IT leaders view automated testing as crucial in accelerating software innovation, including automated accessibility testing for making websites usable for individuals with disabilities. These tools can detect about 83% of accessibility issues.
However, automation doesn’t negate the necessity for manual testing. This ensures all users can access website information without issues. Comprehensive coverage needs manual accessibility testing on multiple browsers and interfaces, despite the challenges it presents.
The biggest challenges faced when testing for accessibility are:
1. The numerous success criteria under the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which require extensive expertise for effective accessibility testing.
2. The time and expertise required to use a screen reader, an essential assistive technology tool. Thus making it more efficient and practical to utilize users who are already familiar with the technology.
3. Some WCAG success criteria are open to interpretation, which can lead to confusion and delays. Clear and detailed documentation of requirements and testing processes can resolve this issue by ensuring consistent results and saving time in communication between testers and developers.
Automated processes, while instrumental in accelerating software development and accessibility, should be checked to ensure they’re performing adequately.
Over-reliance on automation hype can lead to disappointment when expected outcomes don’t materialize. Automated testing is useful for addressing basic issues, but manual testing remains essential.
While many organizations aspire to fully automate digital accessibility, we’re far from realizing this goal. Some companies perceive a clean automated test result as a sign that all accessibility barriers have been removed, but this isn’t usually the case. Incomplete automated solutions can create a false sense of security.
Although automated solutions can check for elements like alt-text descriptions, they often struggle with contextual understanding and the meaningful interpretation of content. Furthermore, a technically operable interface for users with disabilities doesn’t guarantee an easy or successful user experience.
In usability testing, no technology can fully replace manual testing, especially testing conducted by individuals with disabilities. This slower, often more expensive part of the process can yield critical feedback, boosting conversions, reducing abandonment, and increasing customer loyalty.
Unfortunately, no solution can fully automate accessibility testing and remediation or guarantee WCAG and ADA compliance. Companies that rely solely on such solutions often face legal claims and are judged as insufficient in their efforts.
The advice above is not to adopt an “all or nothing approach but to utilize a mix of available automation tools and manual testing by disabled users for a more holistic approach to web accessibility.