Testing Accessibility Without an Accessibility Testing Tool

Testing Accessibility Without an Accessibility Testing Tool

Last Edited May 2, 2018 by Garenne Bigby in Accessibility Testing

Having a website that is accessible to every user is not only important to be a successful business, but it is also the law. There are many tools out there on the internet that you can use to test the accessibility of a website, but there are also other ways to test without using a tool. While these six ways to test for web accessibility are pretty simple, making a website accessible to everyone might take some work. This work doesn’t happen overnight. The first step in figuring out what you need to do to make your website more accessible is to identify any problems a user might have. This is where testing for web accessibility comes in.

Not everyone is well-versed in accessibility and web development, but that doesn’t mean you can’t test a website yourself. It takes a lot of understanding and knowledge about many different aspects of how a website works, such as HTML, CSS, and how those with a disability might interact with a website. It can also be helpful to understand JavaScript, accessibility APIs and what kind of assistive technology is out there.

Even if you don’t have this extensive knowledge, you can still perform these tests on your own. To help you out, here is more important information about accessibility as well as the six ways to test for accessibility without using an online tool.

Why Is Accessibility Important?

First, it is important to understand accessibility and why it is important to a business. To be a successful company, it is imperative for as many people as possible to have access to a site. This will allow them to get important information, make purchases, and sign up for further communication. It keeps customers engaged in your content. If your website is not accessible to everyone, this could drive away business, make users frustrated and could hurt your reputation in the long run. A business that has a website which is accessible to everyone is more likely to grow and become more successful.

Websites are very important to the modern-day consumer. Many people conduct business on the internet every day. In fact, most people have smartphones and do their business from wherever they are. Most users make purchases, look up information, and interact with businesses through websites, apps or social media. If your website is not accessible to all users, you could be missing out on important customer relationships. Your website can be the first interaction that potential customers have with your business. If that experience is not positive, it is unlikely they will come back.

Accessibility to your website is also important because there are so many websites out there. Whether you know it or not, you have tons of competition when it comes to your business. If a user is unhappy with their experience on your website, they will probably go somewhere else to accomplish what they need to.

Accessibility is not only important to drive business, but it is the law.

Accessibility and the Law

There are laws that protect those with disabilities so that they are made accessible to the same things as those without disabilities. Here are some laws that can help you to understand website accessibility:

Americans with Disabilities Act – This law protects individuals with disabilities against any form of discrimination. The law requires that public buildings, schools, employers and other organizations make assistive technology accessible to anyone with a disability. They are not to be denied an education, job, or services based on their disability. Assistive technology is any kind of system that can help those with disabilities access information on devices, so they get the same information as those without disabilities.

The Rehabilitation Act, Section 504 and Section 508 – This law requires that those with disabilities have access to public schools, buildings, and other community locations. Section 504 puts into place accommodations for those with disabilities, so they are able to access a workplace, education or other public organizations. Section 508 requires that all technology is made accessible to those with disabilities. This act was put in place prior to the Americans with Disabilities Act and set the stage. It dates back to 1937.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) – These guidelines suggest ways in which website accessibility can be improved for those with disabilities. These are important guidelines to familiarize yourself with if you are looking to ensure accessibility of your website. The principals follow an acronym POUR, which stands for:

  • P – perceivable

  • O – operable

  • U – understandable

  • R – robust

These principals have to do with ensuring all users have the access to sight, sound and touch on your website (P). It also includes that everyone will be able to navigate through your website (O) and be able to comprehend the information on your page (U). In addition, it requires that 3rd part technology can make it easier for users to access the information (R).

Understanding these laws and guidelines are a great place to start is accessibility is new to you. Whether you are building a new website or testing one that you already have, it is important to understand why you are doing this task.

Why Not Online Testing Tools?

Accessibility testing tools can be a huge help when it comes to making sure a website is working properly for all users. While testing tools can be very useful, they can also be expensive, depending on what kind of tool is considered. The great news about these 6 methods of testing a website is that they are all entirely free. You will not have to pay a single penny to perform these tests. Depending on the type of online testing tool, they can have a range of prices. While this can be useful for a larger company, smaller companies might not have the budget to spend a lot on testing.

Online testing tools can also give you lots of information, but there is nothing like using a manual tool. If you can have other people test your website for you in real time, it can be more useful than a testing tool. Even though machines can be great when it comes to understanding the law, they can certainly miss things that a human checker might be able to find. Not only do they miss issues, but they also might flag issues that are not true.

Some issues with websites can only be found through manual testing, so it is in your best interest to do both if you can. If given the choice between the two, opt for the manual testing. It will help you to find issues quicker and more accurately than a manual test.

Here are the six ways to test for accessibility on your website. 

1. Use High-contrast Mode

About 30% of users with vision disabilities will look at websites in high-contrast mode. This helps them to see the content and navigate through the site. This may help out those who are partially impaired. High contrast mode helps those with vision problems to see the content in higher contrast when compared to the background color. Usually, the colors on the website are taken away so that the content is much easier to see. It makes the text more easily seen in the foreground, and the background turns black. The text is brighter and turns yellow or white so that it can be easier to read for those with vision impairments.

