Accessibility Testing: What No One Is Talking About!!

Every time a tester speaks about career growth or future of testing, the often heard buzz word is automation which sounds like the only option to grow and excel as a tester in this fast-growing software industry. 

The success of today’s software projects and products are highly dependent on their fast deliveries. Business demands that software changes including new features, bug fixes must be rolled out to production rapidly.  
So yes coding skills are required as a tester to automate regression tests and help faster delivery. 

But is automation the only career path for a tester?  

The software industry is taking a new leap after demonetization, digitalization.  COVID-19 pandemic has opened up new opportunities in the software industry. 

Due to COVID-19, the whole country went into lockdown that’s when the need for having software which is accessible and useable by old age people, differently able people took more importance. 

So here I want to share “A Beginner’s Guide to Accessibility Testing” for all the testers who wants to build career in software industry and make this digital world more accessible for differently abled users. 

What is accessibility testing? 

Accessibility is often viewed as the “ability to access” and benefit from the system or entity. It focuses on enabling access for people with disabilities, or special needs, or by enabling access through the use of assistive technology(AT). 

Accessibility testing is a subset of Usability Testing. Its performed to ensure that the application being tested is usable by people with disabilities like hearing, color blindness, cognitive disabilities, and other differently abled groups. 

Disabled Person Composition
Disabled person composition with isolated icon set combined around disabled person who is sitting in a wheelchair vector illustration

Why is accessibility testing important? 

Website accessibility testing is an often overlooked aspect when it comes to building a website. Reasons why it’s overlooked is generally due to ignorance about its importance and fears over additional cost and resource. 
Voice assistant Siri was a feature that was built to help the person with a disability to use mobile phones more effectively, we can today see voice assistant is been used by many of us which increased the reach of the application. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 15% of the population have disability, which is the reason Accessibility Testing is important.

According to the software accessibility study done by Nuclear Research, disabled users represent over one billion users globally.  That means 70% of websites are inaccessible to people with different kind of disabilities. 

  • Eight out of ten news sites had significant accessibility issues. 
  • Seven out of ten blind persons reported being unable to access information and services through government websites, including Medicare’s site. 
  • Fewer than one in three websites have clear contact information or instructions for blind persons to seek help if they encounter accessibility issues, meaning many have low levels of success in reporting and solving these problems. 
nuclear-report
Nuclear Report

That leaves a huge opportunity to be exploited by eCommerce companies, but also for most websites looking to boost their user traffic. 
Accessibility is an important aspect to be addressed by official government websites(e.g. railway train ticket booking, online banking) where information about public transport, online payments, or medical services is displayed. That gives the next big reason why accessibility testing is important. 

How to start your career as an accessibility tester? 

thinkimage

Each country has its laws regarding the accessibility of websites to check whether your website has a high degree of accessibility for all users, minimizing discrimination based on disability.  So has the first step in accessibility testing, understand the guidelines created within your country jurisdiction. 

The WCAG was created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to establish an international standard of website accessibility testing. 

WCAG
WCAG

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) guidelines have the minimum requirements when carrying out accessibility testing. The WCAG provides 3 grades of accessibility: A, AA, and AAA, in which AAA meaning full accessibility. 

Understand about all the three grades of accessibility specified by WCAG from  the below link 

WCAG principles
WCAG principles

It’s important to understand the user base of your website so ask few questions to yourself and team(product owners/sales team) about :

  • Who are our users? 
  • What are their tasks? 
  • What environment do they use? 
  • What are their background, abilities? 
  • What kind of tools do they use to access the website?  

Create user personas by considering a different segment of users with and without disability so that we have a mixed set of users leading into rich test data. 

UserPersona
UserPersona

Follow these simple steps to manually unearth accessibility issues:  

