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Andrii Kravchenko, Automation and Manual Quality Assurance Engineer

Apr 16, 2024 16 min read

Website Accessibility Testing: A Step-by-Step Guide

This guide will provide the necessary information for comprehensive and successful website accessibility testing.

Website Accessibility Testing

Website accessibility is crucial for businesses regardless of their industry. By ensuring that your website is accessible to people with disabilities, you can open up your business to a potential audience of millions of customers. This guide will provide the necessary information for comprehensive and successful website accessibility testing.   

What Is Website Accessibility Testing? 

Website accessibility testing helps ensure that people with disabilities can use websites. It includes people with visual impairments, hearing difficulties, mobility limitations, or cognitive disabilities. The goal is to identify barriers preventing them from accessing and using these digital resources. By complying with accessibility standards and guidelines, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), organizations can make their digital content available to a broader audience. It can improve the online experience and make it more inclusive for people with disabilities. 

Website accessibility testing involves several key aspects: 

  • Screen Reader Compatibility: One of the fundamental aspects of website accessibility test is ensuring compatibility with screen readers. It is a software program that reads out the content of a website to visually impaired users. Testing involves evaluating how well a website communicates its content through these tools, ensuring that all information is conveyed accurately. 
  • Keyboard Navigation: Many individuals with disabilities rely on keyboard navigation to browse the internet. Web accessibility testing verifies that all interactive elements, such as links, buttons, and forms, are accessible and operable using keyboard commands alone. 
  • Alternative Text for Images: Images on websites are equipped with alternative text (alt text) to describe their content to users who cannot see them. Testing involves confirming that all images have descriptive alt text, providing meaningful information to visually impaired users. 
  • Color Contrast: Proper color contrast is essential for users with visual impairments and color vision deficiencies. Web accessibility testing ensures that text and other elements contrast sufficiently against their background, making content readable for everyone. 
  • Video and Multimedia Accessibility: Videos and multimedia content should be captioned and provided with transcripts for users who are deaf or hard of hearing. Web accessibility testing assesses the availability and accuracy of captions and transcripts. 

 

Web accessibility testing enhances user experience and reflects a commitment to a more inclusive and diverse internet for all. Want to make your software accessible to all users? Read our article on how to do accessibility testing. Discover its importance and the best practices to follow. 

Why is Website Accessibility Testing Important? 

Testing is an essential aspect of website development. Here are some reasons why it is crucial: 

  • Inclusivity: Website accessibility testing ensures that everyone can use your website, including individuals with disabilities. It promotes inclusivity and shows that your business values all of its customers. 

 

  • User Experience: Improving accessibility leads to a better user experience, as the site tends to be more user-friendly and easier to navigate. This results in increased customer satisfaction. 

 

  • Positive Brand Image: An accessible website demonstrates a company's commitment to equal access to information and services, enhancing its reputation and potentially leading to increased customer loyalty. 

Why Is Website Accessibility Testing Required 

Here's why we need website accessibility testing. 

Expands Audience and Market Share 

According to WHO, about 15% of people worldwide have a disability. As a result, if your application is created following accessible standards, you'll expand your user base. That means 1 billion people will adopt your product because it meets their needs. 

Avoids Legal Complications 

Website accessibility testing ensures compliance with current and future ethical and legal standards. Most states today have adopted accessibility legislation for websites and products accommodating all people with disabilities. 

Therefore, defaulting on these laws attracts sanctioning. These regulations include the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995, Disability Discrimination Act of 1992, Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and Rehabilitation Act, section 504 and section 508. Are you curious about how to ensure your software meets compliance standards? Dive into our guide on how to do compliance testing for expert insights. 

Encourages Globalization 

Your product is more likely to be utilized by many global users if accessible to both abled and disabled people. 

Aids Consumers with Poor Bandwidth Access 

Users in developing countries experiencing speed limitations and poor bandwidth access can also be satisfied to utilize your product. Your target market will find your product more enticing and user-friendly when it provides the best possible user experience. 

