Accessibility Testing

What is Accessibility Testing?

Accessibility Testing is defined as a type of Software Testing performed to ensure that the application being tested is usable by people with disabilities like hearing, colour blindness, old age and other disadvantaged groups. It is a subset of Usability Testing.

People with disabilities use assistive technology which helps them in operating a software product. Examples of such software are:

Speech RecognitionSoftware – It will convert the spoken word to text, which serves as input to the computer.

Screen reader software – Used to read out the text that is displayed on the screen

Screen Magnification Software – Used to enlarge the monitor and make reading easy for vision-impaired users.

Special keyboard – made for the users for easy typing who have motor control difficulties

Why Accessibility Testing?

Reason 1: Cater to market for Disabled People.

About 20% of the population has disability issues.

  • 1 in 10 people have a sever disability
  • 1 in 2 people over 65 have reduced capabilities

Disabilities include blindness, deaf, handicapped, or any disorders in the body.

A software product can cater to this big market, if it’s made disabled friendly. Accessibility issues in software can be resolved if Accessibility Testing is made part of normal software testing life cycle.

Reason 2: Abide by Accessibility Legislations

Government agencies all over the world have come out with legalizations, which requires that IT products to be accessible by disabled people.

Following are the legal acts by various governments –

  • United States: Americans with Disabilities Act – 1990
  • United Kingdom: Disability Discrimination Act – 1995
  • Australia: Disability Discrimination Act – 1992
  • Ireland: Disability Act of 2005

Accessibility Testing is important to ensure legal compliance.

Reason 3: Avoid Potential Law Suits:

In the past, Fortune 500 companies have been sued because their products were not disabled friendly. Here a few prominent cases

National Federation for the Blind (NFB) vs Amazon (2007)

Sexton and NFB vs Target (2007)

NFB Vs AOL settlement (1999)

It’s best to create products which support disabled and avoid potential lawsuits.

Which Disabilities to Support?

Application must support people with disabilities like –

Type of Disability Disability Description
Vision Disability Complete Blindness or Colour Blindness or Poor Vision Visual problems like visual strobe and flashing effect problems
Physical Disability Not able to use the mouse or keyboard with one hand.Poor
motor skills like hand movements and muscle slowness
Cognitive disability Learning Difficulties or Poor Memory or not able to
understand and more complex scenarios
Literacy Disability Reading Problems
Hearing Disability Auditory problems like deafness and hearing impairments
Cannot able to hear or not able to hear clearly

Web Accessibility Guidelines:

Web Accessibility Guidelines are a set of defined rules to make web contents accessible to people with disabilities. There are number of guidelines defined by different countries. Section 508 and WCAG guidelines are popular accessibility standard guidelines in use today.

1. Section 508– Section 508 is the accessibility standard defined by the US government, to make sure that all US government websites can be accessed by people with disabilities. As per section 508 guidelines all electronic and information technology should be accessible to disabled users.

2. WCAG– Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG define the standards for accessibility for individuals, organizations and governments worldwide. WCAG 2.0 has been accepted as an International Standards Organization (ISO) standard, and many countries have adopted WCAG 2.0 as their legal standard for web accessibility. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines: Includes both WCAG1.0 and WCAG2.0 specifications.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0

The W3C’s first incarnation of WCAG in 1999 was a huge leap in web accessibility, bringing together years of useful work by developers from across the world.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 had 14 guidelines and divided them into 3 priority levels:

Priority 1 – the most basic level of web accessibility

Priority 2 – addressed the biggest barriers for users with disabilities.

Priority 3 – significant improvements to web accessibility

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0

The current set of guidelines has been in force since 2008 and will run for many years yet. The guidelines are more technologically neutral than WCAG 1.0, allowing them to stay useful for longer.

By designing WCAG 2.0 around principles and not technology, the W3C created an ethical statement as well as useful guidance.

The principles of WCAG 2.0 are:

* Perceivable

* Operable

* Understandable

* Robust

The principle of a website being perceivable is all about the senses people use when browsing the web. Some of your users may have difficulties with one or more of their senses, making them reliant on assistive technology to browse your website.

The three main senses that the guidelines can help with are sight, sound and touch. With WCAG 2.0, you can make sure that users can perceive all the information on your website.


The principle of a website being operable is about the actions people take when browsing. This covers the different ways in which your users browse the web. Some of them may have motor difficulties, which means they use their keyboard to navigate and some users who have sight impairments often prefer to use a keyboard rather than a mouse too.

The main issues for making your website operable are, ensuring good keyboard-only navigation, avoiding setting time limits for your users and helping them out if they make errors on forms.


Making a website understandable is a different kind of task to the first two principles. A perceivable and operable website means nothing if your users can’t understand it.

Your website must use clear terms, have simple instructions and explain complex issues. You must also make your website function in a way that your users understand, by avoiding unusual, unexpected or inconsistent functions.


A robust website is one that third-party technology (like web browsers and screen readers) can rely on. Your website must meet recognised standards, such as using clean HTML and CSS. This minimises the risk of your users relying on technology that cannot correctly process your website.

WCAG 2.0 levels

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 are organised into three levels of conformance:

Level A – the most basic web accessibility features

Level AA – deals with the biggest and most common barriers for disabled users

Level AAA – the highest (and most complex) level of web accessibility

For most websites, Level AA plus some Level AAA is the best target. That’s because some of the highest-level guidelines simply can’t be applied to all websites. However, one of the problems with the three-tier structure is that if people know they can’t attain AAA, they won’t even look through the guidelines to see where they can improve accessibility. With all of your projects, you should comply with all the guidelines you can, whether you want Level AAA or not.

Starting with Level A is a great way to make progress and begin helping out your users. Level AA is the standard many governments are using as a benchmark as this level targets the most common and most problematic issues for web users.

For detailed information refer W3C guidelines :

Accessibility Testing Tools:


Categories: AccessibilityTesting

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