steps
Simple steps
  • Unplug the mouse: Users with low vision, cognitive disabilities will not be able to see the mouse pointers and they prefer to use keyboard. So check if the website is accessible using keyboard. “tab” key should allow you to traverse forward and “sft+tab” key should allow you to navigate backward from the current accessing page. 
  • Turn on high contrast mode: High contrast mode removes the colors on the site and brightens the text helping low vision and Dyslexia users to interact with the website.  
    • How to turn on high contrast mode in windows: 
      • Select the Start button , and then select Settings > Ease of Access > High contrast. To turn on high contrast mode, select the toggle button under Turn on high contrast. Windows may display a “Please wait” screen for a few seconds, after which the colors on the screen change. 
    • How to change accessibility preference on mac: 
      • To change display preferences, choose Apple menu  > System Preferences, click Accessibility, click Display
  • Turn off images: Every image should have an alternative text and important images content should be described in the page. 
    • To turn off images in Firefox: go to Tools -> Options -> Content -> and then uncheck the checkbox labelled “Load Images Automatically” -> then select the OK button. 
    • Internet Explorer: go to Tools -> Internet Options ->Advanced -> and then uncheck the checkbox labelled “Show Pictures” -> and activate the OK button. 
  • Check for captions and field labels: It is important to check if all the fields have proper labels and clicking on label next to text, does the cursor go into the field. If there is any media file on the website does that have a caption on the video, is there an option to turn off/on audio description/captions. This will help users who are blind, deaf, having low vision or hard to hear access the media files present in the website. 
  • Turn off CSS: According to WebAIM’s Survey of Users with Low Vision, 19% of users with Low Vision browse the web with “Customized page colors or custom style sheets”. So it is important to check if background image, links, icons disappear after turning off CSS. 
    • How to turn off CSS in Firefox, Internet Explorer and Mozilla: 
      • go to View -> Page Style    -> and then select No Style. 

Use free online tools that are available in market to perform web accessibility testing: 

Automation plays a vital role in accessibility testing, this helps in finding accessibility issues in your website sooner and provide quick feedback to the team regarding website accessibility. 

Below are few well known automated free tools and chrome plugins available in market to ease accessibility testing efforts.

  • AXE: It’s available as a free plugin for Google Chrome, Firefox. 
    • It allows you to test the accessibility of any webpage while in your browser. It immediately gives the list of accessibility issues that are explained in detail when we hover on the info icons present next to each error, as well it provides tips on how to fix them. 
AXE
AXE
  • TAW:  TAW is a free online tool that helps you get a full report of accessibility errors via a report to your email. Enter the URL of the webpage you want to test into a search bar in their landing page, type in your email, and hit “Analyze”. 
TAW
TAW

All the issues found on the website is listed with info on how to fix it which will help to improve the accessibility of the website. 

TAW
TAW

Sample email report with accessibility issues found in the webpage. 

TAW
TAW
  • Wave:  WAVE is a free website accessibility testing tool
WAVE
WAVE

The great thing about this is that by using WAVE you don’t have to enter the URL for every page that you want to check, because, through the WAVE UI.  

Many more free tools are available in the market for accessibility testing like:

  • JAWS(used for screen reading) 
  • Color contrast analyzer  
  • Screen readers 
  • Voice recognizers  
  • ZoomText(used for Screen magnifiers) etc. 

Advantages/Benefits of accessibility testing: 

Specific accessibility requirements should be included in the product requirement phase. In the design phase, development phase, work can be checked to ensure accessibility has been integrated. Finally, in the testing phase, the final deliverables can be validated before the product launch. 

Website accessibility helps to increase usage and make the website accessible to everyone and in-turn increase the revenue to the company. 

benifits of AT
benefits of AT

Other opportunities to start career as accessibility tester: 

If you work for a B2B company and don’t have enough scope to build career in accessibility testing then try freelancing in your free time, weekends. Exploring new software helps in learning as well as it’s an good side earnings for a tester.   

Few platforms that offer freelancing projects are: 

Conclusion

Making accessibility test a regular part of the software application testing process, and implementing the necessary checks early in product requirement phase of the agile workflow can help improve the overall experience of using an application or website. As the world is moving towards improving the customer experience an application must be tested for its accessibility. 

Good accessibility is directly proportional to a good user experience. We need to enforce accessibility testing into our team’s agile workflow and use a hybrid method of manual and automated testing for better results and improve the website accessibility.  

The key point to remember is different able users are users too and should have equal opportunities to access the software applications. 

 “The power of the web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect” 

Tim Berners Lee  

Happy testing!! 

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Author

Gagana B

Associate Test Lead

Gagana works as an Associate Test Lead at MoEngage India Pvt ltd. She is a certified ISTQB tester and trainer for her team to clear foundation level ISTQB certification. A test enthusiast who loves all things about testing, also she is passionate about helping other QAs create a positive culture with developers. Apart from that she is a sportswoman and state-level volleyball player who loves playing badminton, table tennis in free time with her super-enthusiastic team.


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