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Automated Accessibility Testing: How-to Guide & Top Tools

January 19, 2024Dhivya Krishna
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How to Automate Accessibility Testing: Steps & Tools You Should Know
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As the internet becomes increasingly integrated into our daily lives, it’s important that websites are accessible to all users, regardless of their disabilities. However, ensuring accessibility can be a challenging and time-consuming task for web developers and testers. That’s where automated accessibility testing comes in. By testing for accessibility, teams can address issues before they become more challenging and costly to fix. In this article, we’ll discuss what automated accessibility testing is, including what it is, its pros and cons, and more.

What is Accessibility Testing?

Accessibility testing is the process of testing whether a software application or website is accessible to people with disabilities. This includes making sure that the user interface (UI), as well as the content, are accessible. There are many different tools and methods that can be used for accessibility testing, including manual and automated testing.

Automated accessibility testing is often seen as the more efficient and reliable option, as it can be used to test a large number of accessibility criteria in a short amount of time. In this article, we’ll take a look at what accessibility testing is, what tools are available to help with it, and how you can automate accessibility testing.

What Is Automated Accessibility Testing?

Automated accessibility testing is a process of using software to test for accessibility issues in websites and web applications. This process ensures your app’s content and services are usable by people with disabilities of various types (vision, hearing, etc.). This type of testing can be used to find and fix issues related to web accessibility, such as missing alt text, improper use of color contrast, and more.

For instance, overcoming the challenges that a person with vision impairment would encounter when attempting to use any app because the person would be unable to view visuals is what accessibility concerns are about. Keep in mind that accessibility testing verifies specific application features to ensure that it is usable by everyone.

While automated accessibility testing is a great tool for finding and fixing accessibility issues, it is important to note that it cannot catch everything. For example, automated testing cannot test for issues related to how well a person can use a website or web application. For this reason, it is also important to manually test websites and web applications to ensure they are accessible to everyone.

How Do You Perform Accessibility Testing?

Accessibility testing can be done manually and using automation. Let’s take some scenarios where the accessibility testing will be done manually,

  • Modifying the font size to large
  • By turning off the style sheets (CSS)
  • Using the high contrast mode
  • Checking if there are appropriate and descriptive captions
  • Testing if the audio/video content of the application is audible/visible.

Alternatively, you can automate accessibility testing using test automation tools.

Can Accessibility Testing Be Automated with Tools?

There is no simple answer to the question of whether web accessibility testing can be automated. While there are some automated tools available, they are not always reliable, and they often require a human touch to be effective.

That said, there are some ways to automate web accessibility testing to some extent. For example, you can use a tool to scan your site for potential accessibility issues and then have a human test those issues to confirm whether they are actually problems. You can also use a tool to generate a report of accessibility issues, which can then be reviewed manually.

Ultimately, the decision of whether to automate web accessibility testing will come down to a cost-benefit analysis. Automated tools can save time and money, but they are not always 100% accurate. So the combination of both automated and manual testing is ultimately the most effective method for accessibility testing.

Get here – the list of Web Accessibility Testing Tools

Why Automated Accessibility Testing Is Important

More people are now using digital tools due to the expanding significance of digital technology and applications. However, 70% of websites worldwide are not user-friendly for those with disabilities. Global governments are currently working to make web content accessible to people with impairments as part of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.

Government regulations also mandate that software products be usable by people with impairments. So, as an organization, you should consider these users’ needs as well as those of older adults, children, left-handed users, anti-English speakers, and many others.

In addition, inaccessible websites cause significant reputational damage to the brand, which is why it’s crucial to routinely check your site for accessibility blockers using automated accessibility testing tools.

Related Resources >> How Big is the Global Accessibility Testing Market and How Fast is it Growing?

Automated Accessibility Testing Basics

Automated accessibility testing uses automation tools to scan digital products for accessibility issues.

