The web is publicly accessible to many user personas, including the young, the old, the able, and the disabled. Thus, understanding and meeting the end-users requirements will help a product to scale and be successful. That is to say, when designing a website, one must understand and consider the needs of these different user spectrums. Whether creating software, hardware, or other systems, ensure that the application is available and usable by the different user personas through accessibility testing. This post will discuss web accessibility; what accessibility testing is; and why it's important when building a website, app, or other digital products. I'll highlight ways to measure accessibility testing and the types of accessibility testing. Furthermore, we'll highlight the top tools for manual and automated accessibility testing.
What Is Web Accessibility?
Web accessibility is an inclusive strategy in which websites, tools, and technology are created and developed in a way that accommodates people with disabilities. This encompasses the capacity for people with situational difficulties, physical impairments, speed limitations, and bandwidth issues due to socio-economic factors to access, interact with, and use software and devices on the worldwide web. This approach caters to individuals with all kinds of disabilities, including
physical—paralysis, cerebral palsy, etc.
cognitive—dyslexia, dyscalculia, intellectual, memory loss
visual disabilities—color blindness, low vision, complete or partial blindness, etc.
What Is Accessibility Testing, and Why Is It Important?
Accessibility testing is a system of testing designed to ascertain whether people with disabilities will be able to utilize a product. It's a subset of usability testing that includes specific procedures to ensure the product being tested can be used by people with disabilities like hearing loss, color blindness, motor or cognitive impairments, and advanced age. These tests aim to make the web available and accessible to businesses, people, and society. According to the WCAG, there are four principles a product must abide by to be considered accessible. These include:
Information and user interface (UI) components must be perceptible to users. Hence, users should be able to gain insight from the product's information and UI component.
The product's interface components and navigation should not demand anything the user cannot do. Therefore, all users should be able to interact with the product interface.
Information and user interface functionality must be simple to understand. Hence, users must be able to comprehend the product's content and how the user interface works.
Content must be robust, reliable, and understand many user agents, including assistive technologies. That is to say whether the users or environment change, it can still be accessed.
Why Is Accessibility Testing Required?
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.
Your product is more likely to be utilized by a vast array of global users if accessible to both abled and disabled people.
Aids Consumers With Poor Bandwidth Access
Users in developing countries who might be 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.
What Are the Types of Accessibility Testing?
There are three kinds of web accessibility testing:
Manual Accessibility Testing
Manual accessibility testing simply involves checking your product against the web accessibility checklist. In this method, the evaluated content gets accessed through assistive technologies, such as a screen reader. To evaluate the website, you'll consider factors like the content, size, code, markup languages, development tools, and environment. Thus, testing web accessibility manually can be time-consuming.
Automated Accessibility Testing
Software that assesses code for WCAG conformance makes web accessibility testing significantly faster. However, there's no fully automatic technique for determining if a website is accessible; developers and designers might still need to adjust according to the website accessibility scan.
Hybrid Accessibility Testing
Hybrid accessibility testing is always the ideal method for ensuring a website is accessible. Primarily, you can only use some features, such as page-scrolling and navigation, with the keyboard and cannot completely test it using the software.
Accessibility Testing Checklist
Include appropriate images. Images have a greater impact than words. Therefore, consider supplementing text with relevant images. This will help individuals with literacy challenges to perceive the website's content described through pictures.
Add subtitles and captions to videos. If your website renders video content, you should offer options for subtitles and captions—in multiple languages—so that users with a hearing impairment can comprehend what is being said. Furthermore, even those who view the video content in a public setting without headphones can read the subtitles and understand the content without disturbing others.
Utilize keyboard-friendly navigation. Design and develop your software and hardware to support keyboard navigation without depending on a mouse or touchpad.
Take advantage of inclusive color schemes. Your website should have colors that are sufficiently contrasted so visually impaired users can perceive your website, products, or services.
Resize text to be viewable. Text on your website should be large enough for all users to read. Also, consider designing your website so individuals with low vision can zoom in and out of the text.
Use operable interactive elements. Consistent navigation throughout the website pages will come in handy for users with cognitive disabilities. They'll be able to utilize assistive devices in accessing your website. Therefore, opt for elements such as drop-down menus and clickable images.
Avoid marquee text. Keep the website or software content as simple as possible. Anyone who has epilepsy or other related diseases may experience seizures when exposed to flashing lights or other elements that are both flickering and bright.
