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Manual Testing: Why it is an Essential Accessibility Step

Web accessibility is a critical concern for everyone. Not only does it make your website accessible to people with disabilities, it improves your overall site experience as well as search engine operability. Many websites are required to be made accessible through either Section 508 or as the direct result of lawsuits. If you have an automated scanning solution in place, you might be wondering why you would need to invest in manual testing of your site.

Automated scanning solutions are a great strategy to continually test lots of content for accessibility rules as dictated by the WCAG. However, manual tests should be used as a complementary strategy to automated checks. It is not enough for websites to meet the minimum accessibility requirements. They should be designed to be functional for users beyond the minimum checks. A manual test can catch and flag things that could be missed in an automated test. This will make your website as inclusive as possible to the biggest pool of users. Manual inspection of your website needs to be done according to the WCAG2.1 standards. When you think about making your website accessible, the WCAG2.1 standards broaden the people who will take advantage of accessibility features beyond those with disabilities.

Reason 1. Automation is Not Perfect
There are limitless ways to put together a website. Many automated accessibility checkers don’t account for all the variation in the formatting of web pages. You would need to find a solution that handles dynamic modules, for example, log in or account create, so you can make sure to capture all the ways a user interacts with your site. You can also get a lot of false positives in automated testing, indicating issues that aren’t really issues at all, for example visual elements that have already been manually checked. You need a solution that can allow you to account for the uniqueness of your site.

Reason 2. Going Through the Motions
According to some automated accessibility checkers, a site could pass all tests and appear to be accessible. However, if you ever sat down with someone with a screen reader and observed them attempting to use the website, you would realize that there could be many accessibility problems. A manual check of the website will look not only at the WCAG2.1 requirements but will also consider the practical needs of how someone will actually use a website. For example, an automated test can check if alternative text exists, but only a human can determine if the alternative text provides representation of a visual element. Only by tabbing through a site can one assess if all content can be found without a mouse and in an appropriate order for context. The better automated solutions should help you identify the manual tests you should be doing on your site.

Reason 3. Improved Design and Formatting
An automated accessibility solution will not look at the overall design of the website such as the font, color scheme, size, and image placement. An automated solution will not be able to determine context of elements on the page so a user can easily follow where they are and what they need to do next. Whether it is following best practices for writing for the web or making sure that your color choice works well with the overall look and feel of the website, these measures of a good website must come from a manual check.

Reason 4. Responsive Design
People access websites from multiple devices. These devices have different screen sizes that necessitate the use of responsive design. Some people might be looking at your website on their phone while commuting to work while others will use their tablet while sitting on their couch. Low vision users may enlarge much of the content on a screen using their device’s accessibility settings. A manual accessibility check utilizes devices with different screens and see how the website works in action. You should also look for automated solutions that can help emulate these different experiences when you are testing.

While automated testing is an essential process to consistently check your web content, manual testing helps to identify any areas where your website is going to fail in an alternative access use case. In addition to an automated solution, consider having a Baseline Audit done on your site to insure you know where you stand across all the accessibility guidelines. This will help you have a better understanding overall how user’s experience your site and you can be confident in what you need to do so that your website is accessible to diverse groups.

For information on Compliance Sheriff's automated accessibility solutions or Baseline Audit options, please reach out to info@compliancesheriff.com