What is Website Accessibility Testing?

Last updated: 2018-11-26 —

Why is website accessibility needed and Why we do accessibility testing
Automated Accessibility Testing on a website
Manual Accessibility Testing

Building a more accessible website is more than just a worthy goal. In many places, creating an online experience that meets WCAG accessibility standards is a legal requirement. Even beyond legal obligations, many people would say that offering equal access to users of all abilities is a moral responsibility.

With that in mind, improving your website’s accessibility isn’t something you can just decide to tackle and be done with. Maintaining an accessible website requires not only identifying your key accessibility issues, but also making regular reassessments of your content and best practices to ensure that your standards stay up to date. That requires a consistent, multi-faceted approach to accessibility testing.

Why is website accessibility needed and Why we do accessibility testing

Before you begin addressing accessibility issues on your website, you’ll first need to determine what and where they are. For nearly any public-facing website, that will require a combination of automated and manual accessibility testing. Each approach has its benefits and downsides, so it pays to know the ins and outs of both methods.

Automated Accessibility Testing on a website

Even for people well-versed in online accessibility, locating and identifying every potential problem on a website is too big a task to take on manually. Even if you manage to catch a good percentage of issues the first time around, a website is not a stationary thing. Pages get updated, information gets deleted, designs get revamped. Every time your website undergoes a change, the door is opened for new accessibility issues to work their way into your system.

This is where an automated tool like Siteimprove Content & Accessibility can save a lot of time and effort. An automated scan provides you with a page-by-page inventory of all site content and makes it much easier to pinpoint areas that fail to meet WCAG compliance standards. Automated accessibility testing can alert you to issues such as:

  • Improper page structure
  • Missing page titles
  • Unclear text content
  • Non-accessible links
  • Poor readability
  • Images without alternative text
  • Video and audio without captions or transcripts

While the ultimate aim with automated accessibility testing is building a more accessible website for everyone, it’s also important to keep legal requirements in mind. Be sure to look for a tool or software solution that scans for compliance with WCAG guidelines as well as any national or local accessibility regulations that apply in your area. A good tool can go a long way toward keeping your organization on the right side of equal access laws.

Manual Accessibility Testing

As helpful as automated testing is, it’s not enough on its own. A number of accessibility issues require manual testing by an actual human to ensure that all functionality is actually usable and efficient for users with specific disabilities. For instance, an automated tool can’t accurately assess how easily a human can navigate a site using only a keyboard, or recognize how fluidly a website interacts with screen readers and other assistive techs. Accessibility issues that should be tested for by a trained expert include:

  • Keyboard-only navigation, including the ability to move between sections of a web page, access all menus, and access links and form fields
  • Compatibility with screen readers and other assistive techs
  • Customizable color adjustments
  • Useful page titles
  • Proper coding

Manual accessibility testing requires an experienced professional who is familiar with common accessibility issues. Your accessibility tester should be well-versed in all of the above-mentioned topics and able to offer insights and solutions for these issues. As with automated testing, it’s important that a manual accessibility tester be familiar with WCAG Level AA guidelines and any accessibility laws that apply in your area of operation. A tester who can help bring your website up to date with the latest international accessibility standards is vital to your efforts.

Building a website that offers equal access for users of all abilities is a challenging and ongoing task, requiring close attention and maintenance for the lifespan of your site. By putting together a well-coordinated combination of automated and manual accessibility testing, as well as a clear plan for addressing the issues that arise, site owners can make a major difference in creating a more usable internet for every user.