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Meeting the challenge of accessibility testing

People have various needs and many have unique physical challenges. This makes creating fully accessible digital products a challenge in itself. Consequently, universal accessibility should be treated as a goal to be reached, rather than just another item on the list of requirements.
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Usability testers must put themselves in the user’s shoes and this can be difficult under the best of circumstances. Such as the difference between a tech savvy teenager and a distinctly unsavvy eighty-year-old, both of whom must make use of the same website or application. The difficulty increases when physical disabilities must also be included in UX testing.

While special tools and accessibility guidelines can help, they do not replace communication with physically challenged users. Also, ensuring usability for all possible users should begin early in the software development cycle and continue all the way through. This avoids the need to tack accessibility on at the end as an afterthought when time and money are scarce.

Accessibility requirements will differ from project to project, based on who the intended users are, as well as being influenced by government regulations and stakeholder requirements. Government regulations can be a problem in themselves, as they often take the form of legislation against discrimination rather than precise requirements. It may be necessary to consult lawyers or experts who have a thorough knowledge of what is and is not acceptable in the area where your software or website is being developed.

The best solution is to exceed expectations and deliver a product that is more accessible than required. Exceeding compliance not only improves the reputation of the software or website developers involved but also lowers cost in the long run if governments or stakeholders raise the bar on accessibility standards. Compensating for common disabilities should be part of the initial documentation.

While not every application or web page can be evaluated in complete detail, it is still important for software and web developers to take every measure possible to make their products as accessible to as many people as possible. There are good economic reasons as well as humanitarian ones to make accessibility an important part of every project.

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