What is WCAG Testing and How to do it?
By Mamta Singh, Community Contributor - June 8, 2023
Accessibility testing is a type of testing that is performed to ensure that a software application or product is easily accessible and usable by people with special needs. To ensure that such users were catered to in a standardized manner, the International Standard for Accessibility created the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG.
- What is WCAG Testing?
- Importance of WCAG Testing
- How Web Accessibility is Measured?
- Understanding WCAG Guidelines
- Types of Conformance Levels
- How to perform WCAG Testing ?
- Manual Testing Techniques
- Automated Testing Techniques
- Combination of Manual and Automated Testing Techniques
- Common Accessibility Issues and Solutions
What is WCAG Testing?
Accessibility testing ensures that the functionalities offered in web and mobile applications are available to all users, including differently-abled persons who experience some form of blindness (such as color blindness or low vision), hearing disabilities, or physical or cognitive disabilities.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are developed through the W3C process to provide a shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the international needs of individuals, organizations, and governments.
Importance of WCAG Testing
The importance of WCAG testing lies in creating inclusive and accessible digital experiences for all users, regardless of their abilities.
Here are some key reasons why WCAG testing is significant:
- Accessibility: WCAG testing helps ensure that people with disabilities can access and use websites and web applications effectively. Disabilities can include visual impairments, hearing impairments, motor impairments, cognitive disabilities, and more. By conforming to WCAG standards, websites become more accessible to a wider audience, improving inclusivity.
- Legal Compliance: In many countries, including the United States (under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act) and the European Union (under the Web Accessibility Directive), there are legal requirements for websites and web applications to be accessible to people with disabilities. WCAG testing helps organizations meet these legal obligations, minimizing the risk of legal action and potential penalties.
- User Experience: Accessibility and usability go hand in hand. WCAG testing helps identify and fix barriers that could hinder the user experience for people with disabilities. By addressing accessibility issues, websites become more user-friendly, enhancing the user experience.
- Reputation and Brand Image: Organizations prioritizing accessibility demonstrate their commitment to inclusivity and social responsibility. By ensuring their websites conform to WCAG standards, businesses can enhance their reputation, attract a larger customer base, and build a positive brand image.
- SEO Benefits: WCAG compliance can positively impact search engine optimization (SEO). Many accessibility practices align with good SEO practices, such as providing clear and descriptive headings, alternative text for images, and structured content. WCAG testing helps improve website quality and can increase search engine rankings.
How Web Accessibility is Measured?
Web accessibility can be measured in several ways, including:
- Conformance to accessibility standards: This is the most common way to measure web accessibility. There are several accessibility standards that websites can be evaluated against, including the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). WCAG is a set of guidelines developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) that define how web content can be accessible to people with disabilities.
- User testing: User testing is another way to measure web accessibility. This involves testing a website with people with disabilities to see how easy it is for them to use. User testing can help to identify accessibility issues that may not be apparent from a conformance review.
- Perceived accessibility: Perceived accessibility is a measure of how accessible a website appears to be to users. This can be measured through surveys, interviews, and other feedback forms.
Perceived accessibility is important because it can help to identify accessibility issues that may not be a problem for people with disabilities but may be a problem for other users, such as older adults or people with low literacy skills.
Understanding WCAG Guidelines
Overview of Accessibility Testing WCAG 2.1 Guidelines:
- Perceivable: Content must be perceivable by people with disabilities. This means that content must be presented in ways that can be understood by people who are blind, have low vision, or have other visual impairments.
- Operable: Content must be operable by people with disabilities. This means that content must be able to be used by people who are unable to use a mouse or keyboard, or who have other physical impairments.
- Understandable: Content must be understandable by people with disabilities. This means that content must be written in a clear, easy-to-understand way and does not rely on sensory or cognitive abilities that people with disabilities may not have.
- Robust: Content must be robust enough to be interpreted by various assistive technologies. This means that content must be coded in a way consistent with web standards and that does not rely on proprietary technologies or techniques.
Types of Conformance Levels
There are three types of conformance levels in WCAG 2.0: Level A, Level AA, and Level AAA.
- Level A is the minimum level of conformance. It is designed to ensure that web content is accessible to most users with disabilities.
- Level AA is a higher level of conformance than Level A. It is designed to ensure that web content is accessible to a broader range of users with disabilities, including those with more severe disabilities.
- Level AAA is the highest level of conformance. It is designed to ensure that web content is accessible to all users, regardless of disability.
Also Read: What is ADA Testing and why should you do it?
How to perform WCAG Testing ?
There are several ways to perform WCAG testing. The most common methods are:
- Automated testing uses software tools to scan web content for potential accessibility issues. Automated testing can be a quick and easy way to identify many potential issues. Still, it is important to note that automated tools could be better and can miss some issues.
- Manual testing involves a human tester inspecting web content for potential accessibility issues. Manual testing can be more thorough than automated testing but more time-consuming and expensive.
Manual Testing Techniques
Manual testing is often used with automated testing to provide a more comprehensive testing coverage. Manual testing can be used to test for things that automated testing tools cannot, such as usability issues and user experience.
Some of the most common techniques include:
- Exploratory testing: It is a type where the tester does not have a predefined test plan. Instead, the tester explores the software and tries to find bugs. Exploratory testing can be a very effective way to find bugs, but it can also be time-consuming and difficult to do well.
