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To help you understand why Accessibility Testing is the need of the hour, we have answered a few important W&H questions like What, Why, Who, When, and How with regard to Accessibility. As a leading QA company, we wanted to make sure that we left no stone unturned for our readers by creating a blog that will be a comprehensive introduction to Accessibility, as accessibility makes it possible for the content on the world wide web to be created in a way it is inclusive to the 1 Billion people around the world who have some form of disability or impairment. So let’s begin by defining what Accessibility is.
WHAT is Accessbility?
What does it mean by “Accessibility”? It is nothing but the “ability to access”. When it comes to the engineering context, both software and hardware should be designed in a way that makes it easy for a user with a disability or impairment to use it. For example, computers, mobile phones, webpages, and so on. Beyond the textbook definition, Accessibility is what fulfills the people with disabilities their right to information. Therefore, Accessibility shouldn’t be viewed as something optional, but rather it should be an integral part of any content or functionality that is fully available to and usable by people with disabilities. This refers to individual elements, features, or the whole web experience.
“The one argument for accessibility, that doesn’t get made nearly often enough, is how extraordinarily better it makes some people’s lives. How many opportunities do we have to dramatically improve people’s lives just by doing our job a little better?”
-Steve Krug, an User Experience Professional and the author of Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability.
Accessibility can even be termed as Freedom, Independence, or even as a Breakthrough for people with disabilities. That is why a11y has become a global movement that is not seen as regulations or laws of any specific country. Now that we have been introduced to Accessibility, let us explore the central topic of this blog which is why Accessibility testing is the need of this hour.
WHY is Accessibility Testing needed?
As per a recent WHO report on Disability, About 15% of the world’s population lives with some form of disability, of whom 2-4% experience significant difficulties in functioning. That’s one billion people, and they form the world’s largest minority. Things come into perspective when you realize that your creation will not be accessible to about 20% of all internet users. The mind-numbing fact is that these figures are expected to double by 2050. This figure emphasizes the importance of accessibility for the disabled population and how our ignorance in such an aspect could have grave effects.
As stated above, accessibility is not optional as access to information is defined as a basic human right by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Article 9 (Accessibility) of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) says the following,
1. To enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life.
2. To promote other appropriate forms of assistance and support to persons with disabilities to ensure their access to information;
3. To promote access for persons with disabilities to new information and communications technologies and systems, including the Internet;
4. To promote the design, development, production, and distribution of accessible information and communications technologies and systems at an early stage so that these technologies and systems become accessible at minimum cost.
WHO is in need of Accessibility?
“For people without disabilities, technology makes things easier. For people with disabilities, technology makes things possible.”
– IBM training manual 1991
Accessibility testing which is a subset of usability testing, is not only geared towards normal users, it also focuses on users with disabilities like Visual, Blind (Low Vision, Color-blind), Auditory (Deaf, Deafblind), Motor Disabilities, Speech Disabilities, Cognitive Disabilities, Reading Disabilities, Seizures, and Multiple Disabilities. Making the digital content accessible doesn’t just benefit the individuals with disabilities, it is also great for businesses, and society on the whole.
Surprisingly, the other added advantage is that people using mobile devices and having slow network connections will also be able to benefit from this. So one can say that accessibility testing supports social inclusion for the underprivileged as well.
Accessibility did not begin with any rule or out of compulsion. It all started out of compassion when Pellegrino Turri built the first mechanical typewriter in 1808 to help a blind friend write legibly. But acts of compassion alone will not be enough, and so the world witnessed its first legislation for accessibility in 1990. One could argue that the 1973 Rehab act was where it all started as the law stated there should be no discrimination against people with disabilities in federal employment. But the 1973 act was not a widespread law that helped out in all scenarios. So let’s take a look at all the crucial developments in the world of accessibility beginning from 1990.
- 1990 – The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed sowing the seed for all things that came after that.
- 1995 – The Unified Web Site Accessibility Guidelines marked a new beginning for Web Accessibility.
- 1997 – The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) launched the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) to achieve Web functionality for people with disabilities and also to let everyone know its importance.
- 1998 – Section 508 is added to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, requiring that government agencies make their websites more accessible to people with disabilities.
- 1999 – World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) released Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
The introduction of WCAG will forever remain as one of the most important steps taken in providing global web accessibility. The internet’s boom enabled the world to be at our fingertips as it provides unprecedented opportunities and interactions, especially to people with disabilities. If we try to recall the pre-internet days, we can only imagine how a person with disabilities would have been able to access information from a newspaper, e-commerce, and so on.
The WCAG has evolved and grown over the years fixing its many shortcomings with a vision to create the best accessibility.
- 2008 – The first step in the evolution of WCAG to what it is today came with the launch of WCAG 2.0 that overcame the drawbacks of its predecessor.
- 2015 – Though Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) does not come under WCAG, it is still an important aspect of web accessibility as it has greatly improved the ability of screen readers to read the web content ever since its launch.
- 2018 – WCAG 2.1 was released after a lot of refinement, and the promising Project Silver which will focus on IoT was also launched. The significance of Project Silver is that it has already started laying the groundwork for what is to come when IoT is implemented on a larger scale.
