The Importance of Web Accessibility Testing

Abhishek Dhoundiyal
Feb 4, 2021 · 8 min read

We all know that the trends, technology, and customer expectations are changing rapidly. And in today’s online landscape the reality is that, if you wanted to remain in the competition, you must adapt to the rapidly evolving changes in the digital world. In order to become successful and scalable, and to grow the companies must need to understand the end-user requirements.

Digital accessibility is no exception. Digital accessibility means creating digital content that’s accessible to anyone. It is an art of building the application for users with disabilities such as physical, vision, cognitive, and hearing disabilities.

For example, someone who is visually impaired or who have lost the ability to use their hands can still accurately navigate your website and its content. The more that companies understand what digital accessibility is and the current requirements for it, the more potential customers they’ll attract, the more their business will grow.

What is Web Accessibility?

Web accessibility is the inclusive practice of ensuring there are no barriers that prevent interaction with, or access to, websites on the World Wide Web by people with physical disabilities, situational disabilities, and socio-economic restrictions on bandwidth and speed.

Accessibility aims to cater to people of different abilities such as:

  • Visual Impairments.
  • Physical Impairment.
  • Hearing Impairment.
  • Cognitive Impairment
  • Learning Impairment

THE IMPORTANCE OF ACCESSIBILITY IN COVID-19 TIMES

The COVID-19 pandemic is changing everything around us. It is forcing society to change. In the time of this pandemic, we all are trying to connect to our old colleagues, friends, and family to reach out to them for their support, well-being or to have a daily chit chat. Which makes us rely more on digital or social networking.

What this crisis had taught us or teaching us?

This crisis taught or is teaching us how to live digitally through the web, whether it is to work, shop, or access the most basic services. This shift towards the digital, definitely comes to stay, as this crisis is making us change our habits of life.

As a result, a new urgency is growing: accessibility on the web. In this society, many older people or people with disabilities find themselves with barriers on the Internet because they do not have accessible pages or a system of accessibility adapted to their needs.

According to World Bank’s report, 15% of the world population lives with a disability; When everyone is using websites to book tickets, money transactions, online shopping or Facebook, and Twitter. Imagine over one billion users with disabilities are interacting with those websites using screen readers/assistive technologies in day-to-day life and are facing many difficulties. There are some websites that are not inaccessible to them, as they don’t support it.

Now let’s see how we can test the Web Accessibility!!!

What is Web Accessibility Testing?

By the definition, Web Accessibility Testing is a practice to ensure that the web/mobile applications are accessible for people who have disabilities such as blindness, hearing problems, motor or cognitive impairments. Testing web accessibility ensures that the web content is reachable to anyone without any barriers. It is often categorized under usability testing and needs to be included in the software testing life cycle.

The World Wide Consortium (W3C) has created the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines which defines the list of accessibility standards. The guidelines are classified under 4 principles:

Understanding the Four Principles of Accessibility

  • Perceivable — Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive. This means that users must be able to perceive the information being presented (it can’t be invisible to all of their senses).
  • Operable — User interface components and navigation must be operable. This means that users must be able to operate the interface (the interface cannot require interaction that a user cannot perform).
  • Understandable — Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable. This means that users must be able to understand the information as well as the operation of the user interface (the content or operation cannot be beyond their understanding).
  • Robust — Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies. This means that users must be able to access the content as technologies advance (as technologies and user agents evolve, the content should remain accessible).

**If any of these are not true, users with disabilities will not be able to use the Web.

Types of Web Accessibility Testing?

There are two types of Web Accessibility Testing:

  • Manual Web Accessibility Testing.
  • Automated Web Accessibility Testing.

The easiest and basic manual way of testing accessibility is keyboard accessibility. This has been done by pressing ‘tab’ key of the keyboard. Ideally, every link will get focused on every ‘tab’ press and thus the user will be able to navigate through the application. There are assisting technologies such as screen-readers (NVDA, JAWS, VoiceOver, Talkback, etc.). These screen readers will read what appears on the application and will help people with vision impairments to use and understand the web better.

If we consider an automated way of testing accessibility, then there are quite a lot of options such as browser plug-ins (Axe for Chrome and Firefox, Web Accessibility Toolbar, etc.), automated APIs (Axe, pa11y, etc.) and other tools such as Accessibility Inspector, JAWS Inspect, The Colour Contrast Analyser, etc.