 Challenges in Website Accessibility Testing 

Website accessibility testing can be a complex and challenging process. Various factors can make it difficult to ensure a website is accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. Here are some of the challenges that testers may face: 

Limited Accessibility Testing Tools 

While there are many tools available for testing web accessibility, not all of them are reliable or accurate. Testers should use manual and automated testing tools to ensure a website is accessible. 

Complexity of Web Applications 

Web applications are becoming more complex, constantly adding new features and functionality. It can make it challenging to ensure that all aspects of a website are accessible to all users, especially those with disabilities. 

Lack of User Feedback 

User feedback ensures a website is accessible to all users. It helps identify any accessibility issues and allows for improvements to the user experience. However, it can be challenging to get feedback from users with disabilities, as they may not have the same level of access to technology as other users. 

Cost and Time Constraints 

Finally, cost and time constraints can be challenging when performing web accessibility testing. Investing in website accessibility is crucial for businesses to reach a wider audience and ensure equal access to information. While it may require a significant investment of time and resources, the benefits of an accessible website can far outweigh the costs, particularly for large or complex sites. 

To overcome these challenges, testers can use tools like Axe Accessibility and WAVE (Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool screen reader), providing valuable insights into accessibility issues. Additionally, involving individuals with disabilities in testing can offer real-world perspectives. Training and continuous education for testers can address the knowledge gap, ensuring familiarity with evolving accessibility standards. 

Who Benefits from Website Accessibility Testing 

Accessibility testing ultimately benefits society as a whole. Erasing the boundaries between different strata is a big undertaking. But technology has this power and can apply it in practice. 

  • Users with Disabilities: Online resource navigation may be challenging for people with visual, auditory, and mobility impairments. Following the 'ordinary approach' when designing an app can transform the product into a minefield of usability issues. Performing thorough accessibility testing ensures that persons with disabilities are not denied the opportunity to use digital assets to the full extent.  
  • Specific Audiences: Realizing the difficulties some individuals may encounter when using software significantly impacts quality. As an illustration, iOS has an alternative keyboard layout for lefties, GUI size modification for those with myopia/hyperopia, and various filters (e.g., night shift, true tone). Accessibility testing makes the product comfortable for older generations, children, the left-handed population, non-native speakers, and more. 
  • People in Peculiar Environments: Consider an example of a taxi driver using a GPS app. They are often workday/night shifts. Thus, the UI must be color adjustable to make it easy for the eyes. At the same time, it should be distinguishable so that the user does not distract themselves from finding a needed button. Accessibility testing allows us to think through different use scenarios, making the software more accommodating.  
  • Socially Responsible Businesses: Implementing digital accessibility principles inside a company significantly enhances the product and encourages other firms to follow suit. If you work in an organization that prides itself in inclusivity and equality, exhaustive accessibility testing is the leading edge you need (You can also read our guide to end to end software testing now).
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Explore our case studies for real-life examples of quality improvement.

How to Test a Website for Accessibility 

Web accessibility testing is crucial to ensure that your website or application is usable by everyone, including people with disabilities. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to test a website for accessibility efficiently and effectively: 

Step 1: Planning and Research 

  •  Begin with a thorough understanding of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and determine which compliance level (A, AA, or AAA) your project aims to meet. 
  • Assess your website or application to identify key areas critical for accessibility, such as navigation, forms, media content, and dynamic elements. 
  • Select accessibility testing tools that fit your project's needs. Consider automated tools for preliminary scanning and manual tools for in-depth testing. 

Step 2: Development of Test Cases 

  • Develop test cases that cover all aspects of accessibility, including keyboard navigation, screen reader compatibility, color contrast, and more. Ensure these test cases are aligned with the WCAG criteria you aim to meet. 
  • Group your test cases logically, focusing on user flow through the website or application. Prioritize tests that most impact user experience. 

