loader image
Accessibility Testing: Social Commitment and Legal Compliance

Accessibility Testing: Social Commitment and Legal Compliance

18 January 2023 15 Minutes Read BY Adarsh Gupta

Imagine that you are blind and trying to book a flight on a website. You are using a screen reader to navigate the site, but you find that the buttons and links are unlabeled, and there are no alt tags on the images. This makes it difficult for you to use the site, and you become frustrated as you are unable to complete your task. How would you feel in this situation?

There are many instances where people with disabilities may have difficulty using products, services, or websites. For example, a screen reader may not be able to access the content of a website, or it may be difficult to use a mobile app with only one hand. These situations highlight the significance of accessibility testing to ensure that people with disabilities can effectively use these products and services.

As technology continues to advance, it’s important to ensure that everyone has equal access to the digital world. Accessibility testing plays a crucial role in this by identifying and addressing barriers that may prevent certain individuals from using a website or application. In this blog, we’ll explore the various techniques and tools used in accessibility testing, as well as best practices for creating accessible digital products. Join us as we work towards a more inclusive digital landscape for all.

Table of contents:

 

What is accessibility, and why is it important?

The World Health Organization estimates that 1.3 billion people today live with a disability, comprising 16% of the global population. Any product or service is said to be accessible if they are usable by people who are differently abled.

An accessibility practice involves making websites, mobile applications, and other digital products or services accessible to all the people who are using them. A person can be disabled in many different ways, which may affect their ability to use products.

Visual, hearing, mobility, and cognitive disabilities can all pose barriers to accessibility. The developer has to make sure the final result is an accessible product, and the tester has to ensure the product is accessible.

Accessibility is important for several reasons, including

Accessibility Testing importance

 

  • inclusiveness: Accessibility ensures that everyone can access the website or application since everything is online now and no one wants to be excluded.
  • Improves user experience: Since an accessible website/application is usable by disabled people, it improves their overall experience.
  • Legal requirements: In many countries, some laws require digital products and services to be accessible to people with disabilities.
  • Business benefits:  Accessible websites and other digital products can benefit your business in several ways, as they reach a wider audience, including people with disabilities.
  • Social responsibility:  Accessibility is a social responsibility that everyone should take seriously. You can improve the lives of people with disabilities by making your products and services accessible.

 

Social Commitments

There are several social commitments that companies and organizations can make to support accessibility testing and improve the accessibility of their products and services. Some examples of these commitments might include:

  • Developing and implementing policies and procedures to ensure that accessibility is considered at all stages of the design and development process.
  • Providing training and resources to employees to help them understand the importance of accessibility and how to design and develop accessible products and services.
  • Engaging with disabled individuals and organizations representing the disabled community to better understand the needs and preferences of this group.
  • Collaborating with accessibility experts and organizations to stay up-to-date on best practices and industry standards.
  • Regularly evaluating and testing products and services for accessibility to identify and address any barriers to access.
  • By making these types of commitments, companies and organizations can demonstrate their commitment to accessibility and work to create products and services that are accessible to all.

Making products and services accessible can help people with disabilities participate more fully in society, which can improve their overall quality of life. Accessibility not only benefits people with disabilities, but it can also make products and services better for everyone.

 

Types of Disabilities and Their Impact on Accessibility

People with disabilities may have difficulty accessing and using the web because of a variety of disabilities. Several types of disabilities can affect web accessibility, including:

Visual impairment: People with visual disabilities such as blindness, and low vision might have difficulties seeing the visual content on the page.

Auditory impairment: Audio content on the web may be difficult to hear for people with auditory difficulties, such as deafness or hearing loss.

Motor impairments: People who have motor impairments, such as spinal cord injuries or mobility issues, may find it challenging to use a mouse or keyboard to navigate the internet.

 

Accessibility Testing

Accessibility testing is the practice of testing a product, service, or device to ensure that it is accessible to people with disabilities. This can include testing for visual, auditory, motor, and cognitive impairments and other types of disabilities.

The goal of accessibility testing is to identify any barriers to access that may exist and to make recommendations for how to remove or mitigate those barriers so that the product, service, or device is as accessible as possible. Accessibility testing is an integral part of the design and development process and can help to ensure that a product is usable by the widest possible audience.

Here is a simple breakdown of accessibility testing:

Accessibility Testing steps

 

Planning: This stage involves identifying the goals and objectives of the accessibility testing, selecting the target audience and testing environment, and developing a testing plan.

Preparation and design: As you plan your test, you will identify certain aspects that will most impact users. You can prepare and gather the necessary tools, resources, and guidelines that you should follow.

