As we all know, Technology, particularly the web has introduced new worlds for everyone who uses it. But have you ever given a thought about how the capability to access technology influences the lives of those with special needs? Imagine you are blind yet you are able to read, not capable to speak or hear yet you can chat online or being completely paralyzed but still you can travel the world? Technology has made it all possible for those with special needs, inspiring their lives in ways they never imagined.
According to WHO 15% of the population in 2015 had a disability and half of these reported a major disability and therefore importance of accessibility testing will continue to grow. So testers, welcome to the new world of accessibility testing which is bigger and better than ever before.
These days special technologies are used by people with special needs including screen readers; screen magnification software; speech recognition software; and special keyboards for work, personal fulfillment and communication yet all websites are not user friendly to these users. Accessibility testing is defined as a subcategory of usability testing that is geared toward users of all disabilities and abilities. The aim of this testing is to check not only accessibility but usability too.
How do we test Accessibility of an application?
1. Manual Accessibility Testing: Manual testing is one of the safest techniques to decide the accessibility of a web page. The accuracy of the results exclusively depends on the knowledge of the tester. The process includes a detailed understanding of the client side code. This code can be viewed in most web browsers. The tester checks the, reviews the code and page structure where it is necessary. With the help of Manual testing tester can find accessibility problems which cannot be found programmatically. For example, a testing tool can conclude if an image has expressive text associated to it but during manual testing it is possible to decide if the description gives enough information about the image. Manual testing needs an accurate systematic overview specifically in case of larger sites making sure that all elements and pages are covered.
As usability testing focuses on the users, this means not only the users with various severities and disabilities but also those with limited reading ability, color blindness, infrastructure, limited computer literacy, equipment and access. We should look for standards to check legal requirements that must be satisfied as well as what to measure. However, the World Wide Web Consortium(W3C) which is the main international standards organization for the internet has made a guideline for making web data accessible to people with disabilities.
2. Web Accessibility Testing: Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can use the Web. More precisely, Web accessibility means that people having different disabilities can understand, perceive, interact and navigate with the Web and that they can also add to the Web. Web accessibility is also beneficial to others including older people with varying abilities due to aging. That’s why Web Accessibility testing is so important these days. Web accessibility testing is performed using different tools like WAVE, EvalAccess 2.0, FAE(Functionality Accessibility Evaluator), The Color Contrast Analyzer etc. Web Accessibility testing confirms that people with disabilities will be able to use the system. Accessibility Testing makes products usable across millions of people who have one or multiple types of disabilities and helps to fulfill legal requirements.
The key principle of Web accessibility is designing software and Web sites that are flexible to meet different user preferences, situations and needs. This flexibility also benefits people without disabilities in assured situations such as people with "temporary disabilities" such as a broken arm, people using a slow Internet connection etc. The Web is a progressively important resource in many aspects of life: employment, education, commerce, government, recreation, health care and more. It is necessary that the Web should be accessible in order to give equal opportunity and equal access to people with disabilities. An accessible Web can also benefit people with disabilities so that they can more actively participate in society.
The Web offers the possibility of full access to interaction and information for many people who are disable. That is, the accessibility barriers to audio, visual media and print can be easily overcome through Web technologies.
With each passing day, the web is assuming greater meaning in our lives, be it e-payments, e-commerce, social media, e-paper, Internet banking etc. So it becomes significant to make available all information technology and electronic tools to everyone, especially for people with some kind of disabilities.