The Ultimate Guide to Accessibility Testing for Websites

Written by: David Adi.

Introduction to Accessibility Testing: What and Why?

Accessibility testing ensures everyone can use websites, including folks with disabilities. Think of it as a way to knock down digital barriers. Disabilities could mean anything from problems with seeing or hearing to troubles with moving or thinking. The goal? To make sure everyone gets to the digital party. Why do this? First, because it’s the right thing to do. Why leave people out when you can welcome them in? Second, it’s smart. Making your site accessible boosts your potential audience. It’s like opening your doors wider. Plus, in many places, laws now say websites need to be accessible. This means if your site is a virtual fortress, blocking out people with disabilities, you’re not only missing out on a huge audience, but you could also be breaking the law. So, accessibility testing is about checking if your site invites everyone in, and fixing it if it doesn’t. It’s about making sure your digital space is everyone’s space.


Understanding Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG, are your roadmap to making your website more accessible. Think of it as a set of rules, designed to help everyone, especially people with disabilities, engage with your site. These rules are grouped into three levels: A, AA, and AAA. Level A is the must-do, basic stuff. It’s like making sure there’s a ramp to your virtual door. Level AA adds a bit more, focusing on making sure most people can access your site without it being too hard. This is where most websites aim to be. Then, there’s Level AAA, the gold standard, making your site accessible to all. However, hitting AAA across all content can be tough. The guidelines cover everything from how text is presented, to how users navigate and interact, ensuring that everyone, including those using screen readers or needing captions for videos, can use the site. Following WCAG isn’t just good practice; it’s a step towards inclusivity, making sure your website doesn’t leave anyone out.

Tools and Technologies for Conducting Accessibility Testing

When you’re diving into the world of website accessibility testing, knowing the right tools and tech is key. First off, let’s talk about automated tools. Tools like A11yAudit™, and A11yDev are your go-to for quick checks. They scan your website and spot common accessibility issues quickly. But remember, these tools can’t catch everything. comesThat’s where manual testing steps in. Using screen readers like JAWS, NVDA, or VoiceOver gives you real insights into how someone with visual impairments navigates your site. Once an issue is found manually, it can be fixed easily via A11yable A11yCheck™ or by fixing the source code.

Now, don’t forget that A11yAudit™ adds another layer to your testing, making sure your website plays nice across different browsers. A11yDev™ Emulator also comes in handy to see how your site behaves on various devices without needing to have them all on hand.

Combining these tools and technologies gives you a solid foundation for making your website more accessible. While the automated tools give you a quick overview, diving deeper with manual testing uncovers the nuanced issues. Integrating both into your testing strategy is the way to go.

Manual vs. Automated Accessibility Testing: Pros and Cons

When it comes to making sure your website is accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities, there are mainly two ways to tackle it: Manual or Automated testing. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, and knowing which to use can make a huge difference.

Manual Testing: This requires real people to go through your site and check it against accessibility standards. Here’s the low-down:

  • Pros: It’s accurate because real users can understand and interpret complex accessibility issues better than a computer. This method can uncover subtle nuances that automated tools might miss. Plus, feedback is more detailed and specific, helping you fix issues more effectively.
  • Cons: It’s time-consuming and more expensive. Since it relies on human effort, manual testing can take longer and cost more. Also, the consistency of the testing can vary depending on the tester’s experience and knowledge.

Automated Testing: This uses software tools to scan your website for accessibility issues.

  • Pros: It’s fast and cost-effective. Automated tools can scan a whole website in minutes, highlighting issues quickly. It’s great for catching a large volume of technical issues across many pages at once, making it an efficient first step in the testing process.
  • Cons: It lacks the human touch. While it’s good for identifying straightforward technical problems, automated testing can’t catch everything, especially more nuanced issues that require human judgment. It might also report false positives, where it flags something as an issue that isn’t actually a problem.

In short, a mix of both manual and automated testing gives the best results. Automated testing can quickly cover ground and identify obvious issues, while manual testing goes deeper, providing the detailed insights needed to make your website truly accessible to everyone.

Common Accessibility Issues in Websites Today

Many websites today struggle with making sure they are accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities. Let’s quickly run through some common issues you might find. First, many sites lack proper text descriptions for images, known as alt text. This makes it hard for people using screen readers to understand what’s being shown. Then, there’s the problem of color contrast. If a website uses colors that don’t stand out from each other, it can be troublesome for those with visual impairments to read the text. Another big issue is not designing websites to work with keyboard navigation. This is crucial for people who can’t use a mouse. Additionally, websites often forget to label their forms correctly, leading to confusion when users with screen readers try to fill out information. Lastly, missing or improperly used headings mess with the structure of a page, making navigation a headache. These problems stop people from using websites the way they’re meant to be used. Improving these areas can make a huge difference in making the web more accessible to everyone.

