In today's digital world, where technology is seamlessly integrated into our lives, ensuring everyone can access and utilize digital content is more important than ever. This is where accessibility testing steps in. Accessibility testing ensures that products like websites, applications, and software are designed and developed in such a way that they accommodate individuals with disabilities like visual, auditory, cognitive, motor, and other impairments who can access and use the product with ease.
Accessibility testing involves evaluating a digital product's design, functionality, and content against established accessibility standards and guidelines, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
In this blog, we'll explore the latest trends in accessibility testing, the challenges faced by customers, and solutions provided by QASource to overcome them by providing holistic solutions.
What Is Accessibility Testing?
In software QA, accessibility testing confirms that an application is usable for as many people as possible, including people with disabilities such as vision, hearing, and cognitive conditions.
By incorporating various types of accessibility testing into your QA practices, your team can ensure that all content within your web application is reachable to anyone without barriers. Testing teams often incorporate accessibility testing tools when performing these tests to ensure their applications are compatible with assistive technology, including speech recognition software, screen reader software, screen magnification software, and special keyboards.
Before the Web Accessibility Initiative, testers guessed how to test for accessibility without guidance. Thanks to the WAI, QA teams now have accessibility testing examples and concrete guidelines to follow to create the most effective accessibility test cases across development cycles.
Digital Accessibility Rules and Regulations
Accessibility testing isn't just a nice-to-have best practice—it's the law. The government is on the side of the people in ensuring that all technologies, including web-based and mobile applications, are accessible to all.
- Americans With Disabilities Act Section III: This law enforces that all domains, such as schools, organizations, and public buildings, are accessible to everyone, including web-based applications and technology.
- Title II of the ADA: This law enforces that all programs, services, and activities provided by state and/or local governments are accessible to everyone, including web-based applications and technology.
- Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973: Section 504 requires that reasonable accommodations be available for people with disabilities within the workplace, educational institutions, and organizations. Section 508 establishes requirements to be met by these institutions so that technology is accessible to everyone.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG): These protocols provide accessibility testing examples and recommend types of accessibility testing so that development and QA teams can discover ways to improve application accessibility. WCAG recommends the following four main principles:
- Perceivable: All users can comprehend all displayed information being depicted, including how to use the application's user interface.
- Operable: All users can navigate all interface components without issues or barriers.
- Understandable: All users can understand all displayed information being presented, including how to navigate through the user interface of an application.
- Robust: All users can reliably interpret content within an application through assistive technologies.
What Should Accessibility Testing Address?
Knowing how to do accessibility testing starts by examining the types of disabilities that require enhanced support throughout your application. Your accessibility test cases should confirm that your product can provide a seamless experience for everyone, including those with the following disabilities:
- Vision: Difficulty watching videos or reading text due to complete blindness, color blindness, or vision impairment.
- Hearing: Difficulty hearing verbal communication or digital media due to deafness or hearing impairment.
- Mobility: Difficulty with physical movement, including using physical technology requirements like a keyboard or mouse.
- Cognitive: Difficulty remembering, concentrating, or making decisions.
Types of Accessibility Testing
You can break down your approach to performing accessibility testing into two categories: Manual Testing and Automated Testing. Like many forms of QA testing, a strong accessibility testing strategy should apply both testing approaches for full testing coverage.
Here's how to apply both types of accessibility testing:
- Manual Testing: QA testers should manually test any test case that requires physical interaction with the application and the usability of the user interface across potential barriers. Accessibility testing examples include manually reviewing keyboard accessibility, UI structural elements, style disablement, content scaling, and text sizing. These types of tests can also rely on the assistance of accessibility testing tools to increase accuracy and efficiency during the testing process.
- Automated Testing: QA teams can further expedite the testing process for accessibility with automated testing tools designed to catch errors across hundreds of web pages. Automated testing is ideal for analyzing image contrast, design styling, and application functionality, which often can't be manually tested.
Before we look into accessibility testing tools, let's learn about Section 508 Compliance Testing and why it's important.
Section 508 is an important amendment added to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that protects the rights of individuals with disabilities to have equal access to all electronic equipment and information technology.
