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Your Essential Guide to Accessibility Testing

Author: SPR Posted In: Testing

In today’s digital age, ensuring that software is accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities, is both a moral obligation and, in many cases, a legal requirement. Accessibility testing plays a crucial role in this process by identifying and addressing barriers that could prevent users from fully engaging with digital content.

According to Section508.gov, federal agencies are required to conform to the Revised 508 Standards, which align with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Similarly, the ADA.gov website emphasizes that businesses and government entities must ensure their web content is accessible to all individuals as part of their commitment to nondiscrimination under the ADA. The U.S. Access Board supports these efforts by developing guidelines and providing technical assistance to promote inclusive design across various sectors.

By prioritizing accessibility, companies can create inclusive products, enhance user experience, and build a positive brand image. This article delves into the definition and importance of accessibility testing, exploring common issues and practical solutions, legal requirements, and real-world use cases. Let’s get started.

Defining Accessibility Testing

Accessibility testing evaluates software applications to ensure they can be used by people with various disabilities, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, and neurological disabilities. The main objective is to identify barriers that prevent people with disabilities from using the software effectively and to resolve these issues.

Key Components and Principles

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are the most widely accepted standards for web accessibility. They are based on four key principles:

  • Perceivable: Information must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.
  • Operable: User interface components must be operable by all users.
  • Understandable: Information and operation of the user interface must be understandable.
  • Robust: Content must be robust enough to be interpreted by various user agents, including assistive technologies.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) publishes these guidelines as a part of their Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). The current, published version of the guidelines is WCAG 2.2. The guidelines are reviewed and refined every few years, and there are three levels of compliance – A, AA, and AAA, with AA being the most common compliance target among companies.

Examples of Accessibility Issues and Solutions

When creating inclusive digital experiences, it's essential to understand common accessibility issues and their corresponding solutions. Below are examples of accessibility challenges across various types of disabilities and practical strategies to address them.

Visual Impairments

Issue: Inaccessible Images, Alt Text Not Defined

  • Example: A visually impaired user relies on a screen reader to navigate a website. If an image on the site lacks descriptive alt text, the screen reader cannot convey the image's content to the user.
  • Solution: Provide descriptive alt text for images to convey the same information to visually impaired users. For example, if an image shows a chart of quarterly sales data, the alt text might read, "Bar chart showing quarterly sales increase from Q1 to Q4." For decorative images, use an empty alt tag (alt="") so that screen readers ignore them.

Issue: Poor Color Contrast Making Text Hard to Read

  • Example: Text with a light gray color on a white background can be difficult for users with low vision to read.
  • Solution: Ensure sufficient color contrast between text and background, adhering to WCAG guidelines. Use tools like the WAVE Accessibility Tool or the Color Contrast Analyzer to test color contrast ratios. For instance, a dark blue text on a white background provides high contrast and is easier to read.

Hearing Impairments

Issue: Lack of Captions for Audio and Video Content

  • Example: A user with hearing impairment cannot understand a tutorial video without captions, missing out on essential information.
  • Solution: Provide accurate captions and transcripts for all multimedia content. Platforms like YouTube offer automatic captioning, but it’s important to review and correct these captions for accuracy. For example, a video explaining how to use a software feature should include synchronized captions detailing the spoken instructions.

Motor Disabilities

Issue: Small Clickable Areas Making Navigation Difficult

  • Example: Users with motor disabilities may struggle to click small buttons or links on a webpage, making navigation and interaction challenging.
  • Solution: Design larger clickable areas, known as ‘hit’ areas, and ensure all functionality is accessible via keyboard. For instance, increasing the button size to at least 44x44 pixels and ensuring form fields and links are well-spaced can significantly enhance usability.

Cognitive Disabilities

Issue: Complex Navigation Structures

  • Example: A website with a complicated menu and inconsistent page layouts can confuse users with cognitive disabilities, making it difficult for them to find information.
  • Solution: Simplify navigation and use clear, consistent layouts and descriptive language. Group similar items together and use headings and subheadings to organize content logically. Additionally, providing a site map that does not require users to navigate complex menus can be highly valuable.

Additional Examples:

  • Issue: Overwhelming Amount of Information Presented at Once
    • Example: A webpage that presents a large block of text without breaks can be overwhelming for users with cognitive disabilities.
    • Solution: Break up content into manageable chunks, use bullet points, and include visual aids like images and icons to support text.
  • Issue: Inconsistent Language and Terminology
    • Example: Using different terms for the same action (e.g., "log in" and "sign in") can confuse users.
    • Solution: Maintain consistent language and terminology throughout the website to reduce cognitive load.

By addressing these specific issues with targeted solutions, you can make digital content more accessible and user-friendly for individuals with various disabilities, ensuring a more inclusive digital environment for all users.