Pros and Cons of Automated Accessibility Tests

The following are some of the pros and cons of automating your accessibility tests,

ProsCons
Easy and quick to repeat tests at different stages of the development cycleAutomation tools will not catch all the accessibility errors in your application
Very few steps to run and get quick resultsMight report false positives 
A little accessibility knowledge is required to perform accessibility testing and understand the resultsVarious tools might be required for different product types

Accessibility Testing Use Cases and Examples

The following significant issues on your website should be examined via automated accessibility testing:

  • Navigation and page layout – Identifying problems with menus or the usability of the website and making suggestions for changes to users who use assistive devices for navigating.
  • Color contrast and legibility – Determining fonts with high character complexity or ambiguity and checking whether the font and background components have enough contrast.
  • Links, both internal and external – Identify bogus link text, such as “click here,” and broken or empty links.
  • Flexible font size – Checking font size and parsing to ensure ideal reading.
  • Anchor texts and Alt text – Identifying missing alternative text for images and looking for inputs for web elements like icons and emojis that use alternative text.
  • Accessibility of PDF – Verifying PDF files’ images, bookmarks, reading order, table components, and interactive form controls.
  • Inspecting the buttons – Examining the labeling, space, and button sizes.

Challenges with Accessibility Testing

As the world continues to digitize, it’s more important than ever to ensure that your website or app is accessible to everyone. That’s where accessibility testing comes in.

There are a variety of different disabilities that can impact a person’s ability to use a website or app, so it’s important to test for as many as possible. Some common accessibility issues include visual impairments, hearing impairments, cognitive impairments, and mobility impairments.

The following are a few difficulties you may face while testing for accessibility:

Accessibility for Users with Vision Disability

Because some users may be completely blind, have color blindness, or have partial vision impairment, developers must exercise extreme caution while creating applications that are accessible to those with vision difficulties.

One way of resolving this issue is to use Screen Readers, a useful tool for making software usable by people with vision impairments. Users that use screen readers to get the content can hear the app’s visuals here.

Accessibility for Users with Hearing Disability

Users with hearing disabilities also face similar kinds of issues. So the developer must be cautious with testing the accessibility of users with hearing disabilities.

You can overcome this challenge by inserting signs or visual language that the user with a hearing disability can understand.

Accessibility for Users with Cognitive Disability

The main difficulty is that web application content needs to be simple to understand for those who could have cognitive problems and might not be able to comprehend it.

One way of resolving this would be utilizing simple symbols for a person with cognitive problems to give instructions in a comprehensible manner.

Accessibility for Users with Physical Disability

Making programs usable for users with physical impairments that prevent them from using a mouse or keyboard presents a difficulty.

To overcome this problem, implementing speech recognition could be a great idea so that users with disabilities can voice-command the operations of the program.

How to Achieve Automated Accessibility Testing?

We all know that accessibility is essential. We also know that testing for accessibility can be time-consuming and tedious. But what if there was a way to automate accessibility testing?

There are many accessibility testing tools available that can help speed up the testing process. By using one of these tools, you can quickly check for common accessibility issues on your website or app. This can save you a lot of time and help ensure that your site or app is accessible to everyone.

There are a few things to keep in mind when automating accessibility testing.

Make Accessibility a Focus Earlier — During Design

As designers are often tasked with creating products that are both unique and functional. But what about products that are accessible to everyone?

Designing with accessibility in mind is crucial to ensure that your products/platform can be used by everyone, regardless of ability. And while it’s important to consider accessibility at all stages of the agile process, it’s imperative to make it a focus earlier on.

Here are a few tips on how to make accessibility a focus earlier in the design process:

  • Educate yourself on accessibility standards and guidelines.
  • Incorporate accessibility into your design process from the beginning.
  • Make sure your designs are tested for accessibility before launch.
  • Continuously monitor your designs for accessibility issues.

By following these tips, you can incorporate accessibility from the beginning.