What Is 508 Compliance Testing?
This law sets standards that must be followed by federal agencies as well as organizations, including educational institutions that receive federal funds via the Assistive Technology Act. In fact, private companies and contractors providing services to federal agencies also fall under the purview of this law. Simply put, this policy aims to make mobile applications, electronics, software applications, and websites accessible to individuals with disabilities.
Section 508 includes hardware devices and software applications, operating systems and networks, websites, printers, downloadable apps, and multimedia. If companies fail to remove barriers to accessibility, then not only do they risk prosecution under federal law, but they also stand to lose potential clients and customers with disabilities.
Does Section 508 Compliance Apply to All of the Website’s Content
There is a lot of confusion surrounding the full scope of Section 508. While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that websites should be easily accessible, government regulations state that Section 508 only applies to federal institutions. However, other laws do apply. For instance, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination on grounds of mental or physical disability by any federal agency or institute that receives federal funding. This applies to all physical facilities and communication channels, including websites.
The lack of clarity in the law has resulted in ongoing litigation. The most famous of these is Robles vs. Domino's, where a blind man sued Domino's Pizza over the lack of accessibility of their website. Although an affiliate court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, Domino's is preparing to go to trial.
In short, even if organizations do not directly fall under federal law, they are not immune to lawsuits. Hence, it's better to test websites and all other communication channels for accessibility.
Section 508 Compliance Testing Checklist
With an update to Section 508, organizations need to adhere to more universal standards that are widely used around the globe. Below is a brief 508 compliance testing checklist and explanations about why these attributes matter.
- Websites need to contain text equivalents of photos, logos, and anything that is non-textual. This is important for individuals with impaired vision, as it helps them to read and understand images that might not be easily seen. Generally, they use on-screen readers like JAWS to read the content.
- Pages should not flicker more than three times per second. This will reduce the risk of triggering seizures in individuals prone to them.
- It must be possible to fill out online forms using just the keyboard or assistive technology. This feature will help people who do not have dexterity over hand movements to fill out online forms.
- There must be sufficient contrast between the background color and the information on the web page. This will help people who do not have a clear vision navigate through the content on the website.
- Visitors should be able to skip logos and navigation links to get to the main content. This means that individuals with disabilities who cannot scroll can quickly navigate to the main part of the page. Similarly, it will be easy for individuals who use screen readers to quickly get to the most relevant part of the web page without having to manually scroll up or down.
Testing Methods for 508 Compliance
There are several ways to ensure that your hardware devices and software applications conform to 508 Compliance requirements:
- Automated Tests: These are high-volume automated testing tools that can easily scan and test all electronic content.
- Manual Tests: This type of test uses a repeatable, documented, and consistent process.
- Hybrid Tests: This is a combination of both manual and automated testing methods.
Benefits of 508 Compliance Testing
508 Compliance Testing has several benefits for organizations, both big and small. Some of them are listed below:
- Helps Serve a Wider Audience Base: Accessible content will help engage a much wider section of your target audience base, thereby getting more customers on board.
- Decreases Legal Risks: Enterprises and organizations actively pursuing accessibility testing exercises are better positioned to address claims and avoid violations.
- Helps Improve Search Engine Rankings: Transcripts of visual and audio files are discoverable by search engines, and hence, including text supplements of all non-textual assets goes a long way in improving search rankings.
- Improves Overall User Experience: Studies have shown that changes made to a website's UI/UX to incorporate methods of accessibility benefit everyone, even individuals without disabilities. Thus, accessibility testing services improve the overall user experience of a website.
Accessibility Testing Tools
Because QA teams are required to run so many test cases during accessibility testing, they are unable to complete testing completely and accurately without the right toolset. Unlike many forms of QA testing, accessibility testing tools offer the ability to perform manual and automated testing with software assistance.
When researching your options, we at QASource recommend checking out these testing tools designed specifically for accessibility testing:
This free manual testing tool lets QA testers enter a webpage URL or apply Firefox and Chrome extensions to quickly identify accessibility issues, including contrast errors concerning structural elements, text size issues, and accessible rich internet application (ARIA) challenges. Wave is also designed to evaluate the intranet and sensitive webpages, such as password-protected links and dynamically generated content. Users can access accessibility reporting, and a toolbar that identifies webpage components provides access to alternate views of page content and connects third-party online applications.
