According to the World Health Organization’s World report on disability, 15% of the world’s population lives with some form of disability. This means that around one billion people may experience some degree of difficulty when interacting with an application. Or any software product, for that matter, really.
To make sure a wide range of users can use your application, you need to understand — and address — their challenges. This is where accessibility testing can help.
What is accessibility testing?
In a nutshell, accessibility testing is the practice of making your web and mobile applications accessible to as many people as possible. This means that people with various disabilities, like vision impairment, hearing problems, and other physical or cognitive conditions should be able to use your product without difficulties.
Accessibility testing is a subset of usability testing, which is why a lot of people confuse the two. We have a whole blog post dedicated to the key differences between usability, user experience, and accessibility testing. You might want to check it out.
Now that you know what accessibility testing is, the question is — why do you need it? Let’s go over the top 5 reasons you need accessibility testing now.
1. Comply with WCAG
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a set of technical requirements that you need to follow in order to improve or incorporate digital accessibility. The goal of WCAG is to provide an equal experience to people with disabilities and ensure your application is inclusive.
WCAG is organized under four guiding principles of accessibility. According to these principles, your software product should be:
- Perceivable. Information and user interface components must be presented in a way that users can perceive. Users should be able to discern content using at least one of their senses.
- Operable. Users should be able to successfully operate and control all user interface components and navigations. They should not require an action that a user cannot perform.
- Understandable. The content and user interface should be consistent and predictable. Users should be able to understand the content and intuitively operate the interface.
- Robust. Users should be able to interact with content on multiple user agents, including web browsers, mobile applications, and assistive technologies.
The WCAG has three levels of conformance: A, AA, and AAA.
- Level A. This is the minimum level of conformance. Systems that do not comply with these requirements make it extremely difficult or impossible for users with disabilities to access main content.
- Level AA. This is the recommended level of conformance. It allows a wide range of users to access and operate the content and is the basis for almost all accessibility standards.
- Level AAA. This is the highest level of conformance. It ensures specific groups of users, like people with disabilities, can access content easily.
The W3C provides a comprehensive guide for each level.
To ensure your software conforms to the standards set by WCAG — you need accessibility testing. Accessibility testing will determine how compliant your product is and identify areas of improvement.
2. Practice moral responsibility
People with various disabilities are an equal part of society and deserve the same opportunities as those without. To ensure everyone has equal access to your digital product, accessibility testing is essential in the software development life cycle. It shows that you care for all users, regardless of their abilities. And not just as a means to increase your user base but to serve the larger community.
By enabling equal access to your product for all users, you are actually demonstrating a high level of moral responsibility. In turn, this will boost your branding efforts, ensure an inclusive product, and build trust among users.
3. Reach a wider audience
Having an application that caters to a more diverse range of abilities allows you to reach a much wider audience. This is because not all disabilities are permanent or physical. In fact, a disability can refer to cognitive, behavioural, or learning limitations, as well as temporary limitations due to illness or injury.
For example, someone with a hearing impairment may require captions and transcripts for audio and video content. Or someone with a visual impairment who cannot see content may require screen readers to hear it instead. Similarly, someone with a temporary injury, like a broken hand, may need assistive technology to use the product without restraints. It’s your responsibility to enable users to complete a task without encountering a barrier or issue.
Accessibility testing lets you determine how accessible your app is to as many people — on as many devices — as possible. Why settle for just one slice of the market when you can have the whole pie? Being aware of all the different challenges users may face when interacting with your product will allow you to make necessary improvements. If you want to reach a wider audience, then accessibility testing should certainly be on your to-do list.
4. Improve quality and user experience
A common misconception is that accessibility only focuses on people with disabilities. However, this couldn’t be more wrong. Interestingly, accessibility testing isn’t limited to just improving the user experience for users with limited abilities. But rather, it can help improve the overall quality and user experience for all users.
Accessibility is all about people and giving them options. For instance, how often have you caught yourself reading captions for a video? Or zooming into a screen to take a better look at something? You don’t have to use these features, but it sure is nice having the option, right? This is one of the perks of having an accessible product. You are able to deliver an all-round great user experience and satisfy the needs of your users.
Adding features like transcripts, closed captions, screen magnifiers, and a clean, simple design will generally benefit all users. With accessibility testing, you can find out exactly how accessible your application is to a broad range of users.
5. Avoid legal trouble
In most countries, creating an accessible software product isn’t just a moral choice — it’s a legal obligation. Most countries’ accessibility laws are based on WCAG requirements, with Level AA being the recommended level of compliance.
In the U.S., organizations must meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.
The European Union, on the other hand, has The European Standard for Digital Accessibility EN 301 549 in place, which aims to improve digital products in public and private sectors.
Failure to comply with accessibility laws can get you into legal trouble and leave a mark on your brand. In July 2021, a blind customer filed a lawsuit against American Airlines after they were unable to use their website and access important information. Specifically, the website did not fully support assistive technologies — in this case screen readers — which meant that blind and visually-impaired customers did not have full and equal access to important information, such as purchasing tickets, checking flight status, and getting information about checking bags.
So, if you think lawsuits are not that big of a deal, think again. According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, the number of lawsuits alleging that websites, apps and digital videos were inaccessible to people with disabilities rose 64% in the first half of 2021 from the previous year. And this in the U.S. alone.
It’s safe to say that accessibility — or lack of — can be quite expensive. Especially when you have to go to court or rebuild your product from scratch. For this reason, accessibility testing is critical. It will help you spot issues before they become a bigger problem.
Suggested reading: What is Accessibility Testing and What Regulations Govern It?
The bottom line
Accessibility testing is an important part of the software development life cycle. By testing how accessible your app is, you can build an inclusive brand image, broaden your market penetration, mitigate legal risks, and ensure a better user experience for all users.
We suggest getting in touch with TestDevLab to discuss accessibility testing. We can help you meet accessibility requirements and satisfy your users’ needs. Our engineers use a hybrid approach, which includes both manual and automated testing, to detect all accessibility issues. Upon completion, you will receive a detailed accessibility bug report with all the issues and suggestions for moving forward. Don’t delay. Get in touch today.