This post describes the importance of accessibility, testing strategies and techniques, legal impacts, and the importance of accessibility to business success.
Accessibility testing ensures web and mobile applications function for all end users or customers, including those with varying disabilities and disability severities.
Why is adopting a strong accessibility test strategy important for modern software applications? Simply put, because everyone requires equitable digital access. As a society, we rely increasingly on digital access for healthcare, supplies, work and financial management. Digital access must work for everyone, even if they also use supplemental accessibility devices because of a disability.
Producing software without accessibility is unprofessional and unethical. Recently, it’s been actively approached as a source of unlawful discrimination. In the United States people with disabilities, permanent or temporary, are protected from discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In 2019, approximately 2,200 ADA lawsuits were filed against providers of inaccessible websites and mobile apps, and the numbers are increasing.
This guide describes the importance of accessibility, testing strategies and techniques, legal impacts, and the importance of accessibility to business success.
Until 2020 when the COVID pandemic forced the rapid upscaling of digital access for business, work, healthcare and ordering supplies, application accessibility was mostly ignored or treated as an optional convenience. As digital access becomes increasingly required to function in society, accessibility becomes a right and an outright need.
Imagine having a disability where you could not access a website to check email, deposit checks or manage your phone device. Many users could not get their basic needs met. As society increasingly relies on technology in all contexts, then barriers to accessibility become seriously detrimental and even deadly.
According to research by the CDC, there are 61+ million adults with disabilities in the U.S. alone. Those 61 million users do not account for users with minor disabilities who struggle to use digital technology.
In the U.S. and globally, accessible access for people with disabilities is a legal requirement. Failure to comply with regulatory laws regarding accessibility is grounds for legal action with financial implications. Recently, legal procedures and fines for non-compliance have increased in the U.S. Software companies must make accessible applications and testing for compliance a priority.
The top reasons to design and test accessibility include:
Accessibility through inclusive design increases application usability overall even without meaning to. Software applications built with accessibility features are more user-friendly. Users have a larger variety of display and navigational options as accessibility improves the overall user experience.
Currently, if an application fails to provide high levels of user satisfaction, it fails. End users can swap out applications quite easily and will do so repeatedly based on a bad usability experience alone. By incorporating accessibility features into an application, the business gains users, and more users equal more profits.
When simply doing the right thing is not enough, there’s always the need to meet regulatory obligations. Standards and guides for accessibility obligations exist, though up to now they’ve been largely ignored. With the increase in litigation against companies failing to follow the existing regulations, accessibility has grown into a priority for software companies.
The increase in legal action against inaccessible applications continues to rise, so protecting the business’s reputation becomes critical. Both losses of reputation and financial losses from lawsuits create negative business results. Incorporating accessibility into software design, development and testing is crucial to future business success.
Accessibility testing includes four testing types:
Accessibility testing starts with manual test execution against regulatory requirements and standards. In the U.S., ADA regulatory compliance is required for all software applications.
Along with the legal ADA requirements are standards for accessibility. The WCAG and UAAG are standards available to guide application design so applications work for all users.
Many accessibility tests can be created as automated tests, or even outsourced to a crowdsource test provider. Crowdsource testing service providers use a diverse and global set of users with varying disability levels to thoroughly test an application’s accessible features.
Accessibility tests are often done with user acceptance testing that validates the application meets regulatory requirements and provides acceptable levels of accessibility. When using acceptance testing, be sure to include disabled users or customers to gain a better understanding of whether the application can be used by customers with disabilities.
Accessibility testing techniques include:
Accessibility testing also includes testing application integration with assistive devices to ensure compatibility and function.
Test using the following assistive devices:
For device testing, verify the application works with a variety of configuration and option settings along with each device type.
Functional testing covers testing the application functionality including:
Integration testing ensures the application functions as expected when communicating with different device types.
Compatibility testing ensures the devices and application function when used together, like device and integration testing.
Usability testing ensures the user experience is acceptable for all user types.
Regulatory compliance testing verifies all legal requirements are covered within the application functionality.
There are numerous tools available to assist with accessibility audits and testing, both manual and automated. Many tools include built-in checking against selected regulatory and legal requirements. Many tools offer assistive device farms for testing.
The following is a sampling of tools for accessibility testing:
Before using a new tool, consider checking the development tools currently being used for built-in accessibility testing features including device access.
The time has arrived for accessibility testing. QA testers and teams must learn what accessibility testing includes and the regulations guiding it, and then to add it to their test suite execution. QA testers must arm themselves with the expertise to discover accessibility-related defects and regulatory requirement violations when testing web and mobile apps.
QA testers must also be aware of inclusive design principles. Like all testing types, requirements or user stories are analyzed for defects or missing requirements throughout the software development cycle. The earlier accessibility mistakes are reported and repaired, the better. By understanding both accessibility testing methods and inclusive design principles, QA testers will possess the skills to find and report accessibility defects.
Accessibility testing must become a permanent fixture in test planning and execution. Like security testing, accessibility testing can no longer be ignored or tested when convenient. Accessibility testing and inclusive design need to become an inherent component of software development throughout the software development lifecycle.
Need help organizing tests or even creating tests for mobile and web application accessibility testing? Consider tools to make managing all testing efficient and effective. Testing tools like Test Studio leverage the latest in testing technology for creating, managing and executing test, including accessibility.
A QA test professional with 23+ years of QA testing experience within a variety of software development teams, Amy Reichert has extensive experience in QA process development & planning, team leadership/management, and QA project management. She has worked on multiple types of software development methodologies including waterfall, agile, scrum, kanban and customized combinations. Amy enjoys continuing to improve her software testing craft by researching and writing on a variety of related topics. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, cat management and the outdoors.
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