Manually testing your website on accessibility (and why this is necessary)
- August 10, 2020
- 4 minutes
In a previous article, we went into detail about automatic accessibility testing. Unfortunately, however, only 15-25% of the accessibility criteria can be tested automatically. Human interaction is needed to test the other criteria. For example, an automatic test can determine whether a page contains a title, but a person must check whether it also clearly describes what the page is about. In this article, we answer the most frequently asked questions about manually testing your website on accessibility.
How does a manual accessibility test work?
A manual test is performed by an accessibility expert. He or she checks a subset of pages (usually between 10-20) against WCAG 2.1 criteria. Each page element and underlying code is manually evaluated.
What should be tested?
To get a complete picture of the accessibility of a website, a manual survey must cover the entire website. Is the content of a website on multiple domains and subdomains (which are logically connected to the main domain)? Then they all must be included in the audit. The website also includes videos, documents, forms, chatbots, tables and other content available on the website. The WCAG-EM evaluation method accurately describes how to take a sample of the pages on a website to represents the entire website. So you don’t have to test all pages.
When should you perform this test?
Audit results may not be older than 36 months in order to serve as substantiation for an accessibility statement, in which your organization declares to be “in control”.
Will there be a new website? To guarantee the accessibility of a new website, you have to include all requirements in a project from the very beginning. Both in planning and design and also in development. It is therefore useful not only to test at the end, but also during the process. An automatic test is not sufficient here, because it does not test all requirements.
Can I do it myself or do I have to outsource it?
Organizations can have a manual test carried out by an external audit expert or – if the expertise and resources are available in-house – under their own management. You can use the report of a fully manual test in the accessibility statement to substantiate that your organization is “in control”. The audit approach must then meet precisely defined criteria. This means that you must perform the audit or have it carried out on the basis of a well-documented evaluation method. You can use the WCAG-EM evaluation method of W3C or an equivalent, documented research method for this.
Auditing a website based on an evaluation method is specialist and time-consuming work. Especially if you have never conducted such audits before. It is therefore often smart to outsource this to an accessibility expert. There are various consultancy firms in the Netherlands that specialize in this type of research, including us. Ultimately it is a cost / benefit trade-off.
What does such research cost?
The costs of an audit depend on various factors. Think of:
- the size of the website;
- whether previous audits have been carried out;
- does the website use templates and building blocks to meet the accessibility requirements.
Inquire an audit expert about the costs. In principle, an accessibility audit is part of your Quality Assurance, for which a structural budget should be reserved.
Can I also test automatically?
In general, automatic testing can identify a number of issues on pages on the site, but this should always be supplemented with a manual test. There are a number of reasons for this:
- A manual audit is more thorough and reliable than an automatic test.
- An accessibility expert report is specific to your site and contains realistic solutions that fit your organization.
- Manual tests often describe the suggested fixes more specifically, making it easier and more cost-effective for you to implement them.
- Although automated tools can detect many critical problems, there are many problems that require a manual test. A vague or misleading alt tag is just as bad as a missing alt tag. You always need someone with a trained eye to track down all accessibility issues in your site.
- An automatic test is therefore not sufficient for issuing an accessibility statement.
But of course automated tools do have advantages:
- Automatic testing is cheaper and less time consuming.
- You can test all pages with an automatic test more easily, while this is often not feasible with a manual test.
If you really want to test your website properly, you will have to use a combination of automated tools and manual control.
Aally is happy to help you
Do you want to have your website tested for accessibility? Aally’s accessibility experts are happy to help you. We can:
- Run an accessibility scan of your website.
- Advise you on the adjustments that are necessary to comply with WCAG 2.1 guidelines.
- Give advice on the preparation of an accessibility statement.
- Provide advice on the required annual update of the accessibility statement.
- Also advise and train your development teams on accessibility and accessible development.
- Provide solutions for the integration of automated testing tools into the development environment (so that you can continuously monitor accessibility).
- Conduct mandatory periodic accessibility audits.
- Providing a solution for blind and partially sighted people to use your website optimally.
Please contact us to discuss the possibilities.
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