DEV 9 – Always test your site with users who have access needs
Why is this important?
Although a variety of best practise recommendations and standardised approaches to web design and development exist, each website is unique. It is very important that you test your site with actual users of assistive technology to ensure that no accessibility issues have been introduced during the construction of your site.
Test key journeys and content
Ensure that frequently used and important content and website elements are given high priority during testing.
Include users with different access needs in your testing
While screen reader users are often front of mind when considering accessibility, you also need to consider how well your site works for users with other disabilities or impairments.
Ensure you recruit a range of users who have vision, hearing, mobility and cognitive impairments:
- Users who have reduced or partial vision, as well as those who are blind;
- Users who are fully sighted but who navigate with a keyboard;
- Users who are able to use a keyboard and/or mouse, but at a reduced speed due to motor impairments;
- Users who use alternative input devices (such as mouth sticks, joysticks, or trackballs);
- Users who are deaf or hard of hearing;
- Users with cognitive or memory impairments ;
- Users with lower literacy, or reading difficulties such as dyslexia;
- Users for whom the primary language of your site is not their primary language.
Avoid relying solely on automated accessibility testing software
Automated software is very good at certain things that are time-consuming for humans to do, such as finding all images without an Alt attribute; highlighting any elements with duplicate IDs. Automated software is not good at other things where a degree of interpretation is required, such as “Is this Alt text appropriate for the image?”; “Does the heading text reflect the content?”; “Should this really be coded as a list?”. Use automated software in the evaluation of your site but do not rely solely on it.
Seek expert advice
Some agencies may be able to help with accessibility evaluations and audits. Whilst these are often important activities, you should also consider paying for a day of consultancy time from someone who has an access need, prior to usability testing. They will be able to point out any barriers and any positive aspects of your site, allowing you to consider and address them prior to testing.