An Introduction to Website Accessibility Testing
Charles Magiera, Accessibility Test Engineer
Website accessibility testing is an important process that ensures your website is accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities. In the UK, there are specific guidelines and regulations that need to be followed to ensure your website is accessible to all. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the UK requirements for website accessibility, with a focus on WCAG 2.0.
What is Website Accessibility Testing?
Website accessibility testing is the process of evaluating a website to determine if it is accessible to people with disabilities. The goal of accessibility testing is to identify barriers that might prevent people with disabilities from accessing or using your website. This can include visual, auditory, motor, and cognitive impairments.
Why is Website Accessibility Important?
Website accessibility is important for several reasons. Firstly, it is a legal requirement in many countries, including the UK. The Equality Act 2010 requires that all public sector websites and services be accessible to people with disabilities.
Failure to comply with this legislation can result in legal action and significant fines. While the law is precisely targeting the public sectors, there is a general consensus that the ‘provision of a service’ applies to commercial web services just as much as it does to conventional public sector services.
Secondly, website accessibility is a fundamental aspect of digital inclusion. It ensures that everyone has equal access to information and services online, regardless of their abilities. This is particularly important in today’s digital age where the internet is an essential tool for information, communication, and commerce.
Latest figures show there are 4.3 million disabled online shoppers meaning 1 in 5 potential consumers in the UK has a disability and that 7 in 10 disabled online shoppers are clicking away from inaccessible websites. According to a 2020 web accessibility report, nearly 98% of websites are failing to comply with the WCAG guidelines to make a website accessible.
Finally, accessible websites are simply better websites. They are easier to use for everyone (not just those with disabilities) and are more user-friendly. This can lead to improved customer satisfaction and increased business opportunities.
WCAG 2.0 and UK Requirements
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 is the internationally recognized standard for website accessibility. It provides a set of guidelines and success criteria for making web content more accessible to people with disabilities. The guidelines cover a range of accessibility issues, including:
- Perceivable: Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.
- Operable: User interface components and navigation must be operable.
- Understandable: Information and the operation of the user interface must be understandable.
- Robust: Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide range of user agents, including assistive technologies.
In the UK, the WCAG 2.0 guidelines are the benchmark for website accessibility. Public sector websites must conform to level AA of the WCAG 2.0 guidelines, while private sector websites are encouraged to do the same.
How to Test Your Website for Accessibility
There are several ways to test your website for accessibility, including manual testing, automated testing, and a combination of both.
Manual testing involves a person evaluating your website to identify accessibility barriers. This can include a range of tests, such as keyboard-only testing, screen reader testing, and colour contrast testing.
Automated testing involves using software to evaluate your website for accessibility issues. Automated testing can be a quick and efficient way to identify accessibility barriers, but it should not be relied upon as the sole method of testing. Automated tests can only identify some accessibility issues and may not pick up on other barriers that only a person can identify.
The best approach is to use a combination of manual and automated testing. This will ensure that your website is thoroughly tested for accessibility barriers and that any issues are identified and addressed.
Website accessibility testing is an important process that ensures your website is accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities. In the UK, there are specific guidelines and regulations that need to be followed, including WCAG 2.0. Accessibility testing can be carried out through a combination of manual and automated testing and ensures that any barriers to accessibility are identified and addressed.
By making your website accessible, you can comply with UK legislation, improve digital inclusion, and provide a better user experience for all. Remember, accessibility is not just about complying with legislation or ethical considerations. It's also about creating a website that is easy to use for everyone, regardless of their abilities. This can result in increased customer satisfaction and business opportunities.
In conclusion, website accessibility testing is a crucial step in the website development process. By ensuring that your website conforms to the WCAG 2.0 guidelines and is accessible to all, you can create a user-friendly, inclusive, and legally compliant website that benefits everyone.