As an API-first tool, Tenon can easily integrate with third-party applications for running unit testing, acceptance testing, system testing, and issue tracking. This automated accessibility testing tool offers a fast remediation service for fixing any accessibility issues within your website or application during the testing process. Tenon is designed to evaluate web accessibility for WCAG 2.0 and Section 508 compliance.
This free, open-source accessibility testing tool is supported through Chrome and Firefox extensions for analyzing accessibility issues within the content of your web-based application. Axe shows users the exact section of code that causes the accessibility issues as well as presents recommendations on how to fix the problem. These testing tools can show the severity of each discovered issue and analyze all violations for WCAG 2.0 and Section 508 compliance found within your system.
Many QA teams consider this tool the most popular screen reader for accessibility testing. JAWS—standing for Job Access With Speech—specializes in uncovering accessibility issues that impact users with vision impairments. This testing tool features two multi-lingual synthesizers and returns fast results through its skim reading tool. JAWS is compatible with braille keyboards supports touchscreen testing on Windows as well as Microsoft Edge, Firefox, and Microsoft Office.
This accessibility testing tool offers both a free and paid subscription service—as a free user, you can check one URL at a time, while a paid user can test multiple URLs simultaneously. Accessibility Valet provides executive summaries for QA testers and project managers as well as in-depth reports for developers. This testing tool features automatic cleanup, HTML to XHTML conversion, and scripting tools. Accessibility Valet allows users to check applications and webpages against WCAG and Section 508 compliance.
Accessibility Testing Latest Trends in 2023
Below are several trends that will emerge in Accessibility testing by 2023:
AI-Powered Accessibility Testing: Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are being increasingly integrated into accessibility testing tools. AI can play a significant role in accessibility testing by helping identify and address accessibility issues in software, websites, and digital content. Here are several ways AI can assist in accessibility testing:
- AI-powered testing tools can automatically scan websites, applications, and documents to identify common accessibility issues, such as missing alternative text for images, improper heading structure, or insufficient color contrast. These tools can quickly highlight areas that require attention.
- AI can simulate the experience of a screen reader user by converting on-screen text and elements into synthesized speech or braille output. This allows testers to identify how effectively screen readers interact with the software and whether content is properly conveyed.
- AI can predict potential accessibility issues based on patterns and historical data. This proactive approach can help developers address issues before they become barriers for users with disabilities.
- AI can simulate assistive technologies such as screen readers, magnifiers, and voice recognition software to evaluate how well digital products support these tools.
- AI can continuously monitor websites and applications for accessibility issues, alerting teams to new problems that may arise with updates or changes.
- AI can help identify many issues, but human testers with disabilities can provide valuable insights and evaluate the overall user experience from their perspective. A combined approach that integrates AI tools with human testing is often the most effective way to ensure digital accessibility.
AR/VR Accessibility Testing: As Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) applications become more prevalent, there's a growing need to ensure these experiences are accessible to people with disabilities.
Here's how AR and VR can assist with accessibility testing:
- AR and VR can create immersive simulations that mimic real-world scenarios for individuals with disabilities. Testers can interact with digital products or physical spaces as if they have a specific disability, providing valuable feedback on usability and accessibility.
- In virtual environments, users with disabilities can interact with digital interfaces using specialized input devices or voice commands to assess the accessibility and usability of software applications or websites.
- AR and VR can train testers and developers on accessibility guidelines and best practices. Simulated scenarios can teach them how to recognize and address accessibility issues effectively.
- AR and VR can facilitate remote accessibility testing by connecting individuals with disabilities to virtual environments, eliminating geographical constraints, and expanding the pool of available testers.
Accessible Data Visualization: Data visualization plays a crucial role in conveying complex information, like the accessibility of charts, graphs, and other visual representations, to ensure they can be understood by individuals who rely on screen readers or have other visual impairments. It is beneficial in the following ways:
- Data visualizations can include alternative text descriptions that provide textual explanations of the visual elements. Screen readers can then convey this information to users with visual impairments, ensuring they can access the same insights as sighted users.