Improvise with headlines and descriptions. Use header tags (H1, H2, H3) to separate material and make it easier for people to read and take in information. Screen readers use heading tags (<h1>, <h2>, etc.) to navigate and prioritize the content.
How to Test for Accessibility
To test the accessibility of your product, you can check it against existing web accessibility standards. You can do this by determining whether the site as a whole or, more commonly, a subset of pages complies with W3C international accessibility standards, as defined by Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). There are various ways to test accessibility depending on a person's disability.
Many eye problems can affect a user's ability to see things as they are. A person with blurry or poor vision or another type of vision disability might require larger text to perceive content on a website, whereas a person with color blindness might be affected by your website's color contrast, whether high or low. Therefore, it's essential to build websites so that people with any vision impairment can easily access them.
Assume a user who happens to be an amputee (lost a hand) is trying to fill out a form on your website. Due to this physical challenge, this individual might be unable to use the mouse or keyboard to navigate the site. However, if the platform supports dictation, the user can use the speech recognition option to dictate text.
A site containing video and audio content should provide an option for alternative text such as captions and subtitles. To illustrate, imagine an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing tries to access a video-streaming site. If this site supports ALT text, users can efficiently utilize that site regardless of their disability. With the text present, a person who is deaf can read and understand the content of the videos.
Popular Accessibility Testing Tools
To enable individuals with physical limitations to freely access software or hardware (computers, mobile devices, etc.), you can consider some of these assistive technologies.
Speech recognition software—Serves as a point of entry to the computer by converting the spoken words to text.
Screen magnification software—Can increase the monitor's size to make reading easier for those with vision impairments.
Screen reader software—Helps to read out the content on the screen.
Special keyboards—Created specifically for those with motor disabilities to ease typing.
Automated Accessibility Testing Tools
WAVE—Web accessibility testing software called Wave was created by Utah State University and the company WebAIM. It enables authors to improve the accessibility of their web content for people with disabilities. With the use of Wave, it's simple to see probable contrast flaws, test-size problems, perplexing structure aspects, and difficulties with accessible rich internet applications (ARIA), such as undefined elements.
ComplianceSheriff—By giving you control, consistency, and visibility, Compliance Sheriff assists in ensuring that all web material is accessible by every person in every location at all times. Web accessibility, privacy concerns, site quality, as well as brand integrity are just a few web governance issues that this technology addresses by automating content compliance.
A11y Color Contrast Accessibility Validator—This free tool analyzes your website's color contrast and can help you determine the perfect contrast between the text and background. According to the WCAG 2.1 Guidelines, this tool offers free color contrast analysis tools that'll show the color contrast issues of a webpage or selected color pair.
ACTF aDesigner—This is a disability simulator that assists designers in making sure that their applications and content are useable and accessible to people with visual impairments. Developers can utilize aDesigner to check the usability and accessibility of webpages for people with limited vision and blindness.
Tota11y—An excellent tool for identifying accessibility problems on your page is Tota11y. Without prior expertise, it enables any user to comprehend and correct accessibility problems while learning best practices. You can simply add the script to your site or add their bookmarklet and use it on any site.
Manual Accessibility Testing Tools
Pope Tech—Pope Tech makes an accessibility remediation tool available to instructors in Canvas, making it easy to identify your most- and least-accessible website areas. With the help of this tool, instructors may quickly and easily identify and address some accessibility issues.
Tenon—Tenon is an automated accessibility testing tool. It's API-first and therefore integrates quickly into your development process. Its purpose is to offer comprehensive automated accessibility testing coverage for all accessibility best practices.
Tanaguru—Tanaguru is an automated accessibility (a11y) testing tool that's open source and available under the AGPL license. It strongly emphasizes reliability and high levels of automation, offering accurate and thorough insights into your website.
Rocket Validator—Rocket Validator is the fastest accessibility scanner for large sites. Professional web developers use it to automatically and rapidly identify accessibility and HTML problems on websites.
Accessibility testing is an essential step in platform/application development that users often overlook. While it's imperative to consider the needs of nondisabled users, we should also consider inclusive practices for the disabled minority. By being proactive toward creating an accessible web for all users, you avoid all legal complications that can arise from violating accessibility regulations. Furthermore, you provide clients with the greatest possible user experience as they utilize your product. Finally, it's simpler to fix the accessibility problems or gaps that exist on most platforms today, thanks to a combination of manual and automated testing techniques that are already available.