Myself and Emma recently organised an intro into accessibility testing with the awesome people at Test Partners.
They are really up for doing talks or tutorials with companies and are super friendly and knowledgeable. Do reach out to them if you have any questions on how to get started.
Why is accessibility important?
Up to 20% of the UK population has a disability but moreover research shows that 57% of the UK population benefit from accessibility features:
- 20 million people over 50 in the UK – diminishing eye sight
- 6 million + people with dyslexia in the UK
- 1.5 million people with arthritis in the hand or wrist – use keyboard shortcuts over a mouse
- Anyone can have a temporary accessibility need – like breaking an arm or hand
I have been aware of accessibility testing and really enjoyed the talk by Michael Larsen on the subject at the end of last year but did not look into it anymore.
This is a shame really because the internet is meant to be for everyone and therefore be inclusive but many websites are not.
Do we as testers do enough or even know enough about accessibility testing to point these things out? Are we knowledgeable enough to have these conversations on why we are excluding certain members of the population on using your website or services?
Have you ever had these conversations?
One place I worked at, I had just hired a new tester who came from an external testing services provider. He knew quite a bit about accessibility and started to raise bugs against our website for the images missing alt text for example.
On the one hand the things he was raising were just good practice to have really. But why did we not raise this before?
I never knew what to look for. I was more focused on functionality for able bodied users, maybe because I could easily be that sort of user.
The positive effect the other tester had, was that the designers and front end developers became more interested in how to make the website more accessible and started to reform from within. They started to design good patterns in accordance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. I think this is the hard thing when it comes to accessibility, you can raise bugs and therefore awareness against accessibility features missing or keyboard navigation not working but if the designers and front end developers and maybe more importantly, the product team are not considering accessibility from the start then it is really hard to add it back in.
Why do we not learn about these things when we start our testing career? Was I just blind to it? The ISTQB certainly did not tell me about it.
If you are on the dojo there is a great resource to get you started. Maybe there will be a 30 day testing challenge for accessibility testing soon as well. I would love that.
One thing that Steve and Paul from the Test Partners showed us was this tool. You can add the bookmarklets to your browser bookmarks toolbar and then click on them to get visual feedback on how your website is built.
This helps with understanding the semantics of your page. How it is built and structured. For example headings are usually large and lists usually have bullet points. However, the semantic structure also need to be conveyed programmatically by means of tags in the source code. And these bookmarklets highlight where something has been tagged as a list or image for example.
This is a good starting point I feel, to understand what flaws your page may have for screen readers. Screen readers use the tags in your source code to tell the user what the item on the page is and does.
I would love to pair with some users of accessibility related tools at some point. On a similar note this podcast on a blind architect was incredible to find out how blind people actually use screen readers. TL;DR at a way faster setting than you think.
Have you ever paired with a blind user? Or someone who cannot use a mouse? Or maybe someone who uses a magnifyer?