The WCAG 2.1 guidelines are accepted worldwide when performing Accessibility Testing despite many countries having their own government policies for accessibility like the ADA(American Disability Act) and Section 508 that we mentioned earlier, EN 301 549(European Accessibility Standard), the BITV(German Govt Standard), RGAA(French Govt Standard), and so on. The proliferation of guidelines and governmental policies paved the way to the inception of many web accessibility tools, which ensures and enables the person with disabilities to access all the information.
The Origin of JAWS
Another example that is similar to the typewriter case is a testament that these guidelines and laws weren’t the only motivational factors. Ted Henter, the man who created the infamous JAWS screen reader for personal computers was a motorcyclist. He had lost his eyesight due to a fatal car accident in 1978 which put him on the path for creating such a feature.
HOW to create Web Accessibility?
Now we are about to answer the final question in this blog, the question of how we can make web content accessible to every single person. We have to start laying the groundwork for better web accessibility by implementing web accessibility guidelines in the initial stages of the project. It can be made an integral part in the way the content is written, the way the website is designed, and also most importantly coding techniques and processes. Fixing an in-accessible website requires huge cost and effort during accessibility testing, making it an unviable option in most scenarios. This is one of the major roadblocks that any person or company would face when they try to make their content accessible in the later stages.
According to a recent survey by webAIM annual accessibility analysis
The designer is the one who is responsible for the graphic and UI design of web pages and apps. Applying accessibility during the budding stages of a project is required in order to ensure that the color, font style, graphical interface designs meet the accessibility requirements.
We have listed a few good practices to help a designer/developer meet the WCAG requirements. For example:
1.Low Contrast Text
One of the most common errors found in 86.3% of the homepages that webAIM tested was using contrast text. Usually, in the design stage, it is a common mistake to just focus on the aesthetic appeal the colors create or even make a conscious decision to incorporate the brand colors in the web pages no matter what. But if the user is a person with color blindness, then the low contrast text creates inaccessibility.
2.Include alternative text for images
Providing alternative text for all informational and functional images is extremely important for people using screen readers. One word or under descriptive alt texts will not be useful and so it is important to write descriptive alternative text for all important images.
WCAG – Non-text Content 1.1.1 (Understanding 1.1.1)
3.Reflect the reading order in the code order
Ensuring the order of elements in the code matches the logical order of the information displayed. If you have typed codes for a webpage or used tools like WordPress, then you would be familiar with the heading tags. Many don’t quite give the focus it deserves when they are writing content for the webpage as a jumbled-up order will not have direct impacts visually, but it will definitely affect the screen reader a person with disabilities might use
4.Never use Empty Links
The ability to hyperlink content on the web is very useful when we are looking to add references and so on. But the way it is implemented is also a key factor here as if there is no descriptive text that denotes the reason for the hyperlink and also the page that the link will take the user to. Without this information, visually challenged users will not be able to have any clue as to why the link has been added.
WCAG – Meaningful Sequence 1.3.2
5.Write code that adapts to the user’s technology
Using responsive designs to adapt to various zoom states and viewport sizes, like on mobile devices and tablets. Why is it important you might ask? A few visually challenged people might have medical conditions that make them partially blind or have tunnel vision and so on. So they will be able to benefit by zooming into the content beyond regular usage requirements.
WCAG – Resize text 1.4.4, Consistent Identification 3.2.4
6.Avoid CAPTCHA where ever possible
Providing more than two ways to solve the CAPTCHAs is very important because there might be a user who is visually impaired who can pass the test if it is an audio CAPTCHA. The same applies to the opposite scenario as well. There should be a way in providing access to a human representative who can bypass the CAPTCHA or there should be an option where CAPTCHAs can be avoided for authorized users.
WCAG – Non-text Content 1.1.1
As mentioned earlier, a website can be tested for accessibility compliance even after it is developed. It can be achieved with various Website Accessibility Evaluation Tools available in the market. The tools are of different types and each type can be used for specific purposes.
The tools can be filtered by criteria like the guidelines being followed, the language that is in use, the type of tool (includes Authoring Tool plugins, API, Browser Plugin, Online service), supported formats, and so on. It depends on each organization, the project, and team requirements as well.
Why is Accessibility Testing the need of the hour?
A website that is compliant with all the accessibility guidelines directly proportional to a good user experience. Consumers will drive the requirements for the predictable future, by drifting towards more human-centric designs making accessibility testing more important.
Accessibility testing simplifies how easily a user can navigate, access, and understand the content irrespective of the kind of disability. Like any other type of testing, Accessibility testing can be achieved through manual testing as well as with the help of automation tools. A tester’s goal should be to make sure that the guidelines are fulfilled and thereby making the website accessible to the user. Being one of the best Accessibility testing services providers, our testers perform a WCAG Web Content Review and provide recommendations to improve your application and make it accessible to one and all. We hope you have enjoyed reading this blog. Make sure to stay tuned to all our latest blogs for such informative content.
PS: EVERY BUG YOU MISS DURING ACCESSIBILITY TESTING DEPRIVES A PERSON WITH DISABILITIES OF THEIR RIGHT TO INFORMATION.