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Checking site accessibility: how to test with users
Checking site accessibility should not be a one-time occurrence, but should be turned into a development methodology to maintain ongoing engagement.
Site accessibility testing, which falls within the category of usability testing, is a less common type of testing. Since one-fifth of the EU population registered some form of disability by the end of 2020, site accessibility testing proves to be a priority aspect during both the development and release phases. The purpose is to examine whether or not the site is also accessible by people with disabilities, as the Web should not present barriers and differentiate users based on their mental or physical abilities, but must be an inclusive tool. To this end, bodies such as the W3C and the European Union have defined specific standards that, if met, guarantee an accessible site.
It's important to know that - based on the EU guidelines - the Italian Agency for the Digital Agenda (Agid) has set at 5th November the deadline for private companies (with revenue over 500M €) to publish a declaration of accessibility on their website. More info are available on the Agid website. The website owned by Public Administrations were already requested to comply since November 23rd.
In addition, in recent years, the introduction of new software features on devices such as smartphones and computers allows people with disabilities to more easily navigate the Web by enjoying services and platforms. Examples of these features we find in the world of Apple on iOS and macOS, but also in Windows and Android.
Therefore, with the aim of attracting and satisfying these new potential customers, many companies are undertaking accessibility testing paths with real users, so as to be able to accurately analyze their sites and close any gaps at the accessibility level.
Site accessibility check, users as a key factor
Testing methodologies can be different and based on the different types of disabilities in visual, mental, cognitive, literacy or hearing. To test and analyze site accessibility there are two different types of testing: automated or manual with real users.
The limitations of automated testing
While automated testing, or Test Automation, might have been a solution in the past, today the use of these tools is no longer sufficient given the impossibility of simulating real situations and the wide variety of devices, software configurations and networks present.
Putting users at the center
Pairing automated tests with those conducted with real users is, therefore, indispensable. However, the latter type of testing can prove very challenging if testers are unfamiliar with disabilities. The solution is to work directly with people with disabilities, who have specific needs and know from firsthand experience what the critical issues and limitations of the Web are. By doing so, it is possible to identify and fully understand the real challenges faced and, consequently, what changes and improvements to make.
Crowdtesting and accessibility
In order to fully meet the requirements of the regulations and the needs of users, crowdtesting plays a prominent role. This methodology makes it possible to have at one's disposal, at any time, groups of heterogeneous users, profiled and selectable according to the characteristics of one's target audience, who can carry out in a very short time all the tests necessary for the verification of the accessibility of the site.
Among the strengths of crowdtesting, in addition to a "fresh eyes" approach that tests carried out internally by developers cannot guarantee, is the possibility of selecting testers with different types of disabilities, thus carriers of specific needs and knowledge. The output of such a test is a detailed analysis of issues and feedback capable of meticulously illustrating potential problems based both on guidelines but also on past experience.
For a company, relying on UNGUESS crowdtesting therefore means easier and faster accessibility testing so that it can have an inclusive site online that is capable of supporting different types of user disabilities.
Testing with users, the solution for accessibility problems
Crowdtesting for site accessibility should no longer be a "one-off" approach, but should be transformed into a development methodology to maintain continuous engagement so as to ensure perfect adherence to the guidelines issued by W3C and the European Union.
Applying crowdtesting to verify site accessibility is a process that does not require substantial financial and time resources. The fee-based mechanism is capable of minimizing costs, and in the meantime, development teams can continue to focus on the code while receiving useful feedback to improve the user experience and resolving any accessibility issues encountered.
 “Le sanzioni tengono conto dell’entità della non conformità, compresi la sua gravità e il numero di unità di prodotti o servizi non conformi interessati, nonché del numero di persone colpite.” Art. 30, Comma 4, Direttiva (UE) 2019/882