Accessibility Testing: It's Essential | TechWell

Accessibility Testing: It's Essential

If someone were to ask me “Why accessibility?” I’d say it is my passion. As tedious and boring as some people make testing seem, I truly enjoy accessibility testing.

In my career thus far, there have been numerous times when I have come across the terms “defect-free” or “quality” product. If we satisfy the definition for either of these terms, we ensure that we have all the test cases and scenarios executed with no outstanding defects or performance issues. So, can we say that a “quality product” is effectively and efficiently accessible to all? The answer is no.

Basically, an application or technology is accessible if people with disabilities can use it as effectively as those without disabilities. This doesn’t imply that a visually impaired user will take the same amount of time to complete a task as a user who can see. Listening takes longer than reading, but for an application to be accessible, the processes must be comparable.

The Internet World Stats information for the second quarter of 2012 reports 2.4 billion Internet users worldwide. Per the United Nations factsheet on persons with disabilities, some 10 percent of the world’s population has some form of disability, which means more than 27 percent of potential users could have special needs when it comes to accessing the Internet.

There are three main reasons why accessibility testing is vital.

1. Target population: As discussed above, more than 650 million people (more than 27 percent of the population) have some form of disability. The mobile market has grown enormously in the past few years. Of the four billion mobile phones in use, 1.08 billion are smartphones, and 3.05 billion are SMS-enabled.

2. Accessibility legislation: Accessibility requirements for websites are mandated by government policies and legislations. Many countries have created specific legislations to address accessibility requirements. The table below lists a few of these regulations across various countries.

Country

Regulations

United States of America

The Americans with Disabilities Act (1990), The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 508 Amendment in 1998)

France

Equal Opportunities Right (France,2004)

Netherlands

Dutch law on Quality of Government Websites (2006)

Ireland

Disability act of 2005

Australia

Disability Discrimination Act (1992)

United Kingdom

Disability Discrimination Act of 1995 (UK,1995)

 

3. Potential lawsuits: In the past, noncompliance with accessibility legislations has led to several lawsuits and millions of dollars in settlements, such as in the National Federation for the Blind (NFB) versus Amazon settlement (2007) and the Sexton and NFB versus Target lawsuit (2007).

Two of the myths concerning accessibility testing are that it is meant only for visually impaired or disabled users and that it is an expensive process. But considering accessibility requirements during the design phase can save money and time. And the fact is that following accessibility guidelines improves the overall usability of the software, which helps all people using it.

Anish Krishnan is presenting the session Testing Compliance with Accessibility Guidelines at STARWEST, from October 12–17, 2014.

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