3.4 The importance of testing

As you work on developing the website, or repairing accessibility barriers consider the importance of testing its accessibility. There are number of ways that you should be testing the website throughout the development process.

Run automatic assessments using online evaluators:

These tools scan websites and their content and produce a documented report on a wide range of accessibility issues. These reports can help you understand the majority of the issues you will have to repair. There are a number of on-line automated webpage accessibility checking application that do a reasonable job of evaluating those aspects of accessible design that can be verified by software. However, you should be aware of the limitations of automated web-page accessibility checking application, including:

  • Many of the free tools limit the number of pages that can be checked at one time. Evaluating a large site may be tedious with these tools.
  • The results of automated evaluation scans typically require some expertise in accessibility issues to properly interpret the reports and implement the design or coding changes.
  • Machine-based evaluations cannot identify usability and subjective accessibility concerns: human interaction is always necessary to ensure that a website is actually accessible and usable in practice.

Refer also to Section 6.0 — Resources.

Manually assess the website and content from a technical and design perspective:

As you make changes to the site and repair issues you want to ensure you aren't creating new ones. A manual assessment is also necessary to identify issues that an automatic assessment wouldn't identify. For example, unlike an automatic assessment, only developers can determine whether the alternate text provided for images is meaningful. When running a manual assessment, you should employ assistive technology, such as screen readers, to better understand where users could experience accessibility barriers.

User testing:

Involving people with disabilities to test the website is perhaps one of the best ways to ensure your website is accessible. Persons with disabilities are 'experts' in using accessible websites so be sure to include them in your user-testing activities. Possible sources of such users include:

  • staff with disabilities
  • focus groups of customers with disabilities
  • local organizations that represent persons with disabilities