- Data visualizations can be designed with high contrast and color choices that adhere to accessibility guidelines. This ensures that individuals with low vision or color vision deficiencies can discern the information presented. Proper color contrast ratios and distinct color palettes are essential for readability.
- Data visualizations should be responsive to different screen sizes and orientations, ensuring that users with disabilities who may use various devices, including assistive technologies, can access and interact with the data comfortably.
- Audio descriptions can be added for complex data visualizations to provide additional context and explanations for users with visual impairments. These descriptions can be triggered when a user interacts with specific visualization elements.
Accessibility as a Service
Accessibility testing services are becoming more common nowadays, where Organizations hire external experts to perform audits, provide guidance, and ensure ongoing accessibility compliance.
It is a model that provides accessibility-related tools, resources, and expertise to organizations on a subscription or on-demand basis. Below are a few benefits:
- It can scale to meet the specific needs of an organization. Organizations can adjust their subscription or service level accordingly, whether for a small project or a large-scale initiative.
- Its providers often have accessibility experts who can offer guidance, training, and support. This expertise can help organizations navigate complex accessibility standards and ensure compliance with regulations like WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines).
- AaaS typically includes access to a suite of accessibility testing and auditing tools. These tools can automatically scan websites, applications, and digital content to identify accessibility issues, helping organizations identify and fix problems efficiently.
- It often provides detailed reports and analytics on accessibility performance, making it easier for organizations to track progress and prioritize areas for improvement.
- It can be customized to fit the specific needs of different industries and sectors, including web development, e-commerce, education, and government. This flexibility ensures that accessibility solutions align with an organization's unique requirements.
- AaaS often includes training materials and resources to help organizations educate their teams on accessibility best practices. This can lead to improved awareness and a culture of accessibility within the organization.
Including individuals with disabilities in the testing process remains a critical aspect of accessibility testing because it ensures that digital products and services are evaluated from the perspective of individuals with disabilities, the primary users. Their feedback provides insights into real-world user experiences and helps identify issues that might not be caught through automated testing alone. This approach is essential for several reasons:
- Involves individuals with disabilities who use assistive technologies and have firsthand experience navigating the digital environment. Their feedback is invaluable in identifying real-world accessibility barriers and understanding users' challenges.
- Ultimately, the goal of accessibility is to provide an enjoyable and effective user experience for individuals with disabilities. By involving these users in testing, you can gather insights into their preferences, pain points, and satisfaction levels, leading to more user-friendly designs.
- User feedback can help prioritize accessibility issues based on their impact on real users. This ensures that critical issues are addressed first, improving the overall accessibility of the product.
- Adapt to the needs and preferences of individual testers. This flexibility allows testers to use their preferred assistive technologies and settings, ensuring a more accurate assessment of accessibility.
- Replicate the real-life situations in which individuals with disabilities use digital products. Testers can assess how well the product performs in context, such as completing tasks or accessing information.
- Many countries have laws and regulations that require digital products to be accessible. User-centered testing helps organizations demonstrate their commitment to accessibility and compliance with these laws.
Mobile Accessibility Testing
With the continued growth in mobile app usage, accessibility testing for mobile platforms, including iOS and Android, remains a top priority. Mobile accessibility testing tools and techniques have evolved to address unique challenges.
Ensuring digital content is accessible across various platforms, including desktop, mobile, and emerging technologies, is a key trend. Testing across different devices, operating systems, and screen sizes is essential.
Integrating accessibility testing into the CI/CD pipeline helps identify and address accessibility issues early in development, reducing remediation costs and time.
Voice User Interface (VUI) Testing
With the increasing prevalence of voice-activated devices and applications, accessibility testing for voice interactions and VUIs has become crucial. Voice User Interface (VUI) testing is critical to accessibility testing, especially for applications and devices that rely on voice commands and interactions.
VUI testing ensures that individuals with disabilities, including those with limited mobility, visual impairments, or speech impairments, can effectively use voice-based interfaces.
