Quick Tips to Kick-Start Accessibility Testing
Implementing accessibility testing in your organization requires efficiency, accuracy, and a toolbox of smart practices and tips. A primary focus on proper infrastructure, resources, and software testing tools is an important first step. For example, if testing is being conducted for a visually impaired end-user, the primary requirement is to install a screen-reading application such as JAWS, NVDA, or Window-Eyes and to involve real end-users in the testing process to elicit realistic results.
The next steps are to understand the project requirements; review relevant documents, such as VPAT; create a precise test plan; and implement that test plan, keeping the disabled end-users in mind. Be sure to study and incorporate in the test strategy various web accessibility standards such as WAI, WCAG, and Section 508.
Below are some quick tips for performing a comprehensive accessibility testing effort:
- Test the application from all user standpoints: beginner, intermediate, and advanced
- Test pages with assistive technologies to dig out major defects
- Test pages via keyboard and try all features of the application using tabs and arrow keys, no mouse, to ensure access to the screen reader and cross-disability users
- Evaluate whether ARIA landmarks are used to create accessible interactive web pages
- Evaluate whether requisite HTML elements are used to provide semantic descriptions of content per accessibility guidelines
- Conduct peer pair testing, where a sighted engineer closely works with a nonsighted engineer or real user to enhance the scope of test coverage
- Conduct exploratory testing
- Conduct browser-specific testing to evaluate varied browser features, such as caret browsing, tab focus, zooming, accessible CSS, resizing text/images, etc.
Besides the above, you can use automated testing tools such as AChecker, the web accessibility toolbar for Internet Explorer, or the accessibility evaluation toolbar for Firefox. While I don’t recommend relying completely on automated testing tools, these are good supplemental techniques to leverage. Sometimes a website’s bad usability or an incorrectly structured user interface creates an accessibility barrier for the users. Therefore, it is also important to evaluate the usability aspects of an application from an accessibility standpoint.
As a generic best practice, traditional testers can be trained to take on a few core accessibility tests such as ensuring meaningful alt text for images, synchronizing audio/video content captions, confirming that color is not the only visual means of conveying information, and minimizing the use of screen flicker elements for animation. More than being seen as defects, these should be considered as enhancements to ensure an accessible application is developed.
To be able to do this, it is important to get the entire test team—and, if possible, the entire product team—trained and ready to use these practices in their product development efforts.