Step 3: Performing Tests 

  • Use automated testing tools to identify common accessibility issues quickly. Tools like Axe, WAVE, etc., can provide immediate insights and highlight areas that need manual review. 
  • Conduct manual testing to catch issues that automated tools might miss. It includes testing with screen readers, keyboard-only navigation, and customizing browser settings to simulate different disabilities. 

Step 4: Documentation and Reporting 

  • Document all identified issues, including the severity of the problem, where it occurs, and potential recommendations for fixing it. 
  • Compile your findings into an accessibility report. This report should outline the testing process, describe the issues found, and suggest improvements. 
  •  Work with your development team to prioritize and address the accessibility issues. Ensure there is a clear plan for fixing the identified problems and retesting to confirm they are resolved. 

Step 5: Regularly Review and Maintenance 

Web accessibility is an ongoing commitment. Regularly review and test your website or application to ensure it remains accessible as new content is added or as technology evolves. Keep abreast of updates to accessibility standards and tools to enhance your site's accessibility continually.   

What is Automated Website Accessibility Testing?   

Automated website accessibility testing is a process that involves using software tools to identify potential accessibility issues on a website.  These tools can run on a website's code and automatically notice the common accessibility issues, thus providing a first glance in an accessibility evaluation. However, one must keep in mind that automated testing alone isn't the whole answer and must be combined with manual testing in a bid to ensure complete website accessibility. 

What does Automated Website Accessibility Testing Check for?  

Automated website accessibility testing is a process that detects common accessibility issues that a website might have.  It includes missing alt text on images, lack of keyboard accessibility, missing form input labels, incorrect heading structure, poor color contrast, and incorrect use of ARIA roles and properties. However, it's important to note that automated tools can't identify all accessibility issues, and manual testing is also essential for comprehensive accessibility evaluation.  

Advantages of Automated Web Accessibility Testing    

Automated web accessibility testing saves time and effort while offering numerous benefits. 

  • Efficiency: Automated testing tools can scan a website, identifying common accessibility issues within minutes. 
  • Consistency: Automated tools apply the same testing criteria each time, ensuring consistency in checking for accessibility issues. 
  • Scalability: Automated testing is particularly beneficial for large websites as it can simultaneously analyze multiple pages or even an entire site. 
  • Cost-Effective: These tools help identify costly issues to fix later in development, making them cost-effective.  
  • Complement to Manual Testing: Automated testing is an excellent supplement to manual testing, providing a good starting point for further in-depth evaluation. 
AdvantagesofAutomateWebAccessibilityTesting

What is Manual Website Accessibility Testing?  

Test website accessibility manually involves human evaluators checking a website to identify and rectify accessibility issues that automated tools may miss. This often includes navigating a website as a user would, using assistive technologies like screen readers or keyboard-only navigation. Manual testing is essential to ensure a website is not just technically accessible but also user-friendly for individuals with various abilities. 

Advantages of Manual Web Accessibility Testing 

  • Comprehensive Evaluation: Manual testing can identify nuanced accessibility issues that automated tools may miss, providing a more in-depth assessment. 
  • User-Centric Approach: Test website accessibility manually, often involving assistive technologies to emulate real user experiences, helping to ensure the site is user-friendly for individuals with various abilities. 
  • Contextual Understanding: Human testers can understand the context and interpret the meaning of content, something automated tools can't do. 
  • Quality Assurance: Manual testing can verify that fixes to accessibility issues have been implemented correctly and have not introduced new issues. 
  • Compliance Verification: Test website accessibility manually helps ensure compliance with accessibility guidelines like WCAG, which recommends automated and manual testing. 
AdvantagesofManualWebAccessibilityTesting

