Accessibility Testing for Digital Products
By following accessibility design principles and testing your software, you can eliminate barriers and ensure maximum accessibility for all.
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The majority of people find using the internet on the web to be simple. But when we look at a different demographic group with difficulties, this is not the case.
According to WHO, over 1 billion people live with some form of disability. Many of them face challenges in using digital products.
Digital products must be functional, accessible, and helpful to this category of users as well; they must not make distinctions between users based on factors such as disabilities and impairments.
To avoid these issues you must ensure accessibility in software development as well as accessibility in design. By following accessibility design principles and testing your software, you can eliminate barriers and ensure maximum accessibility for all.
What Is Accessibility Testing?
Accessibility testing is the practice of testing a product or application to ensure that it can be accessed and used by individuals with a wide range of abilities. Ensuring that your products are accessible improves user experience and caters to large groups of people.
It is a growing field, as more and more digital products are produced. The latest annual Forrester Global State of Design Teams Survey found that 36% of respondents had a top-down commitment to accessibility.
Accessibility testing is especially important in industries like healthcare, education, and government, where failure to adhere to accessibility guidelines can result in fines, lawsuits, and additional work.
Web, app, and video accessibility cases rose by over a quarter in 2020 compared to the previous year, reaching over 3,500 cases.
How To Get Started With Accessibility Testing
Identify Common Types of Impairments
There are many impairments and disabilities that impact a person’s ability to interact with your digital product. Start with these categories: hearing, color blindness, low vision, motor skill impairment, cognitive or learning disabilities, speech, non-visual, seizures, dexterity, and age-related impairments.
Get Familiar With Relevant Standards and Regulations
Accessibility standards outline what accessibility in digital products is. These standards cover a variety of aspects and types of accessibility testing, including web design, web content, and multimedia.
These standards help to make digital products accessible to everyone:
- WCAG 2.0 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) is the most widely followed accessibility standard. It is made up of twelve guidelines arranged around four concepts: websites must be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.
- WAI-ARIA (Web Accessibility Initiative - Accessible Rich Internet Applications) is a technical specification that offers a framework for improving web content and application accessibility and interoperability. This guide is mostly intended for developers.
- The EU's Web Accessibility Directive improves access for individuals with impairments to public websites and mobile apps. The Directive mandates each website and mobile app to include an accessibility statement, a feedback system for users to report accessibility issues, and frequent monitoring of public sector websites and applications.
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates some companies to offer reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities. Web content should be accessible to blind and deaf users, as well as those who require to navigate using speech, screen readers, or other assistive technology.
Create User Journey Maps
Once you identify common impairments you need to account for and guidelines you need to follow, you can create user journey maps. User journey mapping involves identifying all the possible ways that a user could interact with your product or application and identifying all of the steps or interactions that the user has to go through.
This can help you identify gaps in accessibility.
You can also include users with different impairments and disabilities in user research interviews. For example, you can interview people with motor skill impairments, color blindness, and cognitive or learning disabilities to better understand how your product can be more accessible for different users.
Test Accessibility as Early as Possible
Accessibility testing is frequently taken into account during the exploratory testing stage. But implementing accessibility testing in the initial test cycles would be much more beneficial. Early detection and remediation of accessibility problems are critical.
Test Your Mock-Ups and Prototypes With Users With Disabilities
Testing your mock-ups and prototypes with users with disabilities or impairments is another way to identify accessibility issues in your product. You can conduct remote interviews, user testing, or remote usability testing to help identify accessibility issues. You can also recruit testers from organizations that focus on accessibility, such as blind, deaf, and motor skill-impaired people, to conduct usability testing on your prototypes.
Use Accessibility Testing Tools
There are many tools that can help you follow accessibility guidelines and automate accessibility testing. Many of them are even designed with specific regulations in mind.
W3C has created W3C Validator, a checker that helps you ensure that all of your code is correct and validated. It gives you instant results that are easy to read.
Most web accessibility testing tools fall into the following categories:
- Color blindness simulators and color contrast analyzers — help you identify if your color combinations are usable for people with color blindness
- Readability analyzers — help you identify if your content is readable for people with various reading levels
- Keyboard accessibility tools — help you identify if your website is accessible for keyboard-only users
- Code analyzers — help you identify accessibility problems in your source code
Over to You
Accessibility testing is an important part of digital product development. You must ensure that your products are functional, accessible, and helpful for everyone, including people with disabilities and impairments.
Including accessibility in your product design and development process can help you create products that cater to a larger audience and improve user experience.
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