What is Accessibility Testing? [Key Concept Explained]

What is Accessibility Testing?

Accessibility testing is a type of software testing to validate whether individuals with disabilities can use and access your software or web-based software application. Within accessibility testing, you check your software is effectively usable by individual people with varying disabilities like visual, auditory, motor, or cognitive impairments.

As you conduct different types of software testing to your software, similarly you need to perform accessibility testing. Accessibility testing is a subset of usability testing, which is itself a type of testing to perform when you want to release bug-free software. Moreover, if you are looking to ensure that your software works fine from all aspects, you must check these software testing types to validate your software from different angles.

Let’s know the goal of conducting accessibility testing.

What is the Aim of Accessibility Testing?

The primary goal of accessibility testing is to ensure that your software product is usable by people with a variety of abilities, including those with disabilities. This testing involves validating that the software meets established accessibility standards and guidelines. Specifically, accessibility testing aims to ensure the following points.

  • Inclusivity: Make sure your software is usable by as many people as possible, regardless of their physical or cognitive abilities.
  • Legal Compliance: Ensuring your software meets legal and regulatory requirements for accessibility. For instance, in the U.SThis could include compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.
  • Social Responsibility: Demonstrating a commitment to social responsibility by providing equal access to information and functionality.
  • Usability: Identifying and removing barriers that might prevent people with disabilities from using the software effectively. This could involve testing with assistive technologies like screen readers or alternative input devices.
  • User Experience: Providing a positive and equitable user experience for all users, regardless of their abilities.

5 Benefits of Accessibility Testing

Here are the core benefits of accessibility testing.

  1. Ensuring Your Software Reaches a Wider Audience

    Accessibility testing can open your software up to a broader user base. As there are millions of people worldwide who live with varying degrees of disabilities, you can make your software accessible to them. All you can do is to ensure your software is available and operable to them.

  2. Maintaining Legal and Regulatory Compliance

    Accessibility is not just good practice; in many cases, it’s a legal requirement. Laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act in the US require certain businesses to maintain accessible websites. Failing to meet these standards could lead to legal repercussions.

    Moreover, to ensure that the software meetings the important regulatory standards, you should perform compliance testing. Read an introduction on compliance testing and how it helps you to ensure and maintain regulations of industry standards.

  3. Improving Overall User Experience

    Implementing accessibility features often results in a better user experience for all users, not just those with disabilities. Features like clear navigation, readable text, and logical content structure can improve the experience for everyone.

  4. Boosting Your Brand’s Reputation and Social Responsibility

    By ensuring your software is accessible, you demonstrate a commitment to inclusivity and social responsibility. This way, you can boost your brand’s reputation and potentially lead to a more favourable public opinion.

  5. Reducing Maintenance and Update Costs

    Accessible software is typically more robust and has better-structured code, which can make it easier to maintain and update. This can reduce costs in the long run and help ensure your software remains functional and relevant as technologies evolve.

6 Limitations of Accessibility Testing

Let’s learn about the limitations of accessibility testing.

  1. Time and Resource Commitments Can Be High

    Accessibility testing is often a resource-intensive process. It involves a lot of effort and can be time-consuming, especially if not incorporated from the start of a project. Retrofitting accessibility into an existing system can be more complex and costly than building it from the beginning.

  2. Requires Specialized Skills and Knowledge

    To perform effective accessibility testing, you need an understanding of different types of disabilities, assistive technologies, and relevant guidelines and standards. This specialized knowledge can be a barrier if your team lacks this expertise.

  3. Impossible to Cover Every Scenario

    Despite your best efforts, it is challenging to account for all possible user scenarios and assistive technology combinations during testing. As a result, there may be instances where accessibility issues slip through.

  4. Lack of Standardized Testing Tools

    There are many accessibility testing tools, but there’s no single tool that can check for all accessibility issues. This lack of standardization can complicate the testing process and require the use of multiple tools to get a comprehensive evaluation.

  5. Awareness and Priority Issues

    Often, organizations may not fully comprehend the importance of web accessibility, which can lead to it being deprioritized or overlooked. Such a lack of awareness can limit the effectiveness of accessibility testing.

  6. Challenges With Automation

    While some aspects of accessibility testing can be automated, many checks require manual testing and human judgment, such as determining if the content makes sense when read by a screen reader. This can make the testing process slower and more labour-intensive than other forms of testing.

6 Best Practices to Follow for Accessibility Testing

Follow these six best practices when conducting accessibility testing.

  1. Understand Accessibility Guidelines

    Familiarize yourself with relevant accessibility guidelines, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), and ensure your product meets these standards.

  2. Use Automated and Manual Testing

    Use automated testing tools to identify easily detectable issues, such as missing alt text or colour contrast issues. However, remember that not all issues can be detected automatically. Manual testing, including using assistive technologies and simulating different user experiences, is also crucial.

  3. Test Multiple Devices and Browsers

    Ensure your product works well across different devices, operating systems, and browsers, as different combinations can significantly impact accessibility.

    For that, you can conduct compatibility testing as it allows you to check the product on different variants of systems, browsers, or devices. Read more about compatibility testing here.

  4. Include ARIA Attributes Where Necessary

    Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) attributes can enhance the accessibility of dynamic content and user interface components developed with JavaScript, HTML, and AJAX. Use these attributes wisely to make your web content and applications more accessible.

  5. Check for Sequential Reading Order

    Screen readers read web pages sequentially, so make sure the reading order of elements makes sense even when visual cues are removed.

  6. Involve People with Disabilities

    Whenever possible, involve users with different types of disabilities in your testing process. Their firsthand experience can help identify potential issues that might be missed otherwise.

In conclusion, accessibility testing is important to make sure that your software is usable by individuals with disabilities. In addition, your software should be promoting inclusivity, legal compliance, and a positive user experience. This way, you get three benefits which include expanding the software’s audience, boosting brand reputation, and reducing maintenance costs.

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Rakesh Patel

Written by

Rakesh Patel is the Founder and CEO of Space-O Technologies (Canada). He has 28 years of IT experience in business strategies, operations & information technology. He has expertise in various aspects of business like project planning, sales, and marketing, and has successfully defined flawless business models for the clients. A techie by mind and a writer at heart, he has authored two books – Enterprise Mobility: Strategy & Solutions and A Guide To Open311

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