What is Accessibility Testing?

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What is Accessibility Testing?

Accessibility testing is a type of software testing that ensures websites, web apps, or digital products can be used effectively by people with disabilities such as visual, hearing, mobility, and cognitive impairments.

To achieve this, developers and testers thoroughly evaluate the product against established accessibility standards and laws such as WCAG Compliance to solve any accessibility issues.

The objective of accessibility testing is to create an inclusive digital environment by removing any accessibility barriers.

Examples of Accessibility Testing

A few primary examples include color contrast, text alternatives, ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) testing, and keyboard navigation:

  • Color Contrast: Testing the color contrast of text against its background to ensure it meets the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) standard, such as a minimum contrast ratio for normal text and large text.
  • Text Alternatives: Alt text or alternative text is for users who cannot see the images where testers verify images for appropriate alt attributes or aria-labels.
  • Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) Testing: Ensuring that ARIA roles and attributes are correctly applied to interactive elements like buttons, form controls, and live regions to enhance the screen reader experience.
  • Keyboard Accessibility: This implies navigating the website or app using only the keyboard  (e.g., the “Tab” key). It’s important to test keyboard shortcuts that can access, focus, and activate all interactive elements, such as links, buttons, and form controls.

Why should Companies focus on Accessibility Testing?

Did you know that an estimated 1.3 billion people worldwide experience significant disability?  

Ensuring accessibility is a matter of equal rights. It aligns with fairness and equal opportunities for people with disabilities to participate fully in society, including the digital world. There is an emphasis on accessibility testing for the following reasons: 

  • Legal Compliance
  • Inclusivity
  • Brand Awareness

Legal Compliance

To comply with legal requirements, websites and apps must be accessible to people with disabilities globally. 

  • In 2023, 77% of accessibility lawsuits are being filed against organizations with under $25 million in revenue. 
  • The fine for these regulations is about $75,000 – $150,000, a huge sum for growing companies, especially compared to the cost of making your website accessible.

Inclusivity

Commitment to inclusivity is a social responsibility that positively impacts the organization’s reputation.

  • By 2050, it is estimated that 16% of the world’s population will be over 65, increasing the need for accessible digital experiences.
  • By catering to individuals with disabilities, businesses can tap into a larger customer base and enhance user engagement. Accessible websites and apps attract a broader audience, fostering business growth and sustainability.
  • Apart from the business implications, it also holds a moral responsibility.

Understanding Digital Accessibility Testing Standards

The WCAG compliance provides a comprehensive framework for creating web content that is perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust for all users, including those with disabilities. 

  • WCAG stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. 
  • It is a set of internationally recognized guidelines developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to ensure digital content is accessible to people with disabilities.

4 WCAG Principles

The main goal of any accessibility compliance testing should be to determine if a web application is compatible with the 4 WCAG principles known as POUR: 

  1. Perceivable
  2. Operable
  3. Understandable
  4. Robust

Further, there are 3 conformance levels in WCAG

  1. Level A is the minimum conformance level to ensure web content is accessible for most users with disabilities.
  2. Level AA is a higher level of conformance than Level A and is designed to ensure web content is accessible to a broader range of users with disabilities, including those with severe disabilities.
  3. Level AAA is the highest level of conformance and is designed to ensure that web content is accessible to all users, regardless of disability.

Legal Acts Followed in Different Countries

Governments mandate companies to comply with accessibility guidelines as it is consistent with the principles of equal rights, legal obligations, social responsibility, and market considerations. The goal is to establish a more inclusive and equitable society worldwide, allowing everyone to participate fully.

Here are examples of web accessibility compliances in different regions:

RegionLaws / CompliancesOverview
USAAmericans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ADA Compliance requires public businesses and organizations to provide accessible digital content and services. ADA Testing includes websites, mobile apps, and other online platforms.
USASection 508It requires federal organizations to provide accessible digital content and services. Section 508 Compliance includes all federal websites, and electronic documentation.
UKEquality Act 2010It covers disability discrimination and requires online service providers to make reasonable adjustments to ensure accessibility.
EUEuropean Union Web Accessibility DirectiveThe directive mandates that every website and app in the public sector must have an accessibility statement. It also requires the implementation of a feedback mechanism, which allows users to bring accessibility issues to the attention of website administrators or request access to inaccessible content. 
CanadaAccessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)AODA Compliance is a provincial law in Ontario, Canada that aims to make the province accessible and prohibits discrimination on various grounds, including disability. As a result, government agencies and organizations providing services to the public must ensure their digital content is accessible.
AustraliaDisability Discrimination Act (DDA)The DDA requires that public and private sector organizations provide equal access to goods, services, and facilities, including digital content, to individuals with disabilities.
IndiaRights of Persons with Disabilities Act (RPwD Act)This mandates that the government, private organizations, and educational institutions make electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities.