Challenges Faced by Clients and Solutions Shared by QASource
The prominent client in the e-learning industry faced a challenge during the regular development of their application with new features. As the application was being updated regularly, the Accessibility testing conducted according to the latest WCAG guidelines revealed many Accessibility Bugs. These bugs needed to be addressed before the application could go live with the new features, causing delays in the product's release cycle.
Our dedicated and experienced onshore team thoroughly investigated the root cause of the high defect percentage in Accessibility testing. We advised the client's development team to adopt best practices from the beginning of the development phase. Specifically, we recommended assigning unique IDs to each interactive element and ensuring all required attributes are added to the interactive fields. This proactive approach led to a substantial improvement, reducing the defect percentage from 80% to nearly 20%. The client was highly satisfied with this approach, as it significantly enhanced the application's accessibility and streamlined the release process.
The customer in the e-learning domain faced the challenge of integrating accessibility testing seamlessly into their rapid release cycle. They released products weekly with new enhancements and ensuring accessibility compliance was crucial. However, conducting accessibility testing manually for each release was time-consuming and could cause delays in the release process.
To address this challenge, we collaborated with our in-house DevOps team and the accessibility testers to automate the sanity test cases for accessibility. We integrated these automated tests with the customer's build management system. Now, whenever a new build was deployed, the automated suite for accessibility testing would run automatically. This streamlined process allowed real-time detection of accessibility issues, enabling prompt fixing of any surfaced issues. The automated suite generated intuitive reports sent to stakeholders, facilitating informed and timely decision-making regarding the product's accessibility compliance. This approach ensured accessibility testing became an integral and automated part of their build management process, reducing the potential for accessibility issues to impact product release.
The client faced the challenge of certifying a large number of eBooks (100+) within a tight timeframe of one week. Each eBook was substantial in size, ranging from 500 to 1000 pages. Manual accessibility testing for such a volume and size would be extremely time-consuming and impractical within the given timeframe.
Our expert accessibility testers thoroughly studied the client's requirements and identified automated tools that could rapidly and accurately perform accessibility testing of eBooks. We proposed a comprehensive testing plan and approach to the client, outlining how the automated tools would be utilized to ensure a quick and accurate assessment of accessibility across all the eBooks. We provided estimates for the testing effort.
The client was pleased with our proactive approach, strategy, and commitment to quality. They agreed to the proposed solution, and our team tested and certified all the eBooks within the stipulated one-week timeframe. The successful completion of this project impressed the client, leading to the signing of a contract for a dedicated accessibility team, indicating their confidence in our abilities to meet their ongoing accessibility testing needs.
How Can QASource Help With QA Accessibility Testing Services?
Businesses can benefit from QASource in a number of different ways, including:
- Comprehensive Testing: QASource offers a wide range of QA testing services, covering functional, non-functional, security, usability, and accessibility aspects to ensure thorough testing coverage.
- Customized Solutions: We tailor testing strategies to fit specific project requirements, whether integrating testing into DevOps, managing dedicated testing teams, or addressing unique challenges.
- Efficiency through Automation: We employ automation to speed up testing processes, improve accuracy, and increase test coverage, reducing time-to-market.
- Quality Assurance: Our expertise ensures software reliability, functionality, and industry compliance.
- Risk Mitigation: By identifying and addressing issues early, QASource helps mitigate risks, reduce development costs, and enhance product quality.
- User-Centered Approach: QASource focuses on user satisfaction by conducting usability and accessibility testing, ensuring a positive user experience.
- Continuous Improvement: We support continuous improvement through feedback, reporting, and ongoing optimization of testing processes.
Overall, QASource is a trusted partner to enhance software quality and deliver reliable, user-friendly products.
At QASource, we understand the power of inclusivity in shaping digital experiences. Our dedicated team of accessibility testers is well-versed in the latest industry standards and best practices. We employ a combination of Automated tools, Manual Testing, and real-user feedback to ensure that your products meet the highest standards of accessibility, allowing you to connect with a diverse audience and enhance your user experience. Contact us today to learn more about how our accessibility testing services can elevate your business.