Leverage Accessibility Testing Tools

How do you choose the right tools when you’re just getting started in the accessibility world?

It is crucial to group potential accessibility testing tools into the following three categories before you start:

  • Tools that require human interaction – Accessibility testing still needs humanitarian aid even if more automated methods are available. This ensures that the experience we evaluate closely resembles what our users will have. Some of these will include tools like VoiceOver, JAWS, etc.
  • Tools for semi-automated accessibility testing that are browser add-ons – You may quickly identify any accessibility problems with your websites using browser extensions. The majority of browser extensions come with limited functionality that can be unlocked by buying the paid version. A few of these tools include Axe DevTools, WAVE, etc.
  • Fully Automated accessibility testing tools – Utilizing automation is essential to shifting accessibility testing as early as possible so that you can concentrate on the places where it is most necessary. One such tool that’s fully automated is Axe CLI.

Create Automated Regression Tests For Accessibility

As a web developer/owner, it’s important to ensure that the site is accessible to everyone. One way to do this is to create automated regression tests that check for accessibility issues.

There are a few different ways to do this, but one tool you can use is the axe-core library. This library provides a set of rules that can be used to automatically test for accessibility issues.

To use the axe-core library, you first need to install it. You can do this by using the following command:

npm install axe-core

After installing axe-core, include the JavaScript file in each of your iframes in your fixtures or test systems to test your site for accessibility issues.

axe
.run()
.then(results => {
if (results.violations.length) {
throw new Error('Accessibility issues found');
}
})
.catch(err => {
console.error('Something bad happened:', err.message);
});

It is possible to create automated accessibility regression testing using the method mentioned above. Additionally, you can completely get rid of most manual testing during the development phase.

Use the Right Test Automation Platform

Traditionally, accessibility testing has been done manually. However, with the rise of test automation, it is now possible to do automated accessibility testing. This can save a lot of time and effort.

There are a number of different tools and platforms available for automated accessibility testing. However, not all of them are equal and have apt features.

How to Choose an Automated Accessibility Testing Tool?

The best place to start when trying to increase the accessibility of your website is with automated accessibility testing using an automation tool.

Although there are numerous free tools and checkers that can assist you with this work, they typically just identify the most fundamental accessibility issues without offering any justifications or suggestions for addressing them.

Here’re some prominent features you should look for in automation tools while choosing one for your project:

  • Select accessibility concerns on websites by comparing the code and content to WCAG criteria.
  • Use a single platform to test both web and mobile applications. Read here- Mobile Accessibility Testing
  • Integrates quickly and seamlessly with all popular content management systems to sync accessibility tool results.
  • Keep track of your WCAG conformance progress and a list of fixed issues.
  • Cut down on manual testing time with increased automation abilities.
  • Align the development and current test cycles with your accessibility tests.

Conclusion

Automated accessibility testing has become an essential aspect of web development. With the growing demand for inclusive and accessible websites, it’s crucial to ensure that everyone can access and interact with your site regardless of their abilities.

With the right automation tools and techniques, it’s possible to test for accessibility issues automatically, saving time, effort, and cost while ensuring compliance with accessibility guidelines.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some automated tools that you can use for accessibility testing?

The best accessibility testing tools are

  • Selenium WebDriver
  • WAVE
  • Axe
  • Tenon

Does Selenium support accessibility testing?

Yes, Selenium supports accessibility testing. You can use Selenium to test for compliance with WCAG and other accessibility standards. Selenium can also be used to automate accessibility testing by opening up web pages and running checks on the code to see if it meets the required criteria.

What are the examples of accessibility testing?

Accessibility testing examples include checking keyboard accessibility, style disablement, UI structural elements, checking captions, content scaling, checking image alt text, and text sizing.

Suggested Readings

9 Best Defect Tracking Tools 2023 

Qa automation tools

7 top tools for responsive web design testing 

9 Best Test Data Management Tools 

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