TestBash SF 2019 Live Blog: Accessibility 101

Ahhh, yes, my wheelhouse :)!!! I’ve been a go-to person for Accessibility and #a11y testing for several years and I know there is a lot to talk about with Accessibility Testing. Ironically, the slides were not working correctly, so we had to listen to the talk spoken without visuals. For anyone who has dealt with Accessibility testing, you will realize that this is also referred to as “Thursday”, meaning we often simulate users who cannot see so they have to use their ears or touch to fill in the gaps.

Accessibility has often been seen as that part of testing where we “fire up the screen reader and listen to our pages”. Seriously, in some organizations, that’s how they approach Accessibility. There’s a lot more to it and there are a lot more areas where accessibility is important to address. Issues such as vision, hearing, mobility, and cognition all come into play. Some deal with one issue, some deal with multiple issues and some have something from all of them to deal with. Accessibility is the idea that we make information available for people with disabilities. In a purely pedantic sense, that is accurate but we also can identify many areas where normative users can take advantage of Accessibility features and use them to their benefit. About 15% of all people in the world have a disability of some form and those numbers start to rise dramatically as people age.

If you want to get some understanding of what makes web and online applications Accessible, check out W3G and see the WCAG spec. This is a global initiative and if you are aiming for WCAG compliance, it’s a good bet you will go a long way if not completely meeting the requirements for any specific country. We want to see that applications are Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust. We don’t want to have to fight to get any of those implemented. We also don’t want to have to fight to see and view information. If you find yourself fighting to see or get access to information, that’s probably a red flag that Accessibility needs are not being met.

Manual and automation come into play with Accessibility and as I have stated many times, there are ways that we can look for objective measures of accessible design but much of the onion that is accessibility requires manual testing and discernment. It is also possible to make a site that is 100% compliant for accessibility standards and yet be 100% useless in regards to accessibility. Yep, I’ve seen it happen, I can attest :).

Curious as to how well your application does? Here’s a quick hot tip. Turn on your screen reader and put away your mouse. Navigate only with a keyboard. Come back to me and tell me about your experience. My guess is it will be an eye-and-ear-opening experience. Other useful tools are color contrast apps, closed captioning, and screen size and orientation. Chrome has a bunch of extensions you can play with. Just get some and learn some new things. The key point here is that information is for everybody. Let’s do better about the people we are forgetting about.

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