Accessibility Testing

Testing for Accessibility and Usability

The accessibility of a web site is important for attracting customers, but the usability of the web site will determine the level of success in which customers engage your organization. Accessibility and usability are closely related, and the inclusive design model should integrate their goals, approaches, and guidelines to ensure web site development reflects expectations. Combining accessibility standards and usability processes with real people ensures that web design is technically and functionally usable by people with disabilities.

Accessibility means enabling people with diverse abilities and methods of access to effectively use your interface. The aim of accessibility is to remove barriers for perceiving, understanding and navigating your interface and ensure that nobody is excluded. Usability, on the other hand, is more to do with designing a user-friendly approach. It is concerned with how people interact with a website’s interface. That is, is it easy to do the things people want to do? Can people quickly find what they want without help? Do people make lots of mistakes using a website? Do people enjoy using the website? In general, usable websites benefit everyone. Whilst usability implies accessibility, the contrary is not necessarily true.

Designing For Accessibility and Usability

If designers, developers, and project managers approach accessibility as a checklist of meeting accessibility standards, the focus is only on the technical aspects of accessibility, and the human interaction aspect is often lost. In general, designers have to consider two different groups of users when aiming to make their interfaces accessible for all. people with differing technical abilities and people with differing physical abilities. Understanding the technical abilities of your users entails considering what devices they are using, where they will be accessing your content and how technically literate they are. Not only do designers have to keep user technical limitations in mind, but they also have to consider users with disabilities including visual, auditory, physical, speech and neurological disabilities.

So what does good usability look like? You will generally find that good usability goes unnoticed. In other words, a highly usable website means that your users are getting around so easily that they don’t even know how good they have it. The Internet has the potential to broaden the lives and increase the independence of people with disabilities. For people who can be physically as well as socially isolated, access to the Internet can offer information about social interaction, cultural activities, employment opportunities, and consumer goods. But, as statistics demonstrate, not many people with disabilities are able to take advantage of these possibilities, in large part because their needs have not been addressed by the web design community.

Testing Methodologies

There are three distinct methodologies, both in scientific literature and in common practice, to evaluate accessibility of websites and applications.

  • Analysis by accessibility experts:
    Depending on the needs, they refer directly to certain accessibility guidelines or perform the assessment as a practitioner experienced in the verification of accessibility of information systems.
  • Analysis through accessibility validators:
    These are automatic tools that can verify the compliance of a site or a web application with respect to the criteria established by certain accessibility guidelines. Commonly their evaluation is based on the source code analysis of the web application under consideration.
  • Analysis through Evaluation Groups:
    These groups are typically made up of people with various types of disabilities, who have the task of accessing the website in question in order to test its functionalities. These tests can be performed both in informal environments (home, work or school), and in specifically designed environments (laboratory or focus group), both in free form (without specific tasks), and task-driven (with predefined tasks).