- Boundary value analysis: This type of testing focuses on the boundaries of the input data. For example, suppose the input data is a number. In that case, the tester might test the minimum and maximum values and values just below and above the minimum and maximum values.
- Equivalence partitioning: Equivalence partitioning is a type of testing where the tester divides the input data into equivalence classes. Each equivalence class represents a set of input data that behaves similarly. For example, if the input data is a number, the tester might divide the input data into two equivalence classes: numbers that are greater than or equal to 0, and numbers that are less than 0.
- Decision table testing: Decision table testing is a type of testing where the tester uses a decision table to determine which test cases to run. A decision table is a table that shows all possible combinations of input data and expected outputs.
Automated Testing Techniques
Automated testing can be more efficient and accurate than manual testing and can also be used to test software more frequently.
Some of the most common techniques include:
- Unit testing: Unit testing is automated testing where individual code units are tested. Units of code can be methods, classes, or functions. It is effective in finding bugs early in development.
- Integration testing: Integration testing is automated testing where individual code units are combined and tested as a group. It is used to ensure that the different units of code work together correctly.
- System testing: System testing is automated testing where the entire system is tested. System testing ensures that the system meets all of its requirements.
- Acceptance testing: Acceptance testing is automated testing where the customer or user tests the system. Acceptance testing ensures the system meets the customer’s or user’s needs.
BrowserStack Accessibility is a platform to effortlessly identify basic and complex accessibility issues at blazing speed:
- Real Device Cloud: BrowserStack’s Real Device Cloud allows testers to run automated tests on real devices and browsers. Real device testing is more accurate and reliable, as it allows testers to test how the application will behave in the real world. Access a range of Screen Reader enabled real devices in a single click, across Mac, Windows, and Android platforms.
- Single Scan Issue Identification: Find issues across multiple webpages in a single scan. Access WCAG mapped issues to create VPAT reports quickly, and even monitor to stay in the know.
- Assisted Tests For Complex Issues: Identify complex issues using Assisted tests, even if you’re new to accessibility testing.
- Central Reporting Dashboard: Access past and present reports to combine multiple reports into one.
Combination of Manual and Automated Testing Techniques
The combination of manual and automated testing techniques is often called hybrid testing. This approach is often used because it can take advantage of the strengths of both manual and automated testing.
- Manual testing can be used to find bugs that automated testing tools cannot find. For example, manual testing can be used to test for usability issues and user experience.
- Automated testing can be used for things that manual testing could be better suited for, such as functionality, performance, and security.
Here are some of the benefits of using a hybrid testing approach:
- Increased coverage: You can increase your testing coverage using manual and automated testing. This means that you are more likely to find bugs.
- Improved accuracy: By using both manual and automated testing, you can improve the accuracy of your testing. This means that you are less likely to miss bugs.
- Reduced costs: By using a hybrid testing approach, you can reduce the costs of testing. This is because you can use automated testing for tasks well-suited for automation and manual testing for tasks not well-suited for automation.
Common Accessibility Issues and Solutions
Many common accessibility issues can occur on websites and web applications. Some of the most common issues include:
- Inappropriate alternative text on images: Alternative text, or alt text, is the text that describes images for users who cannot see them. If alt text is not provided or descriptive enough, users who are blind or have low vision may not be able to understand the image’s content.
- Poor contrast text: Contrast is important for visually impaired users. If the text on a website needs to be in higher contrast, it can be difficult for users to read.
- Heading hierarchy: Headings indicate the structure of a website or web application. Users may need help navigating the content if the heading hierarchy needs to be clarified.
- Too many navigation links: Too many navigation links can make it difficult for users to find the information they seek.
- Poorly structured form labels: Form labels should be clear and concise. If form labels are not clear, users may not know what information is being requested.
Solutions to Accessibility Issues
Some of the most common solutions include:
- Providing alternative text for images: It should be descriptive and provide enough information for users who cannot see the image to understand its content.
- Using high contrast text: Text should be high enough contrast to be readable by visually impaired users.
- Creating a clear heading hierarchy: Headings should indicate the structure of a website or web application. Headings should be clear and concise, and they should be used consistently throughout the site.
- Limiting the number of navigation links: The number of navigation links should be limited to make it easier for users to find the information they seek.
- Creating clear and concise form labels: Form labels should be clear and concise. They should also be descriptive of the information that is being requested.
Future of WCAG Testing
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) help developers create accessible websites and web applications.
- WCAG testing evaluates a website or web application to ensure it meets the WCAG guidelines.
- The future of WCAG testing is likely to involve the use of automated tools and machine learning.
- Automated tools can be used to identify potential accessibility issues, and machine learning can be used to improve the accuracy of automated tools.
1. What is WCAG testing?
WCAG testing evaluates a website or web application to ensure its compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standards, which promote accessibility for people with disabilities.
2. How do you test WCAG compliance?
As a WCAG compliance checker, you evaluate a website or web application using manual and automated techniques, checking for adherence to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) success criteria.
3. What are the 4 WCAG guidelines?
The WCAG guidelines are based on four principles: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust (POUR), which provide a framework for creating accessible web content.
4. What does WCAG stand for?
WCAG stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
5. Is WCAG mandatory?
WCAG is not universally mandatory by law, but it serves as a widely accepted standard for web accessibility. It is often referenced in accessibility regulations and legal requirements in many jurisdictions.
6. What is a good WCAG score?
WCAG does not provide a specific scoring system, but meeting the Level AA conformance is generally considered a good target for web accessibility.