Note: Companies can face legal risks and penalties of up to $150,000 by not adhering to accessibility standards, but following guidelines can mitigate these risks.

Use Cases for Digital Accessibility Testing

Common use cases across different industries and domains include compliance with prevailing standards to test and fix accessibility bugs that users with special requirements might face daily.

  • E-Learning:  Accessibility testing in this domain allows students with disabilities to have the same educational opportunities as their peers. This involves checking resources for closed video captions, alt text on images, and keyboard navigation through course content.
  • Medical and Healthcare: To ensure disabled individuals can access vital health information, book appointments, and access medical services. Accessibility testing of electronic health records, voice-activated technologies, and captioning services is critical..
  • Banking and Financial Services: This encompasses testing the bank’s website for screen reader compatibility to ensure that individuals with visual impairments can access their accounts and perform transactions. Financial institutions must ensure that their account registration, fund transfers, and bill payments are accessible to all.
  • Government and Public Sector: Governments provide essential services and information online. Ensuring accessibility of these official online platforms is critical. Official documents, reports, and publications should be created with accessibility in mind.
  • Public Transportation and Travel: Transportation services must prioritize accessibility features like screen reader compatibility, easy navigation, and alternative text for their mobile apps and websites. This allows people with disabilities to plan their travel and book easily.
  • E-commerce Portals: It is important to ensure that online shopping platforms are accessible to people with disabilities. This means they should be able to browse products, add to the cart, and easily complete transactions. Images of products should have descriptive alt text to help users with visual impairment. 

Who should perform Accessibility Testing?

To ensure digital experiences are inclusive and meet the needs of all users, it is important to have a combination of different teams involved in accessibility testing.

  • Product Managers:  They should ensure accessibility is considered in the product roadmap and allocate resources for testing and remediation.
  • Designers: It’s crucial to involve designers in the accessibility process to ensure that the UI and UX  are designed with accessibility as a key consideration. 
  • Testers:  Accessibility experts conduct in-depth evaluations of compliance with accessibility guidelines and report issues to developers. During functional testing, QA teams ensure accessibility principles are met by identifying common web accessibility issues.
  • Developers: Developers are responsible for implementing and fixing accessibility issues. They should be trained in accessibility best practices and perform code reviews to comply with accessibility standards.
  • Legal Teams: In some cases, organizations may need to ensure compliance with global accessibility laws, and they can play a role in setting policies and overseeing accessibility initiatives.

No matter who performs it, accessibility isn’t a one-time project. It’s an ongoing initiative whose continued success is built on ensuring that existing and future product features remain accessible. 

Types of Accessibility Testing 

Teams can deploy manual, automated, or hybrid testing methods based on their advantages, limitations, use cases, and overall project needs. Ideally, both manual and automated testing should be used for a well-rounded approach. 

Difference between Manual Accessibility Testing and Automated Accessibility Testing

Manual Accessibility TestingAutomated Accessibility Testing
Definition Manual web accessibility testing involves human testers examining a website or web application to identify accessibility issues. Automated accessibility involves testing tools that scan and analyze web content to identify potential accessibility issues.
AdvantagesIt is essential for uncovering nuanced or context-specific accessibility challenges that automated tools may not detect. They help quickly identify common accessibility problems, providing developers and testers with feedback on areas that need improvement. 
LimitationsManual testing can be time-consumingAutomated tools may not fully grasp the context or intent behind certain elements, especially those that require subjective evaluation
Use CasesSetting up the test environment with the necessary tools and assistive technologies to evaluate forms/input fields or review multimedia content for captions, transcripts, and audio descriptions.Using automated tools to scan the website for accessibility issues, automatically analyzing the HTML, CSS, and JavaScript for potential violations of accessibility standards.