Checklist for Testing Website Accessibility 

  • Add Alternative Text Tags to Visual Assets: Visual content, such as images, can be difficult for people with visual impairments to understand. To help screen readers interpret the image description, ensure each image tag has an 'alt' text attribute. 
  • Use Contrasting Colors: Use contrasting colors to ensure that people with visual impairments can perceive the website's content. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) recommend using 1.4.3 Contrast (Minimum), 1.4.6 Contrast (Enhanced), and 1.4.11 Non-text Contrast. 
  • Accommodate Keyboard Navigation: People with reduced motor function may be unable to use a mouse or keyboard. Therefore, optimizing websites for assistive technology, such as voice-operated commands or sip-and-puff devices, is essential. 
  • Resize Text to be Viewable: Ensure that the font size is large enough to be viewable by people with low vision. However, ensuring that the text aligns with images and links without any visual or functional anomalies is essential. 
  • Make Interactive Elements Operable: Make sure that keyboard or voice commands can operate interactive elements such as drop-down menus and clickable images. It is vital for those with limited motor function who may require assistive devices. 
  • Use Headlines and Descriptions: Use unique and descriptive titles for each web page to help screen readers translate the content. Use header tags (H1, H2, H3) to restrict content and make it easier for people with cognitive disabilities to read and absorb. 
  • Add Subtitles and Captions to Videos: Add clear captions to videos in multiple languages to help those with compromised hearing understand the content. Subtitles are also helpful for people who want to consume video content in public spaces without earphones. 
  • Avoid Flashing Lights or Blinking Bright Elements: Flashing lights or blinking elements can trigger seizures for anyone with epilepsy or similar conditions. If you must use such aesthetics, ensure that brightness, flashes, and blinking are not too intense or oppressive. 

Popular Accessibility Website Testing Tools 

Accessibility website testing tools help identify potential barriers that can prevent individuals with disabilities from using web content effectively. By assessing websites against accessibility standards and guidelines, these tools allow developers and testers to find and fix accessibility issues. This ensures that the web content is inclusive and usable for all users. Some of the popular accessibility website testing tools are: 

AXe: Open-source accessibility testing tool. 

Key Features

  • Seamless integration with web browsers. 
  • Comprehensive accessibility reports. 
  • API for automated testing workflows. 
  • Continuous updates for WCAG compliance. 

WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool: Browser extension-based accessibility evaluation tool. 

Key Features

  • Real-time feedback with color-coded icons. 
  • Detailed reports with explanations and recommendations. 
  • Useful for designers, developers, and content creators. 

Pa11y: Command-line accessibility website testing tool. 

Key Features

  • Integration into automated testing frameworks. 
  • Supports WCAG 2.0, Section 508, and ARIA. 
  • Bulk testing and detailed accessibility reports. 
  • Integration into continuous integration processes. 

Tenon: Cloud-based accessibility website testing tool. 

Key Features

  • Cloud-based automation for large websites. 
  • Powerful scanning capabilities. 
  • Clear insights and guidance on accessibility issues. 
  • API integration and support for continuous integration.

AChecker: Free online accessibility testing tool. 

Key Features

  • Manual testing of individual pages or batch testing. 
  • Supports various accessibility standards. 
  • User-friendly interface and customizable options. 
  • Suitable for quick evaluations by individuals or small teams.

WebAIM: Suite of accessibility testing tools.

Key Features

  • Color Contrast Checker for identifying contrast issues. 
  • Use the web Accessibility Toolbar browser extension for additional testing options. 
  • A comprehensive approach to accessibility testing. 
  • A reliable resource for developers and testers. 

Tota11y: JavaScript-based accessibility visualization toolkit.

Key Features

  • Overlays visual aids on web pages. 
  • Highlights potential accessibility issues. 
  • Provides insights through visual cues and interactive elements. 
  • Useful for developers and designers to quickly identify issues. 

Common Web Accessibility Testing Challenges and Myths 

Every business has the potential to create a successful accessibility testing program, but some challenges, myths, and misconceptions can arise around accessibility testing. In this context, the most common concerns encountered during the accessibility testing process are presented. 

