people working on accessibility testing on computers

Website Accessibility Testing – Where to Begin?


Thirty years ago, the landmark legislation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), opened the doors of opportunity for people with disabilities to have equal access to jobs, services (such as healthcare), and consumer goods and services (shopping, banking, homebuying). In today’s digital economy, access has moved online and the need for equitable access couldn’t be greater. Online accessibility is the safest accommodation for people with disabilities to obtain the essential services they need in this COVID environment.

In 1990, the first website was just being developed. Since then, the majority of websites were not developed to be compatible with assistive technologies such as screen readers. We have a lot of catching up to do, but with cloud technology, businesses and organizations have several options to implement web accessibility quickly and in a cost-effective manner.

Although ADA accessibility lawsuits were already pushing more businesses and services toward web accessibility, COVID-19 accelerated the need for accessible online access to goods, services, and information. As we look toward economic recovery, web accessibility can be a force multiplier—a way to drive more digital business and realize cost savings--while providing people with disabilities the access to essential goods and services they need.

Before organizations can fix their websites, they need to know their site’s accessibility posture – if their website meets current guidelines and if not, what are the errors and how many need to be fixed.

Choosing the Best Web Accessibility Testing Tool for Your Needs

Computer IconWebsite accessibility testing is a top trending topic among the web development community, and businesses and organizations are looking to integrate accessibility testing to mitigate their legal risk and improve their SEO. The increase in ADA website accessibility lawsuits as well as the increase online use due to the coronavirus has thrust web accessibility to the forefront of web design.

Much of the focus has been on automated testing, however, this only tells part of the story. Automated accessibility testing can only detect approximately 40% of accessibility errors plus/minus 5 points depending on which expert you talk to. Promises of “full accessibility” without manual accessibility testing fall short of meeting accessibility compliance requirements. While automation and AI has the promise of reducing the work required for accessibility, these 100% guarantees fail manual, human accessibility testing in most cases, leaving your organization vulnerable to a lawsuit. Automation and AI is intended to support, but not replace, the human effort for the highest levels of usability and compliance

Web accessibility testing supports quality assurance goals of providing an inclusive customer service, mitigate legal risks, and improve website performance. Good accessibility testing allows you to detect and remove barriers that a person with disabilities may encounter so your site provides the same service to all customers. As defined by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), “Web accessibility testing is a subset of usability testing where the users under consideration have disabilities that affect how they use the web.”

It is always best practice to test during development and content creation of your website. No matter if you are testing during development or after, accessibility user experience testing should include manual testing with screen readers in addition to automated to ensure full compliance with W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 and protect your brand.

Manual Accessibility Testing Person using a screen reader

There are tools you can use to test your own site if you have the in-house capabilities. If you work with a vendor for testing, you should also be aware of the assistive technologies they use for quality assurance.

There are few assistive technologies that most widely used depending on geographic location.

  • For desktop testing: Jobs Access with Speech or JAWS has been very popular especially in North America. Internationally, Non-Visual Desktop Access or NVDA has the most usage, but recently this open source screen-reader has grown in popularity in North America.
  • Apple’s screen-reader VoiceOver is a distant third in usage on desktop. For mobile testing: In North America VoiceOver on iOS devices has dominated usage statistics with some surveys saying as high as 80%. TalkBack, Android’s mobile screen-reader makes up most of the rest of the market and usage.

The right accessibility testing approach and what assistive technology to use depends on a number of factors unique to your organization, its current accessibility posture and compliance goals. For more information regarding manual and automated testing, contact a User1st accessibility specialist.

Automated Accessibility Testing

As many organizations look for efficiency, automated testing help you catch and fix errors quickly and guide your manual testing efforts leading. The best practice is to combine the two in a repeatable process that allows you to prevent regression and keep pushing the accessibility arrows up.

With so many automated tools on the market, how do you evaluate which is best for your organization? First, you should define your needs.

Here are the 5 factors to consider when selecting accessibility testing tools:

  1. Scope: Are you going to test a few pages only, or are you going to check the entire website or web application?
  2. Number of participants: Do you have few or many employees in your organization that will utilize the testing platform?
  3. Stage in the development cycle: Are you interested to connect the tool you have to your development CI/CD dev cycle or have the platform validate the code and content that is already in production? For those with an advanced CI/CD integration, you will be able to identify patterns quickly with the right platform.
  4. Quality over time: Accessibility testing in general and maintenance of UI components, can be challenging if there are constant design changes or communication challenges between the development and marketing teams. You’ll want to maintain consistency in your testing process and handling of results.
  5. Quality: Level of accuracy you are seeking in your tests based on your compliance goals.

After assessing your needs, know the Pros and Cons of the 4 types of Testing Tools Available. 

pros and cons of user1st 4 accessibility testing tools

  1. Browser plug-ins  Cons: Plug-ins will not allow you to scan many pages at once. It will not also allow you to connect the tools to your Dev environment and will not provide ways to compare scans you may do before, during, and after remediation. If you have many people using the plugin, each person may also come away with different results.
    • Pros: Free and easy to implement.
  2. 2. Automated APIs
    • Cons: Will require an integration into your internal systems, which can be costly. May scan the pages over a browser-less docker, which may lead to low quality of tests due to limited validation capabilities. Some of the available accessibility testing tool options on the market will not have integration abilities into your CI/CD process while some will. Some will not have interface for developers and testers, and the process can only be done over a ticketing system or Jira.
    • Pros: Cheapest on the market
  3. Online applications
    • Cons: Can provide the service probably only on the last stage of the Dev cycle. Will not include tools to capture user experience flows.
    • Pros: Cheap and will not require an integration into your internal systems.
  4. Onsite installations (CI/CD)
    • Cons; Most expensive
    • Pros: Will require integration into your internal systems, and the use of docker.

User1st Combines All 4 Testing Tools in One Affordable and Enterprise Grade Testing Platform.

Check1st™ is a robust automated accessibility testing tool, that has all the above: browser plugin, API and Jenkins integration, user experience flow and simulation and recording abilities, online solution and interface, and onsite Docker installation.Computer screen showing a graph

Check1st’s abilities can help you indicate keyboard focus and mouse activity simulation, executing over 90 accessibility validation engines that scans the DOM elements over a real browser. With these capabilities you will be able to integrate with your Dev cycle, with your unit testing of UI libraries, be provided with interface for its regression results of different scans in different point in time, and include unlimited pages to be tested.

By combining Check1st™ capabilities with User1st manual accessibility testing services, your will be able to generate code quality base line, and potentially prevent regressions from deploying to production.


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Written by Raegan Bartlo