Components and Metrics of Accessibility Testing

First, consider different disabilities requiring additional assistance when conducting web accessibility testing. Your accessibility tests must guarantee a seamless experience for all users, including those who face the following obstacles:

  1. Visual Impairment: People with visual impairments encounter obstacles, including complete blindness, color blindness, or other types of vision loss. Despite these challenges, there are many ways to make videos and text accessible to them.
  2. Hearing Impairment: This category pertains to individuals who encounter hindrances in hearing-spoken communication or digital media due to deafness or other types of hearing impairment.
  3. Mobility Impairment: This pertains to individuals who may have difficulty with physical movement, including using the physical components of technology like a keyboard or mouse.
  4. Cognitive Impairment: This encompasses memory, concentration, or decision-making difficulties.

Once you’ve fully understood the obstacles people with disabilities face, your team needs to map the testing roadmap to the following key components for a smooth process. 

Here are the key components of performing accessibility testing:

  • Evaluating Compliance: The most widely recognized standard is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which provides comprehensive guidelines for creating accessible digital content. 
  • Usability and Interaction: Focus on whether content is perceivable and how it can be interacted with. This includes keyboard navigation, focus management, form interactions, and the responsiveness of user interface elements.
  • Testing Different Environments: Test how the website or app performs on different browsers, operating systems, and devices. Ensuring compatibility across diverse device-browser-OS combinations is a non-negotiable for comprehensive accessibility.
  • Analyzing Design and Layout: Evaluating aspects like color contrast, font choices, layout structure, and multimedia elements ensures they are designed in a way that supports accessibility.
  • Remediation Recommendations: These recommendations aim to help developers and designers make necessary changes to improve accessibility.
  • Documenting and Reporting Findings: Testers document their findings, which may include specific issues, their impact on users, and recommendations for improvements. A comprehensive report is typically provided to stakeholders and development teams.

Accessibility Testing Metrics

Accessibility testing metrics are quantitative measures used to test website accessibility, evaluate the level of accessibility, track progress, identify improvement areas, and ensure compliance with accessibility standards.

 

A few key Metrics include:

  1. Error Density
  2. Compliance with WCAG Levels
  3. Unique Issues
  4. User Impact
  5. Keyboard Accessibility Score
  6. Screen Reader Compatibility

How to perform Accessibility Testing using BrowserStack Accessibility Testing Tool

BrowserStack Accessibility Testing is a single platform to identify basic and complex accessibility issues at blazing speed. It is a one-Stop Solution to 

  • Test, 
  • Report, and 
  • Monitor Web Accessibility Health.

Run WCAG Tests using BrowserStack Accessibility

Here’s a quick sneak peek of the BrowserStack Accessibility Tool

Test Web Accessibility

You can test Web Accessibility for your website using BrowserStack Accessibility Testing Tool. It provides core features to:

  • Test any user workflow in a single scan using Workflow Scanner
  • Identify complex accessibility issues by answering simple, auto-generated questions using Assisted Tests
  • Precisely locate issue sources using Screen Readers on Real Devices

Check WCAG compliance accessibility for webpage component

You can run Workflow Scanner to Scan user flows across full page scan or test part of a page for accessibility. Use the Workflow scanner to automatically identify and report basic issues such as missing alt text, insufficient color contrast, among others at blazing speed.

Try BrowserStack Accessibility Testing

It allows you to choose the required WCAG versions and its conformance level, for example, WCAG 2.0 AA. Upon running the scanner it highlights all the Web Accessibility Issues along with its details.

Report Web Accessibility Issues

BrowserStack Accessibility Testing Tool provides you access to all reports from the past and present on one single dashboard. Combine multiple reports into one in seconds, and use insightful issue summaries to better inform debugging.

You can get details on Issue Summary and Workflow Log Reports within the dashboard. All reports contain issues that are grouped on the basis of violating WCAG guidelines. It enables easier VPAT report creation. 

You can also select multiple reports to create a consolidated report that can be shared or exported as a CSV file.

Monitor Web Accessibility Health

It also allows you to schedule scans at regular intervals and get a detailed Accessibility report. Upon the completion of the workflow scan, you can get details on Issue Summary and Workflow Log Reports within the dashboard. 

Monitor WCAG Compliance using BrowserStack Accessibility Tool

Schedule Website Scan for Accessibility Check Now

Conclusion

Web accessibility plays a key role in ensuring inclusivity. It helps create web applications that can be accessed by all irrespective of their disabilities. Through WCAG Principles and Guidelines, a detailed framework has been set to test accessibility and ensure that the website has an all-inclusive design.

By running Accessibility Tests, you can keep a check on accessibility issues and deliver web content that is easily accessible to all.

What is Accessibility Testing

Check WCAG Compliance for your website using Accessibility Testing Tool