Section 2 - Accessibility in practice

Testing for accessibility issues

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One of the first steps in building an accessible website is to assess the accessibility of your current site. There are a few ways to approach testing, but generally, you can either use automated testing methods, manual testing methods, or, ideally, a balanced mix of both. Using a quality automated testing solution can help save your team time and resources by streamlining the process of finding accessibility issues, tracking progress, and managing tasks within your organization. However, even the best automated solution cannot catch every accessibility issue, as by nature, some things can only be checked manually, such as keyboard-only navigation or your site’s compatibility with various assistive technology. Manual testing is time intensive and is best carried out by someone knowledgeable of accessibility. A hybrid of automated and manual testing is often the best way to go, as you can leverage the benefits of automated and manual testing and customize your approach to fit your team’s expertise level.

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Manual testing: Pros

Catch issues that might go undetected by automated tools

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Manual testing: Cons

Labor intensive and best done by a trained accessibility expert who knows what to look for

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Automated testing: Pros

Saves you the time and effort of looking through lines of code. Makes it easier to pinpoint recurring issues

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Automated testing: Cons

Does not catch all accessibility issues needed for WCAG compliance

User testing with people with disabilities

A highly effective way to check your website for accessibility issues is to invite people with a range of disabilities to interact with it while you observe and collect feedback. It is important to keep in mind that feedback from one person with a disability does not apply to all people with disabilities. A person with a disability does not necessarily know how other people with the same disability interact with the web, nor know enough about other disabilities to provide valid guidance on other accessibility issues. You should understand the range of disabilities you will be planning and testing for, as you might need assistive technology prepared for your testers. As with any user testing, be sure you provide a comfortable and quiet environment that is fully prepped with test materials.