Nowadays, when people with disabilities are reaching great heights of success and living their life with independence and respect, it is crucial for software developers to design and develop applications and software that are suitable for them and can be accessed by diverse people. Accessibility testing, which is a type of software testing technique, plays a major role in ensuring that applications are made in accordance with the requirements of people with disabilities as well as all abilities. It helps engineers develop an application with assistive technology, which further assist people in numerous ways. Hence, to help you understand the significance of accessibility testing, here is a discussion on the same.
What is Accessibility Testing?
A significant software testing technique, accessibility testing is a type of usability testing and it is mainly used to make softwares and applications compatible with various user requirements and needs. With the assistance of accessibility testing testers ensure that the applications are suitable for all users and caters to the requirements of users with all as well as disabilities. Moreover, it allows them to develop a software in accordance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which make sure that a particular software and application can be accessed effortlessly by a person with disabilities.
In short, accessibility testing enables the team to design and develop a deficiency free software and application that caters to the heterogeneous requirements of differently abled individuals. Also, it guarantees the quality of the special features added to the software and application for the ease of such users like, accessibility scanner, assistive touch, speech recognition software, voice access, screen magnifier, and more.
Reasons for Accessibility Testing:
The reasons for accessibility testing are numerous as it makes applications user as well as disability friendly and validates optimum and hassle free application browsing and accessing. This type of software testing is not merely focused on making applications suitable for differently abled people, but also for people who lack technical skills and equipment knowledge, are new users, or are facing challenges because of old age. Some of the other reasons for accessibility testing are:
- Ensures applications are accessible by people with different disabilities and abilities.
- Prevents organizations from legal issues.
- Makes software & applications that conform to WCA guidelines and regulations.
- Improves the flexibility of software accessibility, which allows them to meet diverse user preferences.
- Enhances maintainability, quality, and efficiency of the software.
- Checks the accessibility of digital content.
Prerequisites of Accessibility Testing:
Before the commencement of any process, it is important for the people involved to manage and coordinate various requirements of that particular activity. This makes sure that the process is executed without any disturbances and reaches its culmination effectively. Similarly, in accessibility testing too, the testers should ensure that the necessary data, document, and information is considered and collected, which can help them rectify any potential issues or errors. Therefore, the prerequisites of accessibility testing are:
- List of various requirements and specifications suggested by client or any stakeholder of the project.
- Documents and reports that can assist or improve the process of testing.
- Roles and responsibilities of various team members should be allocated and assigned.
- A proper plan should be prepared for the process of testing.
- Tools for automated accessibility testing should be decided.
- The exit criteria prepared.
- The expected output should be mentioned for comparison.
- External requirements should be stated.
Ways to Perform Accessibility Testing:
Implemented during the early stages of software development life cycle (SDLC), the process of accessibility testing can be either conducted manually or with the assistance of automated tools. Both, manual testing and automated accessibility testing have their advantages as they help testers get accurate results as well as validate the quality, functionality, and effectiveness of the software and applications. With the help of these methods testers can ensure the accessibility of the software and verify that it offers superior user experience.
- Manual Testing: The oldest form of testing, manual testing involves team of testers who test the software based on their skills and knowledge. This is an effective form of testing, as it is capable of detecting issues and defects that cannot be tracked programmatically. Manual accessibility testing is an amalgamation of keyboard only interactions, assistive computer technologies, and web browser plugins, which help testers determine the accessibility of various pages, sites, applications and software's. The advantages and disadvantages of manual accessibility testing are:
- Can be tested by users.
- Allows testing on various devices.
The importance of automated testing is extremely high in accessibility testing. It is amongst the most efficient way of testing the accessibility of the variety of web and mobile applications and softwares. Moreover, it is also used for developing and maintaining web pages and sites. With the assistance of automated testing testers are able to evaluate all the entry fields, the color combinations on the web pages and applications, as well as the functionality of the various links provided on them. Hence, the numerous advantages and disadvantages of automated testing are:
- Time consuming.
- The rate of risks and defects is higher due to human errors.
- Automated testing is rapid.
- Shows areas that require extra attention and re-mediation.
- Saves time & efforts, which further makes it cost effective.
- It is a continuous process that cannot be restricted easily.
- It is not thorough.
- Reports false positives.
- Does not eliminates accessibility barriers.
Who Performs Accessibility Testing?
Accessibility testing is performed by two groups, one of experts and others of users. The experts test the basic code and technical aspects of the software, while the users help validate the quality and effectiveness of the accessibility testing. It is only after getting the application or web page tested by the experts and users that the process of testing is termed successful.
- Expert Testing: This part of accessibility testing is mainly dependent on testing the application or software on five basic components, which are:
User Testing: The role of users in this process is integral as they check the software from the end users point of view, which helps the team resolve issues which were left undetected or were not detected by them earlier. User testing is mainly performed with the help of assistive technologies, wherein the users check various features of the software or the web page that offer accessibility to people with all as well as disabilities.
- Structural Inspection: The structure describes the various components of the software application or the web page as well as their relation with one another. The aim here is to check that the components are performing their intended tasks accurately.
- Screening & Assistive Technologies: Screening is the emulation of disabled user experience. This may involve the use of assistive technologies or the use of functions with restriction of some abilities to assess the usability of specific functions to be tested. For instance, the use of mouth stick to type for gauging keyboard accessibility.
- Perception: The focus of this testing is to ensure the color contrast and the font size of various web pages and software applications.
- Operability: Many a times, a flashing message on the screen can trigger fits in people suffering from neurological disorders. The evaluation involves taking a screen-shot of such messages and feeding it into specialist tools like photosensitive epilepsy analysis tools (PEAT).
- Understandability: This involves keeping an eye out for consistencies in the layout of web page, while keeping in mind the comprehending abilities of the targeted user segment. The goal is to focus on the visual appearance of the user interface.
Tools Used for Accessibility Testing:
As stated above the importance of automated testing is immense in accessibility testing as it allows testers to check a software thoroughly without investing excessive efforts and time. Therefore, following are some of the popular tools used by software testers to test the accessibility of the software:
- Accessibility Valet.
- EvalAccess 2.0.
- Accessibility Evaluation.
- Mobile Web Accessibility Checker.
- DYNO Mapper.
- Accessibility Checklist.
- Acrobat XI Pro.
- AXE Chrome Plugin.
- Cynthia Says.
Accessibility testing is an integral part of software testing life cycle (STLC) and it is being implemented by organizations around the world to make devices and web pages more user and disability friendly. In this day and age, where differently abled people like Stephen Hawking have made their mark in the world, accessibility testing ensures that they receive applications, software's, devices, and more that are perfect for them and can cater to all their requirements easily.