What If Accessibility Testing Is Not Done?
When any attribute is being engineered, it is important to cover the entire spectrum of design, architecture, implementation, testing, and support to ensure it is fully ready for end-user consumption. However, time and cost constraints often restrict full test coverage and lead to compromises that may adversely impact the product’s quality and acceptance in the market. Instead of trying to focus on the importance of accessibility testing, let’s look at some possible consequences of skipping accessibility testing.
In these scenarios, let’s assume accessibility has been engineered into the product but has not been validated and verified. What is the potential outcome?
- A design that may not be fully accessible—Accessibility is a very broad subject. The design has to take into consideration legal requirements, technical feasibility, stage in product lifecycle, and end-user needs. A design that has not been tested may fall short on one or more of these parameters, limiting the product’s complete accessibility.
- An implementation effort that does not fully align with the design—Even if the design has been fully tested, it is very important to get the implementation fully verified. This is even more important because not all testers and users can easilty verify the product’s accessibility. Verification calls for subject experts, that is often a mix of accessibility testers and real users, failing which all the design effort may go a waste. More importantly, an untested implementation that is later found to be inaccessible may be very expensive to fix.
- An engineering effort that does not align with legal requirements—Legal mandates are increasing by the day in the world of accessibility. Section 508 in the US and DDA in the UK are examples of how comprehensive the mandates can be. Very soon there may be situations where approvals for product releases may be held back for lack of compliance. A thorough test effort that uses a checklist such as a VPAT is important to ensure adherence to accessibility laws.
- An engineering effort that does not align with end-user requirements—End-user requirements are the most important factor when it comes to accessibility. A test effort that does not consider end-users is not going to be realistic. This is especially true in accessibility testing as real users comprising a mix of persons with disabilities are important to ensure the product meets their requirements and is inclusive.
Accessibility is moving upstream. The focus is not just on software accessibility. A lot of new devices and gadgets are slowly entering the market, including research support to help people with disabilities lead an independent life. Ensuring accessibility is thoroughly tested, end to end, is becoming an integral part of any engineering effort.