Accessibility testing is the evaluation of a digital product or service to ensure that people with disabilities can use it. This includes those with visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning, and neurological disabilities. And it’s for anyone who uses assistive technologies to access the internet. For example, a person with a visual disability may need to use a screen reader to read the content on a website to them. Or a person with a physical disability may need to navigate a website using only a keyboard if they can’t use a mouse.
Accessibility testing is important because it helps to ensure that everyone has equal access to digital products and services. It also helps to create a more inclusive and equitable society.
There are different ways to go about accessibility testing. Some of the most common methods include:
- Manual testing: using the product or service with a variety of assistive technologies, such as screen readers, screen magnifiers, and voice input software
- Automated testing: using automated tools to scan the product or service for potential accessibility issues
- User testing: having people with disabilities test the product or service and provide feedback on their experience
Here are some tips we’ve learned for effective accessibility testing:
- Start early. Integrate accessibility testing into the development process. Don’t perform it as an afterthought. This will help to identify accessibility issues early on when they are less expensive and time-consuming to fix.
- Include a variety of testing methods. Use a combination of manual testing, automated testing, and user testing. Manual testing is necessary for identifying complex accessibility issues. Automated testing can be used to quickly scan for common issues.
- Involve people with disabilities. People with disabilities are the accessibility experts. Involve them in the testing process to get accurate and valuable real-world feedback.
- Use accessibility guidelines. See the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). It's the international standard for web content accessibility. And explore Section508.gov for guidance on different testing methods, software and websites you can use for testing, and other accessibility resources. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires federal websites and electronic resources to be accessible.
To create digital products and services that are inclusive and equitable, accessibility testing is a must. We’ll share more tips in the future as we continue to make USA.gov and USAGov en Español accessible to everyone.