Implementation: During this stage, testers evaluate the product or service for accessibility issues using various methods, such as manual testing, automated testing, or user testing.

Analyze: At this stage, testers review the results of testing to identify any issues. As a result, recommendations may be created to improve the product’s accessibility.

Reporting:  Testers compile and present their findings in a report. This report is usually shared with the development team and includes a summary of the testing process, a list of identified issues, and suggestions for improving the accessibility of the product or service.

Here are some specific tests that can be performed to ensure that an application is accessible for users:

Test for sufficient color contrast: Use a color contrast checker to ensure that the text and background colors have sufficient contrast, as defined by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). This is important for users with low vision or color blindness.

Test for highlighted links: Confirm that highlighted links are distinguishable from surrounding text and can be easily identified by low-vision users.

Calculate the recommended line height: Multiply the font size by 1.5 to determine the recommended line height. For example, if the font size is 16 pixels, the recommended line height would be 24 pixels.

Test for time-based interactions: Provide the user with the option of pausing or adjusting time-based interactions, such as quizzes and carousels, since certain users may have difficulty completing these interactions on time.

Mobile device testing: Test the application on various mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets, to ensure that it is accessible to users who use these kinds of devices.

 

Tools and techniques for accessibility testing

There are several tools and techniques that can be used to conduct accessibility testing to ensure that a website or other digital product is accessible to people with disabilities. Some common tools and techniques include:

Automated accessibility testing tools

Using automated accessibility testing tools, you are able to scan a website or other digital content and identify potential accessibility problems. There are many such tools, and some of the most popular ones include

WAVE:

WAVE is a set of assessment tools that authors can use to make their web content more accessible to people with disabilities. WAVE can identify many accessibility issues and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) errors, but it also facilitates human evaluation of web content.

Automated accessibility testing tool, WAVE

 

axe®

The axe® tool is a browser extension that can be used to scan a webpage for potential accessibility issues. It provides a report on any issues it finds and suggests ways to fix them.

Accessibility testing automation tool, axe

 

Google Lighthouse

The Google Lighthouse, like the majority of accessibility tools, evaluates web content in reference to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). WCAG, which is published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), is the accepted digital accessibility standard.

Accessibility testing automation tool, Google Lighthouse

 

Screen readers

A screen reader is a type of assistive technology that outputs text and image content as speech or braille. It basically reads the content displayed on a screen out loud. It is primarily used by people who have low vision to access digital content.

 

Text-to-speech software

An application that converts written text into audio is known as text-to-speech software. You can use it to read electronic documents aloud, like news articles, reports, and eBooks. Sometimes you don’t need to install any special program or tool, there are some inbuilt libraries available in programming languages, with which we can build a text to speech software within the application.

 

Magnification software

Software that enables users to enlarge website content is known as magnification software, and it is beneficial for those with visual impairments. The features of magnification software include things like pointer trails, color adjustments, and adjustable magnification.

 

Web AIM Color Contrast Checker

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines state that normal text for Level AA should have a color contrast ratio of 4.5:1. The normal text must have a contrast ratio of 7:1 to reach Level AAA.

Accessibility testing Tool, Web AIM

This tool will analyze the two colors you’ve selected and provide the color contrast ratio. You can determine whether a color scheme will violate any accessibility guidelines before you start using it.

 

Manual Testing in Accessibility

There are several steps you can take to manually test the accessibility of a product or service; some of the recommended ways include:

Testing a product or service on actual people with disabilities can be an effective way to judge its accessibility and spot any usability barriers. The development team can then assess what needs to be improved.  Recruiting a group of people and giving them instructions on how to use the product is the first step.

Manual Testing in Accessibility Testing

 

The users can go through the application and then share their thoughts and overall experience, which will help identify any issues they face.

 

Simulation

With the advance of technology, it is possible to simulate what it would be like to use a good or service while having a disability. For example, a developer might use a screen reader simulation tool to test the accessibility of a website or application for users who are blind or have low vision.

 

Heuristic evaluation

It is a technique for assessing a product’s or service’s usability that involves using a set of predefined heuristics, or guidelines, to spot potential usability problems.

The guidelines may be based on standards such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). WCAG is a set of internationally recognized guidelines for making web content more accessible to people with disabilities.