Why Is Web Accessibility Testing Necessary?

Benefits of Web Accessibility Testing

By following web accessibility guidelines and doing accessibility testing, we are not only building an application accessible for the disabled, but we are also getting other benefits:

  • Avoiding legal complicationsMany countries have made it mandatory that websites must meet the accessibility requirements before going live. Accessibility testing must be done to meet legal compliances.
  • Potential growth in the business1 in 5 people are living with some sort of disability, which forms 19% of the UK’s population. So if the application is built by following accessible guidelines, that reaches people with disabilities as well and results in potential growth in your company’s revenue.
  • Accurate Search results If the website is built by keeping accessibility in mind, it will have rich text which will make search engines to find websites more easily as search engines will look for text while looking up the content.
  • Better User Experience — If digital content is made accessible, it can be useful for any user who utilizes your application as intended. Since keeping accessible design makes the application’s navigation, text clarity, appearance and many other features more appealing and user friendly.

Accessibility testing is necessary and important for the people, business and society — FOR OUR ENTIRE COMMUNITY. As we already know that 15% of the population have a disability, which is the reason Accessibility Testing has become important. It is important that product innovations are delivered to people with special needs as well. They require the implementation of special technologies in products.

Accessibility Testing Best Practices:

1) Using <AltText> for images: When an image is used on the page, it should have a meaningful text associated with that image, describing it with <AltText>. Complex images should have more extensive descriptions near the image (as a caption or descriptive summaries built right into a neighbouring paragraph). This enables screen-readers to read out what is the image on the screen.

2) Screen-reader Compatibility: Functionalities of the website must be accessible using both the keyboard and mouse so that they can be used with screen-readers as well.

3) Videos must have captions and Podcasts must have transcripts: If videos are present on the website, it must have captions, so that even people with hearing problems can enjoy watching them. Similarly for any podcast, the complete transcripts are mandatory. Both of these are not only helpful for people with disabilities, but for everyone.

4) Forms should be properly labelled: Forms must have the correct label to enable users to fill the form hassle-free.

5) Meaningful links Names: Websites should not have hyperlinks such as “Click Here” or “More” to redirect to another page. Instead, a link with meaningful information should be provided.

6) Tables should be properly aligned: If a table is present on the page, it must be well organized and structured in such a way that the overall alignment of the page is not broken.

7) Non-HTML and JavaScript: Non-HTML content such as PDF or Word documents must be easily accessible. In addition, JavaScript must be handled properly. Otherwise, a lot of issues could occur and the accessibility of the page will be impacted.

8) Color sensitivity: Be cautious with the colour selection. People with vision impairments will have a sensitivity to colours. There should not be any too low or too high contrast colours on the page. In addition, we must try to avoid colour driven instructions. For example, if any error occurs when filling up the page, the error message should be displayed instead of just highlighting the field.

Myths of Accessibility Testing:

Following are the Myths of Accessibility Testing:

Myth: Creating Accessible website is expensive

Fact: It is not expensive. Take the timeout to think about accessibility issues in the design stage itself along with basic testing. This will save money as well as rework.

Myth: Changing inaccessible websites to accessible website is time consuming and expensive

Fact: It is not necessary to incorporate all the changes at one time. Work on basic needs which are most necessary for disabled users.

Myth: Accessibility is plain and boring

Fact: You can make web pages attractive, but it should be designed in such a way that it can be accessible by all users. Also as per W3C web content accessibility guidelines — it strongly discourages the use of text-only pages.

Myth: Accessibility if for the Blind and Disabled

Fact: Following accessibility guidelines improves the overall usability of the software, which helps regular users as well.

Summary

Accessibility testing is a methodology explaining how easily one can navigate, access and understand web/mobile applications/content. It is very important to understand that accessibility is not just for people who are disabled but also helps everyone including older people, children, people who are left-handed, a person holding a baby, and many more. Just like any other testing, accessibility can also be tested by manual and automated options by keeping WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) standards as a reference. Accessibility testing needs to be carried out in software development cycles just like any other testing and should be included as early as possible...

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