Accessibility is an essential aspect for both developers and organisations who intend to create high-quality websites and web tools. Web accessibility testing optimizes a website for the usage by differently-abled people. It also highlights the accessibility problems that a differently-abled user might face.
With the ease of availability of information, a web portal is likely to be marketable to a broad audience. It also increases the opportunity to globalize the product and offer its services in multiple countries.
Some issues faced by the differently-abled people include:
- Visibility Challenge and Low Bandwidth
If an image does not have an alternate text, a visually impaired user fails to identify it as a screen reader reads the alt text of an image. Also, those who turn off the image features due to low bandwidth do not get access to images. However, when it is offered, people using a screen reader can access the images and other media files on the website.
- Abnormal Motor Control (Control of Physical Movements)
A website aiming to be easily accessible should never rely entirely on the mouse control. People with motor disabilities find it difficult to use a mouse and use a keyboard instead to navigate through a web page.
- Hearing Disability
People with hearing disabilities cannot access the content of audio files. Thus, it is also necessary to provide a text transcript of the audio.
Web accessibility testing allows developers to eradicate the problems mentioned above before pushing it in the market. Many countries have passed accessibility regulations for web portals and apps. The W3C guidelines for web accessibility testing (listed under WCAG) summarize most of these legislative requirements.
Here are a few essential aspects of the W3C checklist:
Page title informs users about their location on the website. A good page title summarizes the content provided on the page. It also gives the users and search engines the information about the page which further eliminates the need to read the content.
Different sections on the web pages are often separated by headings (text is more prominent and in bold letters) for easy navigation. Furthermore, it should be such that people who use a keyboard or take help of a screen reader have easy access to it. The heading must always be sequential (the number of headings does not make much of a difference).
It is hard to read texts with a similar contrast as the background (e.g., light grey text on a light background). Web browsers must allow people to change the colour of the text and the background according to their suitability. The contrast ratio between the text and the background should be at least 4.5:1.
Many people need to enlarge the text size to read the web content. While designing a web page, the option to resize the text should be completely flexible. If the design of the pages is incorrect, they can become unusable when the text size changes. The need for users to scroll horizontally to read the complete material must be avoided.
Language of the Page
The proper setting of every webpage’s HTML language is an excellent way to help the users. Setting the language is relevant because the words pronounced by the assistive technology (screen reader) depend on the HTML language.
If the trade caters to a global audience, it is vital to provide the language translation option. This feature helps people from all around the world to understand and navigate the website correctly. On the other hand, if a piece of content is in a different language to the primary language, the user must be informed about it. Providing the information helps the assistive technology users to skim it.
Flashing and Blinking Content
Content that flickers and flashes too much can cause seizures in individuals suffering from attention disorder or a visual processing disorder. Therefore, one needs to make sure that the content does not flash more than three times in one second. As a measure, accessibility testing tools can be used to identify if the web pages are likely to cause distractions and seizures.
Media Alternatives & Controls
On a video dominated web page, providing subtitles, audio descriptions and text transcripts automatically increases its accessibility. A good script contains visual cues, description and dialogue attribution of the video. If the video starts automatically, it should include controls to pause, stop and reduce its volume.
A consistent navigation menu on a website helps the users to move through the pages easily. Users who rely on spatial navigation due to vision disability need extra help to understand the website. A consistent navigation menu helps them go to different website pages with ease. There should be a consistent template for the crucial elements and the options of navigation on the menu should also be in the same order on every page.
Prevention of Errors
Users sometimes make mistakes while entering data into the forms. Some of these mistakes can be costly and may reveal the confidential information of the users. To prevent such errors, the forms of the web pages must offer information on the data that a user needs to provide. Developers should also provide measures to generate warnings and checks if a user enters the wrong information. Before the final submission by the user, a confirmation page with a summary of data should appear.
The designed web page should be accessible to the masses. WCAG verifies the checklist above under Section 508. This list can be used manually for web accessibility testing as well.