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Accessibility testing


Accessibility testing
In the past, some of the top IT bigwigs have been dragged to courts for coming up with products that are not disabled friendly. Moreover, some countries have come up with government legislations that require the IT applications to be accessible for people with disabilities. Since a quarter of the market comprises of people with disabilities or older people with reduced capabilities, it's also in the marketing interest of these companies to make their products accessible to use for this segment of users.

What is Accessibility testing?

The software products of today have to come up with in-built assistive capabilities, designed to make them easily operable for the disabled. These include voice recognition software, screen magnification elements, etc. Accessibility testing is done to evaluate the utility of such capabilities.

When should it be done?

Since the cost of fixing errors is more at the end than dealing with it from the start, Accessibility evaluations should be considered right from the start of the software development cycle. It should then form part of the later iterations.

Teams for conducting accessibility tests:

Accessibility testing is performed by two groups comprising of experts and users. The team with experts has got a thorough understanding of the interactions of the various web technologies, whereas the users come handy in identifying the potential usability gaps between technical and technically naive users and also users with different levels of familiarity with the product under testing.

Expert testing:

There is a host of testing strategies employed by the team of experts. Some of them are

Structural inspection:

Structures define the components of a web page and the relationship between them. This inspection checks if there is correct on application of user assistive technologies such as voice command activation. For example, by selecting the label of a check box, it should get checked instantly.

Screening & assistive technology:

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 using mouth stick to type for gauging keyboard accessibility.

Perception:

This is the testing of ideal combinations of colour contrast and Font size.

Operability:

Many a times, a flashing message on the screen can trigger fits in people suffering from neurological disorders. The evaluation involves taking a screenshot of such messages and feeding it into specialist tools like photosensitive epilepsy analysis tools (PEAT).

Understandability:

This involves keeping an eye out for consistencies and in layout of web page keeping in mind the comprehending abilities of the targeted user segment. The goal is to focus on how easy on the eye the user interface is.

User testing:

For correctly approximating the user experience, disabled users from various forums and groups are recruited on a temporary basis and they are asked for reviews and expectations after checking the product in user trials. Examples of such forums are Magnifiers Yahoo group and Blinux-list. Examples for user trial include activities like browsing, sharing or uploading a video.

The customer base comprising of persons with different abilities is a big one. With the governments the world over, increasingly titling towards software technologies for delivery of welfare services to the disadvantaged, the quality of most IT products now hinges on accessibility tests.