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Accessibility Testing for Beginners – DZone Web Dev

Every business wants to expand the reach of its software application to as many users as possible. Yet, so many applications never reach their potential, simply because the design or implementation of the application didn’t keep every type of end-user in mind.

Is your testing strategy keeping your application from being accessible to all?

This guide explores everything you need to know about accessibility testing, including:

  • What is accessibility testing?
  • How to create effective test cases for accessibility, including accessibility testing examples
  • Types of accessibility testing essential for your application
  • Recommended accessibility testing tools for your tech stack

What is Accessibility Testing?

In software QA, accessibility testing is the practice of confirming that an application is usable for as many people as possible, including people with disabilities such as vision impairment, hearing problems 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 any real guidance. Thanks to the WAI, QA teams now have accessibility testing examples and concrete guidelines to follow so that they can 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 for 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 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 for 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 following these 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 through all user 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, colour 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 requirements of technology, such as a keyboard or mouse.
  • Cognitive: Difficulty remembering, concentrating or making decisions.

Types of Accessibility Testing

You can break down your approach on how to perform 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 best 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 process of testing for accessibility with automated testing tools designed to catch errors across hundreds of web pages. Automated testing is ideal for analyzing image contrasting, design styling and application functionality, which often can’t be manually tested.

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 both manual testing and automated testing with software assistance.

  • Wave

    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 designed to also evaluate the intranet and sensitive webpages, such as password-protected links and dynamically generated content. Users have access to accessibility reporting and a toolbar that identifies components of a webpage provides access to alternate views of page content and connects third party online applications.

  • Tenon

    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.

  • Axe

    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 analyse all violations for WCAG 2.0 and Section 508 compliance found within your system.

  • JAWS

    Many QA teams consider this tool as 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 impairment. This testing tool features two multi-lingual synthesizers and returns fast results through its skim-reading tool. JAWS is compatible with braille keyboards and supports touchscreen testing on Windows as well as Microsoft Edge, Firefox and Microsoft Office.

  • Accessibility Valet

    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 web pages against WCAG and Section 508 compliance.

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