 

As a software tester, there are several key considerations and best practices to keep in mind when testing for accessibility in web applications:

  • Use automated tools to identify potential accessibility issues: There are various tools available, such as aXe and WAVE, that can help identify potential accessibility issues, such as missing alt text or insufficient color contrast. These tools can serve as a starting point for manual testing.
  • Plan for accessibility from the start:  It is recommended to start taking care of accessibility in the development stage as well. This means considering accessibility throughout the development process, rather than trying to retroactively make an existing product or service accessible.
  • Follow accessibility standards and guidelines:  Use accessibility standards such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) as a guide for designing and developing your product or service.
  • Test for accessibility: Conduct user testing with individuals who have disabilities to identify any accessibility issues and make necessary improvements.
  • Test with users with disabilities: It is important to involve users with disabilities in testing, as they can provide valuable insights and feedback on the accessibility of the application.
  • Ensure that all functionality is accessible. It is important to ensure that all features and functionality of the application are accessible to users with disabilities, including forms, buttons, and links.
  • Test with different levels of accessibility: Test the application with different levels of accessibility enabled, such as high contrast mode or larger text, to ensure that it is usable for users with varying needs.

Many additional techniques can help the tester and developer create an accessible product, and they have to make sure that all users can see the page’s content.

 

To ensure that the application is accessible to everyone, many nations have adopted specific measures as well as various legal and regulatory frameworks. Here are a few examples of legal and regulatory frameworks for web accessibility:

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG): 

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

The World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Accessibility Initiative has a number of accessibility recommendations, including the WCAG guidelines.

It is a set of recommendations that are widely accepted for enhancing the accessibility of web content for those with disabilities. It offers a list of technical and functional specifications that may be used to assess how accessible web content is.

 

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The ADA is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in the United States.

It applies to websites and online services that are considered “public accommodations” and requires that they be accessible to individuals with disabilities.

According to the ADA, “accessible site” refers to a site, facility, work environment, service, or program that is easy to approach, enter, operate, participate in, and/or use safely and with dignity by a person with a disability.

 

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (RPwD Act)

In order to safeguard and advance the rights of people with disabilities, India has passed the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (RPwD Act). It establishes a system for the defense and advancement of the rights of people with disabilities and offers a legal framework for doing so.

These are just a few examples; many other nations have taken various steps to guarantee that everyone is treated fairly and that no one is overlooked because of their disability. This is one of the most important reasons to create a user-friendly application.

 

Common mistakes to avoid in accessibility testing

Testers are humans, and they are bound to make mistakes. However, here are some of the most common mistakes that software testers should avoid when conducting accessibility testing.

Here are some of the common mistakes that should be avoided in accessibility testing:

  1. Not tested with a wide range of assistive technologies and devices: You should consider testing with various assistive tools so that everyone has access to your website.
  2. Inadequate testing: It’s essential to test for accessibility early in the design process and to continue testing throughout the development process. By doing so, accessibility can be built into the design from the start rather than being added later.
  3. A lack of thorough testing of all pages and functions: Rather than just testing a few pages or the most frequently used features on your website or application, you should test all of its pages and functionality.
  4. Relying solely on automated testing tools: Automated testing tools can be a useful part of an accessibility testing strategy, but they are not a replacement for manual testing by human evaluators.
  5. Start from the beginning: Accessibility should be considered throughout the design and development stages to ensure that all users can access and use the website or application. A few examples are shown below:

    Not providing alt text for images: Without providing alt text for an image, it will result in a negative experience for users who depend on screen readers.

    Keyboard Focus: When developing accessible websites, keep keyboard focus in mind. If you don’t manage keyboard focus appropriately, users who can’t use other input methods will struggle to interact with your website. It is a good idea to outline the input section to indicate which input element is currently selected by the user.

  6. Testing on various devices and environments: We developers frequently overlook the fact that some browsers permit certain features while others do not; it is critical to ensure that the application is accessible across almost all platforms and hosting OS environments.
  7.   Relying on certain tests only: Developers might only consider a few test cases and might ignore the other ones. Not only people who are having poor vision or hearing problems but accessible applications should also be to accessible people having neurocognitive disorders, mobility challenges, etc.

It is important to make sure you build an application that is accessible, and though it might not be 100% perfect, we should maintain the minimum standard to make sure that no one is ignored in the first place.

References

Conclusion

Congratulations on reaching this far! You’re a fantastic reader!

In this detailed blog on accessibility testing, we looked at how we can make our application accessible. We have looked into various accessibility tools that are popular in the testing community. We have also covered some of the best practices that ought to be followed when conducting accessibility testing.

By making commitments to accessibility and using a combination of automated and manual testing tools, companies and organizations can work to create products that are inclusive and accessible to all.