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Website Accessibility Testing: Accessibility Testers and Using Assistive Technology

I previously blogged about website accessibility testing – where to start that offered advice on accessibility testing basics and on web accessibility testing – scanning tools that can support an audit. In the final blog of this series, I’ll address web accessibility testers and using assistive technologies.

If you are currently doing accessibility testing, might be tasked with doing so soon, are considering an investment in some type of automated scanning solution or overseeing or implementing accessibility initiatives, you’ll benefit from this blog.

After your information gathering and automated website accessibility scan, it’s time to consider how you’ll use accessibility testers and assistive technology. The experience and the quality of your accessibility audits and testing is just as important as creating an execution plan.

Accessibility Testers: Common Myths

There is a common myth when it comes to accessibility testers: anyone can test for it. This isn’t true. The people you select to execute your accessibility testing can have a huge impact on end results. Using an accessibility tester, or testers, really helps to establish a solid baseline audit of your site. We recommend that you use experienced accessibility testers, especially if you have not done any accessibility audits previously.

Experienced testers will be familiar with a Q&A testing process and methodology. They are proficient with the use of assistive technology and know how to use it to evaluate web content. Further, they’ll know how to properly document any issues that might be identified. This means when your designers and developers go to remedy the issue, they’ll have enough information to take action without requiring additional clarification.

The main benefit – experienced testers understand the challenges that an assistive technology user might face. They’ll put themselves into that mindset (discussed in a previous blog) so they’ll understand the experience a user might be facing. These experienced testers know how to evaluate your websites against the accessibility standards and those that you choose to use.

Utilizing experienced accessibility testers is worth it. It is not Joan over in accounting being asked to do some testing on the side while she has other work to do. Experienced testers do this for a living and they can focus and provide the best feedback and results for your testing effort.

Assistive Technology

Performing manual testing with assistive technologies can be difficult, and there are a lot of factors to consider and questions to answer, like which products to use, and if and how to customize their configurations

In my two previous blogs, I discussed completing a manual pass of the website and an assistive technology test pass. I wanted to clarify a few points relative to both.

First, buyer beware. Most assistive technologies in the market are expensive – some can cost thousands of dollars. You need to decide on your exact focus when testing with assistive technology. What's important to your organization? Do you want to test with a screen reader, a screen magnifier, a combination of these? There is a steep learning curve for most of these products.

Once you’ve purchased an assistive technology, you’ll need to figure out how to use it, and decide whether to use default or customized settings. We always recommend using the default settings.

Finally, you’ll need to consider when and where these technologies might be doing auto correction. Why? Because they are not designed as a testing tool. They are designed as a way for users to be able to consume online content. Some of these technologies will actually auto correct for poor coding. If you are not familiar with where and when this might happen, you might be missing some critical issues just because your assistive technology is masking it.

So, again, testers need to have familiarity with the tools in use. Also, because of these complexities, we advise that you partner with an experienced accessibility consultant when it comes to assistive technology. You’ll get valid results that are useful for your organization...at least in the beginning.

Web Accessibility Testing – Where to Start, Testing Approaches and Assistive Technologies

The goal of this blog series was to provide you with:

  1. The basics of manual accessibility testing
  2. Some of the pitfalls of relying on only an automated tool, although automated testing does have an important role to play
  3. That there are a number of critical accessibility issues that can be missed if you do not perform a complete review of your content
  4. The benefits of using skilled accessibility testers

The quickest way to improve your accessibility testing practice is to do your due diligence, take the time to establish a reasonable plan, execute on that plan, and do automated and manual testing along with continued monitoring and reviews of existing and newly created content.

Four key Issues Web Accessibility

Download four key issues that attract web accessibility litigation and how to solve them. Click to download now.