What To Look For: Once you have turned high-contrast mode on, go ahead and interact with the website. You will see which parts of the website are easier to see. If there are important parts that are not easy to see, you might want to consider changing them so that when in high-contrast mode, it helps users to see the content better.

2. Temporarily Turn off Access to Images

When images are turned off, does the content still make sense to the user? Images can be helpful, but not everyone can access them. It is important to make sure that your text can survive without your images and your images can somewhat survive without your text. Here is how you can turn your images off:

Internet Explorer: Click on Tools, Internet Options, Advanced. There will be a box labeled “Show Pictures”. You can uncheck this box to get rid of your pictures.

If you have Firefox as a browser, you can click on Tools, Options, Content. There will be a box labeled “Load Images Automatically”. By un-checking this box, you can turn off the images on a website.


3. Look for Captions and Transcripts on Media

This is one of the easiest tests you can perform for your website. For any media that you have on your site, check to make sure you have captions or transcripts. For those that have difficulty seeing, they will rely on words to help them understand pictures and other content. You can check for these features:

  • Controls that can turn the captions on and off

  • Captions that go along with videos

  • Multiple ways to access the content (video, audio, text)

  • Transcripts for videos with a lot of talking

The use and features of media not only affect those who have vision or hearing impairments, but also could affect people who have cognitive disabilities.


4. Shut Off Cascading Style Sheets

First of all, cascading style sheets (CSS) are features that can help a user to understand the language of a document. If you were to shut off the CSS on your website, can help users have more flexibility when using your website. Here is what to look for:

  • When disabling CSS, look to see if actionable features disappear. If they do, it will be difficult for people to get where they need to go on your site.

  • Look to see if messages are difficult to decipher

  • Check your content to see if it is easy to read and understand

  • Look for the background and text color to see if they are difficult to read

  • See if text presentation styles stay once CSS is turned off

This test helps you to understand the HTML that is being used on the website to see if it is appropriate and up-to-date for those with disabilities.  


5. Use Only the Keyboard

Perhaps you are aware this is an option, but never thought it could help you to test the accessibility of your site. If you were to disconnect the mouse and only use the keyboard, how far would you get on the website? Some people with disabilities are unable to use the mouse. This may be due to the fact that they are using some kind of assistive technology to navigate through websites. If it is difficult for you to do, then it is difficult for others. By using the “Tab” key, you can toggle from different links and pieces of the website. When using “Shift” and “Tab” together, you will be able to go to the previous place you were. Using the “Enter” key will ensure that you can click on links. These links can take you to new pages, back or forward on your web browser, and can select whatever part of the website you are currently on.

What to Look For: When using your keyboard to test for accessibility, you want to look for these important factors:

  • All controls can be accessed and clicked on. When you click on a link or menu, it takes you to where you need to go.

  • Make sure you can follow the item that is being highlighted at all times. If you can’t figure out where you’re going, then it will be difficult for those with disabilities. When you are toggling between the different buttons and links, you should be able to see what is selected.

  • Ask yourself if the order in which you hope to interact is matching the visual focus.

By using the keyboard only, you will see whether or not users that only have keyboard access can get to all the information on your website.


6. Use the Field Labels

Field labels can help a user to fill out a form on a website. Having issues with filling out forms for those who are disabled can be the biggest accessibility problems. Here are some of the issues you might find with field labels:

  • Labeling that is missing or incomplete

  • Focus control that is poor

  • Error handling that is not effective

The field labels are the questions that are asked when you are filling out an online form. When using these forms, yourself, are they easy to understand? While you might be used to the questions asked to fill out forms, remember that not all people with disabilities will be able to figure them out if they are not easily accessible. The labels should be properly labeled, so that users can accurately fill out the information necessary to sign up for mailing lists, make purchases, or access more information on a website.

Extra: Use it Yourself or Have Someone You Know Use the Website

If you know what to look for, you can test your website out on your own for accessibility. The other option is to have someone you know use it to see how easy the content is to get to. It might be more effective to have someone else use your website because they are less likely to be biased. It can be difficult to admit that a website we build or believe so much in could have any errors.

Here is what you should look for when testing your own website for accessibility:

  • Content – This is any information that is on your page. It can be in the form of text, videos, or audio. This is important to test for because you want to make sure

  • Text – The types, color and size of text that you use can have an effect on those with disabilities.

  • Links – When choosing links to put on your website, you want to consider using links that everyone can access. This not only means they can access the links, but also that the links are compatible with accessibility guidelines.

  • Media – If those with disabilities are not able to access media, then it has no place on your page. Make sure all media is accessible in both audio and text form.

  • Assistive technology – Every website should have the option to use assistive technology if needed. It is usually an option to offer assistive technology for free on your website.

As you can see, it is easy for you to test your own website instead of paying for an online tool. If you do the research and understand what it is you are looking for, your accessibility testing can be more accurate than online testing. Understanding the law and how you can make your website accessible to all users will help your business to grow. It will also make a substantial impact on your customers, so that your company’s website can better serve them.


Garenne Bigby
Author: Garenne BigbyWebsite:
Founder of DYNO Mapper and Advisory Committee Representative at the W3C.


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