Know about Accessibility Testing

  • Accessibility, Quality, Technology, wcag
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  • Ajay Balamurugadas

What comes to your mind when you read or listen to the words “Accessibility Testing”. When we asked a few testers, the answers were on the lines of “Yes, it is very important”, “508 Compliance”, “Testing software for people with challenges”, “No Idea”. This is an attempt to share thoughts on Accessibility Testing with special focus for those who want to dive deep into the field.

Accessibility testing: A type of testing to discover information that reveal difficulties faced by people with various types of challenges : auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech, visual .

The first steps

…are not when you start testing the software for people with these challenges. It starts well before that. It starts with the realization that everyone deserves an equal chance and including everyone while designing the software. Being accessible really means just that — being accessible. It is not a style statement. It is a mindset of inclusion and accessible for everyone irrespective of challenges or any other factors. Designing, developing and testing software for accessibility quality criterion really requires you to understand the needs (both stated and unstated) of the users.

accessibility testing
Diverse accessibility tests

Real Users — Real-World Usage

What is straightforward for you might be an uphill task for someone. When I interacted with testers from NISH — National Institute of Speech and Hearing, no words were spoken but I learned the most in a single day. I learned about how some features of high-end software become useless. What is the use of a feature if a section of the society cannot use them and there is no workaround? The challenges are not just restricted to visual impairment or deafness as we commonly think. It can be as varied as situational limitations (low bandwidth, small mobile screens, bright sunlight) to people with restricted mobility (after an accident or by birth).

Stakeholders Support

Designing, developing and testing for accessibility is never easy without the right support from stakeholders. Many don’t consider accessibility as a mainstream quality criteria. Two of the key reasons are the lack of awareness about accessibility and the lack of skilled personnel. Many still think if the images have alt-text and the tabbing navigation is taken care of, they have covered the basics. They can’t be farther from the complete picture of accessibility. The stakeholders need to be educated about the different aspects like visually distracting content, contrast, font size, missing content labels, unnecessary unordered lists and many more.

Terms and standards

There are many terms and guidelines which will help you understand the accessibility landscape. Some of them are as follows:

  • WAVE — Web a11y evaluation tool
  • a11y — accessibility (a11y)
  • WCAG — Web content a11y guidelines
  • AG WG— Accessibility Guidelines Working Group
  • W3C — World wide web consortium
  • UAAG — User agent a11y guidelines
  • ATAG — Authoring tool a11y guidelines
  • WAI — Web a11y initiative
  • OAF — Open a11y framework
  • ARIA — Accessible Rich Internet Applications
  • POUR — Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, Robust

The most commonly referenced standards are the WCAG and Section 508. Do not forget to check the guidelines followed and published in different countries. Even with WCAG which is now AG WG, be aware of the three levels of success criteria: A, AA, and AAA. 

Tools to rescue

Accessibility testing is easy and hard. It is easy if you have the right intent and process in place to ensure that the software is accessible across a diverse set of people with challenges. It is hard if you just rely on tools to give you insights and miss the bigger picture of real users. To assist in your path to accessibility, you can use appropriate tools from this master list maintained by Jose. Some of the most popular ones include WAVE, JAWS and Accessibility Scanner

Bug advocacy for accessibility bugs

While most of us are adept at filing bugs, filing accessibility-related bugs is a different game altogether. Some key parameters that add value to such bugs include 

  • Type of accessibility
  • Impact
  • Tool(s) used
  • Example lawsuit (more on this ahead)
  • Alternative
  • Which standard does it not follow
  • Expected Behavior
Accessibility checks
Accessibility checks

Lawsuits

There are multiple lawsuits filed against many companies for having software not accessible to people with challenges. The recent ones being a multinational pizza restaurant chain in the news for online accessibility or rather the lack of it. Ensure that your clients don’t face the same by proactively building a case for accessibility. Some of the high profile companies have been sued and been in the news for the wrong reasons. 

Software Accessibility is a necessity!

Hope this article answered the most common questions on Accessibility and Accessibility testing. If you want a partner who not only understands accessibility but really wants you to be accessible to everyone, talk to us at [email protected] 

Author: Ajay Balamurugadas