Although our software/QA company mentioned accessibility testing as one of the 2021 trends in mobile development, not every development project involves this kind of testing practice yet.
Usually, that happens because the product owner believes they know the target audience and their needs well enough to decide accessibility is not a priority. That's why apps like Snapchat or Flipboard in their early days could get complaints about being not accessible enough.
From the QA perspective, accessibility testing is required in almost every application. As a bare minimum, you need to check how it works with the system's accessibility tools like Voiceover and Dictation. Otherwise, a lot of people with disabilities won't even have a chance to use your application or some parts of it and might blame you for intolerance.
That happens because we often don't notice and underestimate how much effort is put into every web or mobile app to make it accessible. Next time you open any website, pay attention to the text size, color contrast, and hints in the input fields. This is only a slight part of details that help make the product more accessible and are very important for some people to be able to navigate it.
However, sometimes the goal and idea of the app help estimate the amount of work that needs to be done to make the product accessible enough.
Say, when the EGO mobile and web development company has been planning our work on Zutobi, we knew it won't be helpful for people with poor vision. And if you're building an app to track your running habit, most probably, it will not be intended for people with a physical disability.
EGO's Experience With Accessibility Testing
Once one of our clients asked us to build an online school for them so that they could perform online training. At first, the EGO team did not plan to perform accessibility testing. It was only when first users got their hands on the web app we realized the site does not entirely work as intended for people with disabilities.
The team updated the design, changed the color scheme and the size of the buttons, redone the representation of spreadsheets, lists, and other rich content. It turned out to be a significant piece of work, and we did it fast since in this case it was of utmost importance: for people with disabilities, online education might often be the only source of knowledge and learning.
Since then, our quality assurance & testing company consider accessibility requirements when designing the logic and usability of the apps we work on.
Best Practices and Tools
If you want to make an app accessible with minimum effort, you need to make it a design requirement from the very beginning. Then, the design team will think through the layouts, colors, and UI elements considering the best accessibility practices available at the moment.
With such an approach, testing an app for accessibility issues becomes much easier and faster.
It might be an obvious observation, but websites usually demand more effort to be tested than mobile apps. That's because mobile operating systems (Android and iOS) have default accessibility settings, with which the users can change in-app font size, and background and font color. Also, Google and Apple have accessibility guidelines that you need to follow in order to be published in their app stores. With the web, there are no such strict requirements.
Throughout our practice, we haven't noticed any "bad" accessibility testing tools, so there's no app blacklist. For every new task, we are usually looking for the most popular and free tool, since such tools are simple to use and have many tutorials (not mentioning the fact that they follow modern accessibility requirements).
Here's a shortlist of accessibility testing tools our QA company team uses most often.
- Screen reader. Available as VoiceOver in Mac OS and iOS, and as NVDA for Windows. A screen reader helps navigate the website only via keystrokes and read-outs. Scrolling over the text will make it read out loud. This makes it a great tool for checking if your app fits well for blind and people with visual impairment.
- Color contrast. There are a few tools on the Internet (we use https://accessible-colors.com), but every one of them helps you check if your color scheme follows the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. If not, you can make changes on the fly until you're satisfied with the outcome.
- Multiple accessibility testing. In this category, we find Wave the most useful. It is a suite of evaluation tools that help identify various errors, i.e. details not following the WCAG specifications.
- Simple Automation Testing. Here we go with Lighthouse, a tool that audits many aspects of your web app – including accessibility – and then generates a report that you can use to find out what needs to be improved next.
If You Want to Know More
With this post, we are aiming to give our concise take on accessibility testing. We don't find it necessary to explain the general approach itself since the most important part of it is requirements explained in various documents. However, we're always happy to tell the peculiarities of our work in direct communication if you’re interested.
If you just want to make sure you're on the same page with your development team from day one, we recommend learning the next three things first.
1. Learn WCAG 2 standards and collateral documents.
2. Find out about various types of disabilities to understand applications must be tested depending upon every disability.
3. Learn the differences and peculiarities of manual and automated testing approaches to be able to decide on the perfect balance of both when checking your app against accessibility requirements.
After that, it'll be easier for you to understand the importance and priority of accessibility requirements, as well as plan your product roadmap considering them.
QA engineers at the EGO software testing services company believe accessibility testing will eventually become a widespread practice. Not because there are already enough people with disabilities for any product, but because accessibility requirements help make the products more comfortable to use for everybody.
Even if we do not have disabilities, we still don't want to read texts that are typed in small fonts or barely visible. As we age, we prefer to spend less time watching the screens and want to retrieve necessary information avoiding extra hassle. Making an app more accessible is the simplest way to help users with that.
If you want to find out if your product is accessible enough for your audience, check out our Product Analysis plan. Plans are our know-how that allows us to deliver valuable results for our clients within weeks and prove our reliability. With the Product Analysis plan, you will get everything you need to improve your product according to your needs, including the accessibility requirements.
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