Accessibility Testing: Its Importance and Challenges

Inge Debleecker Inge De Bleecker
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Assess your compliance on Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Everyone deserves to benefit from technology, yet so many organizations have not prioritized - or struggle to reach - full digital accessibility. Even when firms commit to making digital experiences accessible to all, they falter due to confusion around which approaches or tools to use. There’s a lot to digest along the path to digital accessibility and the ongoing accessibility testing that goes with it. Take some time this Global Accessibility Awareness Day to evaluate your organization’s level of digital accessibility.

Why does accessibility matter?

It may be obvious now that the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other international accessibility laws were created to give all persons equal access to public accommodations. Of course, equal rights issues lie at the heart of these laws, but there are other reasons to ensure your business is digitally accessible to all.

Fifteen percent of the world’s population (~1.3 billion people) live with some form of disability, and the annual disposable income of the global population of persons with disabilities is approximately $1.2 trillion. Being digitally accessible:

  • Improves the user experience for everyone - In the process of implementing web accessibility best practices, you're likely to discover and correct usability issues that affect all of your customers.
  • Broadens your market penetration - If your website is not accessible, you miss out on 15% of users who currently have a disability and wield significant buying power. Accessibility tags also can improve your SEO and make your site discoverable by more users.
  • Builds an inclusive brand image - An accessible digital experience demonstrates corporate social responsibility, which helps your reputation. It shows you care about interacting with all people in a meaningful way.
  • Improves automation efforts - Sites and apps that are accessible contain tags and other information that allow people with disabilities to navigate them. Automation efforts that support updates and testing rely on many of these same attributes.
  • Mitigates legal risk - In 2020, the number of web-related lawsuits filed in federal court grew 12%: an average of nearly 7 every day.

What gets in the way of digital accessibility?

With the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s obvious why it is so critical for businesses to provide accessible digital experiences. However, according to our recent global survey of more than 1,800 professionals who work with accessibility, many companies are still not investing in the steps needed to ensure that they are providing accessible digital experiences.

Some statistics from our survey:

  • Sixty-nine percent of respondents say digital accessibility is a higher priority due to COVID-19, yet over two-thirds of respondents also said their company hasn’t tested for accessibility within the last three months, and nearly half said their company hasn’t tested within the last six months.

  • Among respondents whose company hasn’t tested for accessibility within the last six months or has never tested, only 21% say their company’s website meets WCAG 2.1 standards, and over 25% know their company’s website does not meet WCAG 2.1 standards.

  • More than half of the engineers who responded to the survey admitted they only sometimes, rarely or never write code with accessibility in mind.

On the upside, companies that use manual testing for accessibility are more confident that they meet WCAG 2.1 standards. Sixty-two percent of respondents said their company uses manual testing for accessibility. For respondents whose company uses manual testing, 44% say their company meets WCAG 2.1 standards, while 16% say their company does not meet WCAG 2.1 standards.

Considerations for your path to digital accessibility and accessibility testing

To evaluate and build fully accessible products, organizations need many tools and skills. If you’re not certain you have all the in-house skills, the right accessibility partner can help you through the entire assessment and development process. The partner can execute audits that identify issues across assistive technology tools and provide remediation recommendations, help review and refine best practices, provide training for your organization and can get feedback from real users with disabilities across devices, tools and geographies.

Comprehensive audits and real-world feedback are key to removing barriers to accessibility compliance and to ensure that your digital experiences work well for everyone.

Read our new ebook - “Do the Right Thing Right: Make Your Website and Apps Fully Accessible” - for more details on how to move your organization toward full and maintainable accessibility compliance.

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