ticket, providing an alternative text would enable a deaf person to read and understand the video's content. 

Best Accessibility Testing Tools 

To enhance the user-friendliness and accessibility of your website. It is crucial point to ensure that it is easily accessible. Various accessibility testing tools can be used to check the website's accessibility. Here are some popular accessibility testing tools: 

Wave

Wave is a free tool for web accessibility created by WEBAIM. It allows you to manually validate web pages for various aspects of accessibility, including intranet, password-protected, dynamically generated, or sensitive pages. The Web Accessibility Toolbar performs several primary functions, such as identifying page components, providing access to an alternative view of page content, and facilitating the use of third-party online applications. It ensures private and secure accessibility reporting. 

TAW

TAW is an online tool that analyzes your website for accessibility issues based on the W3C web accessibility guidelines. The tool categorizes issues into three priorities. You can generate subsets of WCAG 1.0 to test against and define additional checks via the "User Checking" dialog box. TAW helps ensure that your website is accessible to everyone. 

Accessibility Developer Tools

It is a Chrome extension that performs an accessibility audit to detect violations of accessibility rules in the Page Under Test. The extension receives high reviews and is frequently updated. 

Quick Accessibility Page Tester

Quick Page Accessibility Tester is a handy bookmark that allows you to analyze web pages for accessibility issues quickly. It can detect various problems with your page, warn you of potential issues, and identify areas that could benefit from using ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications).  

aDesigner

IBM has developed a tool to simulate the visual impairments of users, allowing designers to understand the needs of disabled individuals better and create more accessible applications. 

WebAnywhere

It is a tool that assists users in reading web pages, similar to screen readers like Jaws. 

Web Accessibility Toolbar

WAT is a browser extension available for Internet Explorer and Opera that provides helpful features for web page designers to analyze their web pages. One of its most valuable features is the GreyScale tool, which aids in identifying low-contrast areas in the design. 

Challenges in Accessibility Testing 

Despite efforts to create concise and user-friendly websites and web apps, critical accessibility aspects can be inadvertently overlooked. Here are some challenges that may arise during accessibility testing: 

01

Vision Impairments: It's essential to consider vision disabilities, such as poor vision and color blindness, when developing web apps. Implementing screen readers is an effective strategy to address these visual disabilities. 

02

Auditory Disabilities: Ensuring website accessibility for users with hearing disabilities, including deafness and partial hearing, is crucial. Providing audio transcripts and visual sign languages can significantly benefit users with hearing impairments. 

03

Physical Disabilities: Web apps should be accessible to physically challenged users with difficulty operating a mouse or keyboard due to slow motor functions. A recommended solution is to leverage speech recognition for web app control through voice commands. 

04

Cognitive Disabilities: Websites must accommodate individuals with cognitive disabilities, such as learning difficulties or weak memory. Using thoughtful design and symbols can make content more understandable and user-friendly. 

Website Accessibility Testing Checklist 

In this section, we will cover some crucial points to consider when performing accessibility testing: 

Define 'alt' Tags for Images: Visually impaired users use screen readers to access web content. Ensure that image 'alt' tags provide meaningful descriptions to convey the content of images to these users effectively. 

Enhance Text Readability: Users with reading disabilities may struggle to comprehend text. Make sure that text and sentences are clear and easy to read for all users.

Consistent Navigation: Maintain consistent user navigation throughout the website, avoiding frequent alterations to web page layouts that could disorient users. 

Add Images for Text: Incorporate images alongside text whenever possible to assist users with reading impairments to understand the content. 

Contrast Colors: Ensure the website design incorporates adequate color contrast to enable visually impaired users to perceive digital content more clearly. 

Avoid Pop-Ups: Pop-ups can be challenging for screen readers as they may need to read both the pop-up and the underlying content. It's advisable to minimize their usage of pop-ups. 

CSS-Based Websites: Consider using CSS on your websites, it will make them more accessible compared to HTML-only-based website.

Include Assistive Technologies: Websites should integrate assistive technologies to accommodate users with limited motor skills who cannot use a keyboard or mouse. 

Accessible Dynamic Elements: Ensure dynamic elements such as dropdown menus and clickable images can be easily accessed and used through keyboard inputs, voice commands, and assistive technologies. 

Provide Multilingual Video Subtitles: Videos should feature subtitles in multiple languages to cater to users with hearing impairments. By enhancing the accessibility of video content, we can make it available to a broader audience. 

How to Test Web Accessibility? 

01

Use Automated Tools: Employ automated accessibility testing tools like Axe, Wave, and Siteimprove to identify potential issues swiftly. These tools can efficiently scan your website for common accessibility problems. 

02

Perform Manual Testing: Automated tools have limitations. Supplemented automated testing with manual checks helps to ensure comprehensive accessibility. Test keyboard navigation, screen reader compatibility, and color contrast manually. 

03

Test with Assistive Technologies: Gain a deeper understanding of the user experience by testing with assistive technologies. Utilize screen readers, voice recognition software, and magnification tools. This hands-on approach reveals how users with disabilities interact with your website. 

04

Get Feedback from Users: Involve people with disabilities in your testing process. Conduct user testing with individuals who have diverse disabilities to uncover any existing barriers. Their valuable feedback helps identify and address accessibility issues effectively. 

05

Use Accessibility Guidelines: Adhere to established accessibility guidelines, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These standards ensure your website meets recognized accessibility criteria. 

06

Test Frequently: Make accessibility testing a routine part of your website maintenance process. Regular testing allows you to promptly catch and address issues, ensuring your web app remains accessible to all users. 

Conclusion 

Accessibility testing should be an integral part of the software development process and is vital to accommodate users with various disabilities. To perform accessibility testing effectively, manual and automated approaches are employed, addressing specific needs related to vision, hearing, and cognitive impairments. Your website will be inclusive and user-friendly by following established guidelines and performing frequent tests. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of accessibility testing for websites and product companies?

Benefits include an expanded user base, improved code quality, legal compliance, and enhanced SEO.

What are the fundamental principles of accessibility testing?

Accessibility testing is based on four principles: perceivability, operability, understandability, and robustness.  

How can developers enhance web accessibility for individuals with vision disabilities?

Developers can implement screen readers, ensure proper alt text for images, and maintain high color contrast. 

What challenges may arise during accessibility testing for users with auditory disabilities?

Ensuring accessibility for deaf or hard-of-hearing users by providing audio transcripts and visual sign languages can be challenging. 

How can accessibility testing improve code quality?

Accessibility testing identifies coding errors, leading to a higher-quality codebase and better user experiences. 

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