A person wearing headphones works on a digital tablet in front of a computer monitor at a desk, surrounded by office supplies and papers, conducting accessibility testing.
A woman in a yellow shirt sits at a table in front of a laptop, raising her hand as if waving or gesturing during an online meeting for accessibility testing.

Why Accessibility Testing is Important

Understanding the significance of accessibility testing is crucial for creating inclusive, legally compliant, and successful software. Here are the key reasons why accessibility testing is important for your business:

Enhance User Experience by Including Everyone: Accessibility testing ensures that software is usable by everyone, promoting inclusivity and allowing people with disabilities to participate fully in the digital world. An accessible website or application improves the user experience for all users, often leading to more intuitive and straightforward designs.

Conform to the Law: Many countries have enacted laws requiring digital accessibility. For example, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates that businesses providing public accommodations make their websites accessible to people with disabilities. Non-compliance can result in legal action and significant financial penalties, note that there are a few exceptions for small businesses. While the ADA and Section 508 are federal mandates, many states also have specific local, laws and policies. Even if your business, big or small, doesn’t fall under these regulations, it is in your best interest to make accessible products, websites, and information to allow your current and potential, future customers to interact with you.

Boost your Business: Ensuring accessibility expands your audience base, including people with disabilities who might otherwise be unable to use your products or services. Accessible websites also tend to perform better in search engine rankings, leading to increased visibility and potential revenue.

Legal Requirements for Accessibility

The landscape of accessibility regulations is shaped by several key laws and guidelines:

  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Requires many businesses to ensure their websites are accessible to people with disabilities. The goal is to protect people with disabilities from discrimination.
  • Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act: Requires federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. An important note – this applies to more than websites, your digitally shared documents also fall under this regulation.
  • Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
  • European Accessibility Act (EAA): Mandates accessibility of products and services within the EU.

Non-compliance with accessibility laws can result in lawsuits, fines, and damage to reputation. Organizations can face significant financial penalties and may be required to implement corrective measures, which can be costly and time-consuming. The best way to handle accessibility – start with design, audit often, find less defects when performing accessibility testing, reducing costs.


Use Cases of Accessibility Testing

Real-world examples and success stories provide valuable insights into the impact of accessibility testing. Below are illustrative cases that. For example, large e-commerce companies have undertaken significant efforts to improve accessibility. Major retailers like Amazon and eBay have implemented accessibility features to enhance customer satisfaction and sales.

Additionally, government websites often lead in accessibility efforts due to strict compliance requirements. The U.S. federal government's efforts to make all federal websites accessible under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act is a prime example.

At SPR, our success stories and case studies demonstrate the practical benefits and improvements achieved through dedicated accessibility efforts.

  • Case Study 1: A major healthcare insurance provider sought a holistic approach to web accessibility that would reach across all its public-facing websites, member websites, and portal websites. SPR’s approach of building accessibility into an application throughout the project lifecycle helped improve their understanding of web accessibility and the importance of embedding accessibility within all project activities.
  • Case Study 2: A retail kiosk company wanted to assess how accessible its websites are to people with disabilities, and worked with SPR to conduct an evaluation using Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0).


SPR Opinion

A person in a wheelchair is smiling at their desk in a bright, modern office environment with colleagues working in the background.

SPR Opinion

"Accessibility isn’t just a noble concept; it’s a necessity, and the case for its profound importance extends far beyond the moral and ethical."

Arshia Khan, UI Designer

How SPR Can Help

A comprehensive approach to accessibility often begins with accessibility audits. SPR’s testing team has experience providing detailed evaluations of websites and applications aimed at identifying accessibility issues. Following the identification of these issues, remediation services are crucial for fixing the problems to ensure compliance with relevant guidelines and laws. Additionally, training and workshops play a vital role in educating design and development teams on best practices for creating accessible content and software, thereby fostering a culture of inclusivity and continuous improvement in accessibility standards.

Tools and technologies used include:

  • Automated Testing Tools: Software that scans websites and applications for accessibility issues.
  • Manual Testing: Conducted by experts to identify issues that automated tools might miss.
  • Assistive Technologies: Testing with screen readers, keyboard navigation, and other assistive devices to ensure compatibility.

Each industry has unique accessibility needs. A technology consulting firm like SPR can provide tailored solutions to ensure that businesses in various sectors meet their specific accessibility requirements.


Accessibility testing is crucial for creating inclusive, user-friendly software that complies with legal requirements and benefits businesses. By prioritizing accessibility, companies can enhance their brand reputation, reach a wider audience, and improve user experience for everyone. Partnering with a technology consulting firm can provide the expertise and resources needed to optimize your accessibility related testing, design, and development practices to ensure that your digital products are accessible to all.

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