Step-by-Step Guide to Performing Accessibility Testing

First off, understand that accessibility testing makes sure everyone, including people with disabilities, can use websites without issues. Let’s walk through a simple plan to do this testing:

  1. Get to know the guidelines: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are your bible here. They lay out how to make web content more accessible. Skim through them, understand the basic principles. A11yable’ A11yAcademy™ and the new A11yBot™ enable you to get the all the knowledge online.
  2. Use automated tools: Tools like A11yAudit™, and A11yDev can catch a lot of issues fast. They’re like your first filter, but remember, they won’t catch everything.
  3. Manual testing: Here’s where your hands get dirty. Manual testing involves checking things that tools can overlook. By using A11yDev™ Tab through the website without using a mouse to see if navigation is smooth. Turn off images to see if text alternatives make sense. Change font sizes to see if the content still reads well, and report all your findings directly from the browser.
  4. Screen reader testing: Use screen readers like JAWS, NVDA, or VoiceOver to experience your site as a visually impaired user would. This step is crucial because what looks good visually might be a mess in a screen reader. Additionally, don’t forget to validate your recommendation remediation code with A11yCheck™ to ensure your fixes do not harm the screen reader and other assistive technology.
  5. Consult the real experts: Talk to people with various disabilities. Ask them to navigate your site and give feedback. Their insights are gold.
  6. Fix issues: As you identify problems, fix them using A11yCheck™ or directly in your CMS system or the source code. This might mean adjusting colors for better contrast, adding alt text to images, ensuring your site can be fully navigated with a keyboard, and more.
  7. Test again: Don’t just fix and forget. Let A11yAudit™ and your experts, through A11yDev™, test everything again to make sure your fixes didn’t miss the mark or create new issues.

Accessibility testing isn’t a one-and-done. It’s an ongoing process to ensure your website is usable by everyone. Let’s make the digital world accessible to all.

How to Interpret Accessibility Testing Results

Interpreting the results of accessibility testing looks complex but is straight-up necessary to make your website welcoming for everyone. When you’re done testing, you’ll face a bunch of findings in the A11yable’ A11y360™ dashboard that point to what’s right and wrong. Look, not every issue needs to be fixed yesterday. Prioritize them. First, tackle the major no-nos that stop people from using your site. These are usually related to navigation and accessing content. If someone can’t get around or read your stuff, it’s a big deal. Next, address warnings. These aren’t deal-breakers but fixing them makes your site friendlier. Finally, take a look at the minor issues. These are small tweaks but they add up in making your site fully accessible. Every correction you make is a step towards an inclusive web. Remember, accessibility isn’t a one-time deal. It’s ongoing. So, keep testing and tweaking.

Incorporating Accessibility Testing into Your Development Process

To make sure your website can be used by everyone, including people with disabilities, you need to fold accessibility testing into your development process from the start. Don’t wait until the end; doing so can lead to costly fixes or, worse, a site that’s not accessible to all. First, get familiar with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These guidelines are your roadmap to building a site that’s open to everyone. Next, use A11yDev™ that is an automated tool to catch the easy-to-fix issues. These tools can scan your site and highlight problems quickly. But remember, they don’t catch everything. So, also do manual testing. This means actually navigating your site using screen readers or keyboard-only controls to see how accessible it really is. It’s also smart to include people with disabilities in your testing process. They can give you direct feedback that tools and guidelines can’t. By integrating accessibility testing into your process early, report all their finding through A11yDev™ so the developers will focus on what they need to solve and with A11yCheck™ validate the recommended fixes, you’ll not only save time and money but also create a website that’s truly for everyone. This approach shows you’re committed to inclusion and can even widen your audience. Start simple, keep learning, and make accessibility a core part of your development journey.

Website accessibility isn’t just a nice-to-have; it’s a must due to legal standards like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Section 508 standard that based on Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The ADA and Section 508 mandate that websites should be accessible to users with disabilities. Failure to meet these requirements can lead to legal challenges. The WCAG, on the other hand, provides a set of guidelines aimed at making web content more accessible. These guidelines are grouped under four principles: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. Following these principles helps ensure your website can be used by as many people as possible, regardless of their abilities. Remember, making your site accessible isn’t just about avoiding legal issues; it’s about creating an inclusive online space.

How Website Accessibility Contributes to your Corporate’s ESG rank

Many corporations are seeking ways to enhance their ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) ranking as it offers financial benefits and bolsters brand impact. By making your organization’s website accessible, you underscore a commitment to diversity and inclusion, signaling that everyone, including people with disabilities and the elderly, is valued equally in your corporation. The ’S’ in ESG stands for ‘Social’, contrasting with ‘E’ for ‘Environmental’, which is an important issue in its own right requiring substantial investment and a lengthy process. Integrating accessibility can improve the ‘Social’ aspect of ESG, thereby enhancing the overall ESG ranking. This approach demonstrates a smart strategy to achieve the more substantial outcome

Conclusion: Making Accessibility a Priority for All Websites

Making your website accessible is not just about following rules or avoiding fines; it’s about opening your digital doors to everyone. When you make accessibility a priority, you ensure that all visitors, regardless of their abilities, can use and benefit from your site. Remember, an accessible website improves user experience for everyone, not just those with disabilities. It leads to higher satisfaction and better search engine rankings and reflects positively on your brand. Start by evaluating your site’s current accessibility level and take action to make improvements. Making your website more accessible might seem like a big step, but it’s worth every effort for the inclusivity and opportunities it provides.

About the Author: David Adi is a co-founder and the CEO of Allyable, as well as a passionate advocate for digital accessibility. Drawing from his own experiences as a disabled individual, David offers a unique and invaluable perspective on the importance of creating inclusive digital environments. His leadership at Allyable reflects his commitment to ensuring that technology serves everyone, making digital spaces accessible and welcoming to people with disabilities and the elderly. David’s insights are backed by a robust understanding of how accessibility can drive innovation and enhance corporate social responsibility. As a thought leader in the field, his writings aim to empower organizations to integrate accessibility into their core operations, promoting a more inclusive society.