Challenge 1: Lack of Awareness and Understanding: 

  • Myth: "Web accessibility is only about making websites compatible with screen readers." 
  • Reality: Web accessibility encompasses a broader range of considerations, including keyboard navigation, color contrast, resizable text, and other factors that cater to various disabilities. 

Challenge 2: Sole Reliance on Automated Tools: 

  • Myth: "Automated tools alone can ensure full web accessibility compliance." 
  • Reality: While automated tools are valuable, manual testing is crucial for a comprehensive assessment. Automated tools may miss context-specific issues and need help to evaluate the user experience entirely. 

Challenge 3: Assuming Accessibility is Expensive: 

  • Myth: "Ensuring web accessibility is too costly for small businesses." 
  • Reality: Implementing accessibility from the beginning can be more cost-effective than retrofitting. Many accessibility measures are part of good design practices and do not necessarily require significant additional resources. 

Challenge 4: Ignoring Mobile Accessibility: 

  • Myth: "Mobile apps do not need the same level of accessibility as websites." 
  • Reality: Mobile accessibility is essential, and users with disabilities may rely heavily on mobile devices. Ensuring an accessible mobile experience is as crucial as desktop accessibility. 

Challenge 5: Believing Accessibility is a One-Time Effort: 

  • Myth: "Once a website is accessible, no further action is needed." 
  • Reality: Continuous monitoring and updates are necessary. Content changes, new features, and evolving standards require ongoing efforts to maintain accessibility. 

Challenge 6: Thinking Accessibility is Only for People with Disabilities: 

  • Myth: "Accessibility only benefits users with disabilities." 
  • Reality: Designing for accessibility improves the user experience for everyone. Considerations like straightforward navigation, readable text, and well-structured content benefit a broader audience. 

Addressing these challenges and dispelling these myths is essential for fostering a deeper understanding of web accessibility. Explore our user interface testing services to see how we can enhance your digital experiences.

Conclusion 

Web accessibility testing helps ensure that websites and web applications can be accessed by people with disabilities such as hearing, eyesight, epilepsy, and cognitive impairments. Regularly testing the accessibility of any software system is essential, as this enables everyone to use the product, especially people with physical limitations. If you have any questions or need assistance, contact us now. We're here to help!

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best free tools for performing web accessibility testing?

Here are several free tools available for performing web accessibility testing. Some popular ones include WAVE, a browser extension that evaluates web content for accessibility issues within the browser. Axe is a set of accessibility testing tools provided as browser extensions or integrated within development environments. It helps find and fix accessibility issues. AChecker is an online web accessibility evaluation tool that can be used to evaluate single web pages for conformance with international accessibility standards.  

Is accessibility testing a one-time process?

It is crucial to remember that accessibility testing should be a continuous process. As websites and applications evolve and new content is added, it is essential to test for accessibility regularly. Regular testing ensures that digital content remains inclusive and accessible, even as changes are made. 

What are the critical aspects of web accessibility testing, and how do they contribute to making digital content available to a broader audience?

Critical aspects of web accessibility testing include screen reader compatibility, keyboard navigation, alternative text for images, color contrast evaluation, and multimedia accessibility. These aspects ensure that digital content is accessible to people with disabilities.  

What challenges may testers face during web accessibility testing, and how can these challenges be addressed?

Testers may face challenges such as limited accessibility testing tools, the complexity of web applications, lack of user feedback, and cost and time constraints. Combining manual and automated testing tools, involving users with disabilities, and providing continuous education for testers can help overcome these challenges. 

What are the common misconceptions and myths about web accessibility testing, and what is the reality behind them?

Common misconceptions include thinking web accessibility is only about screen readers, assuming automated tools alone can ensure full compliance, and believing accessibility is too expensive. The reality is that web accessibility is broader, manual testing is crucial, and cost-effective measures exist. 

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