As per recent research by World Health Organization, roughly 15% of the worldwide population is ‘specially-abled’ in some form or another. Developers creating a mobile application for all, need to analyze this 15% is a potential population opportunity that can be catered well. Other than creating dedicated applications for differently-abled people, making sure the current applications are disabled-friendly is a moral responsibility for every developer to ensure all its users are able to access their application with ease.
To accelerate this process, innovative tools are used to check if the applications are functioning as per Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG. This is where accessibility testing comes into the picture. Accessibility testing helps identify errors in software and functions incorporated in your systems and mobile phones to ensure that an application is accessible to people with disabilities, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning, and neurological disabilities.
We’ll know about these tools and their functions in detail but first, let’s understand more about accessibility testing and what all disabilities can be catered to by adding a few features to your existing applications.
What is Accessibility Testing?
A subset of usability testing, Accessibility Testing can be defined as a kind of software testing service performed to ensure that the application being tested is accessible by people with physical disabilities like hearing, color blindness, old age, and other groups.
There are special assistive technologies incorporated in systems and mobile devices for people with such impaired disabilities. This helps them operate the software being used with ease.
There are four different kinds of software typically being used to increase accessibility in devices:
- Speech Recognition – It converts the spoken word to text, which can be replaced by normal typing
- Screen Reader– This will read out the text that is written on the screen.
- Screen Magnifier- This helps enlarge the text on the screen for vision-impaired people.
- Special Keyboard these are special keyboards designed for people having difficulty in typing.
Why is it Necessary to Conduct Accessibility Testing?
Reason 1: Cater to a Wider Market for Disabled People
As per a recent study by the World Bank, over one billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, experience some form of disability, and it’s higher for developing countries. One-fifth of the estimated global total, or between 110 million and 190 million people, experience significant disabilities in some form or another. The less significant ones in this category include blindness, deaf, handicapped or other physical disorders.
To be honest, 15% is a huge market that can be catered to by software product developers with ease. A little extra effort can be put in to make this software suitable for this population.
Reason 2: Avoid Discrimination and Legal Complications
Government agencies have promoted IT product developers to make their products disability-friendly. They have come up with various legalizations like:
- Americans with Disabilities Act – 1990 in the United States
- Disability Discrimination Act – 1995 in the United Kingdom
- Disability Discrimination Act – 1992 in Australia
- Disability Act of 2005 in Ireland
Making sure you include this step of Accessibility Testing in your product development cycle ensures all these legal compliances are checked and helps you avoid being filed for lawsuits in the future. A lot of companies in the past have been sued for not having disability-friendly products, for example, the NFB Vs AOL settlement case of 1999.
Reason 3: Provide better Search Engine Optimization
Though accessibility compliance is more of a concern for developers and coding professionals, the SEO specialist also has a major role to play to make sure your applications or websites are SEO friendly and easily accessible and usable to all.
Broadly three areas need our attention here: Alt text, contrasting text, and empty links. Ignoring these elements can lead to detectable WCAG failures and ultimately fail in accessibility testing.
Depending on the type of disability, you can use various tools to test your applications. The most common disabilities are vision and hearing disorders mentioned below-
1) Vision Disability and Visual Impairment
Vision disability is for those who are either blind or have partial vision impairment. The tool being used here is a ‘Screen Reader’.
A screen reader is software that reads out aloud the content on your mobile screens. It narrates everything from menus, to descriptions, to navigations. The most common Screen Reader available for developers is JAWS for windows computers.
For visual impairments, there are two different types: color blindness and poor vision.
Colour blindness is a state in which a person is unable to view some specific colors. The website graphics must be designed in a matter to help people with color blindness access your website with ease. Having black border lines around your images can help them differentiate shapes and sizes on screen.
Poor vision, on the other hand, is when you need your text to be large or have better graphics so that while enlarging the image doesn’t break for the reader.
2) Other Disability
User with Hearing Disability (Deaf or hard to listen): Easy Alt text or alternative text should be available for those having a hearing disability for them to be able to access the content being presented on the website.
How to Perform Accessibility Testing?
There are three basic ways to perform accessibility testing:
- Accessibility Scanner
- Manual Testing
- Automated Testing
One of the latest addition to the accessibility testing pool, accessibility scanner is an application launched by Google. Its free to download from the play store on Android and easy to use for you to identify issues with your application.
To launch an accessibility scanner, once installed, go back to your settings → installed services → accessibility scanner → and allow permissions ‘on.’
Now you are all set to test your applications with ease. Go back to any website or app that you wish to test on your mobile and check the blue floating tick button. You will see an orange box around potential accessibility issues that will further display a summary and a link to detailed documentation on how to fix your errors.
Manual testing can be done easily, using your own mobile applications.
Go to Settings→ Accessibility → TalkBack → and tab it on.
Using this, the user can interact with their Android device without seeing the screen and observe any potential errors in the process while using it.
There are two ways to navigate your applications using TalkBack:
- Linear Navigation
- Explore by touch
This application allows you to interact with your application using a switch instead of a touch screen. There are various switches sold in the market that can be used by people with motor impairments. Examples include AbleNet, Enabling Devices, RJ Cooper, etc.
Automated Testing Tools
1. AChecker – Web Accessibility Checker
Achecker is a free accessibility testing tool released in the year 2005. Its 100% transparent, interactive and customizable. It uses Open Accessibility Checks (OAC), a collection of checks based on all web accessibility guidelines available globally. Currently, there are a total of 310 OAC checks employed by AChecker.
2. WAVE – Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool
WAVE is a suite of evaluation tools that helps authors make their web content more accessible to individuals with disabilities. WAVE can identify many accessibilities and Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG) errors, but also facilitates human evaluation of web content. You can easily use the online WAVE tool by entering a web page address (URL) in the field provided on their page. They have WAVE Firefox and Chrome extensions also available for testing accessibility directly within your web browser.
3. Accessibility Insights for Android
Accessibility Insights for Android is a service that helps developers find and fix accessibility issues in Android applications. It runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux and gives you the freedom to test apps on a hardware device or on an Android Virtual Device. You need to install android studio as a prerequisite to be able to use this.
4. WCAG Accessibility Checklist for Android
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG Accessibility Checklist helps incorporate accessibility directly into digital design. It allows you to optimize websites and meet important legal standards. It has an accessibility checker and reporting tool that includes a To-Do list that gives reminders and checklists to help you achieve the three tiers of accessibility compliance — Levels A, AA, and AAA.
The above write up explains the importance of accessibility testing for android applications in the development process of the building of the application. Building an app that’s disabled-friendly can ensure added business in your organization and also save you from unnecessary litigations in the future. This is like an insurance you take for your organization to help you save yourself from potential lawsuits. Having a professional approach towards accessibility testing is a mandate you must have along with ensuring quality delivery in the testing process.
To avoid glitches, a simpler approach is to outsource this process to a professional accessibility testing company that can help test your applications while ensuring WCAG and various other compliances (US Section 508 and ADA Americans with disabilities). ImpactQA possesses expertise in testing on a wide range of industry-leading tools for ensuring quality in terms of accessibility testing.
Contact ImpactQA for your next accessibility testing project now!