ONE would like to believe that the digitally run and connected world is just a click away, but does that hold true for each and everyone? The sheer inability to access/participate/contribute can feel like a demotion, a drop in the rank, sidelined for no reason or fault. For about a billion disabled people on this planet, this is the ‘digital disability’ they are living with simply because a bulk of businesses online are yet to prioritise accessibility and its testing in order to help them access and consume the services rendered.

As the movement for diversity, equity and inclusion gains momentum, in a rapidly digitally evolving and transforming world, the spotlight is also now focused on digital equality. Equal access to all is a civil right, and no longer a privilege. In the spirit of equality and inclusion, May 19 marked the 11th Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). GAAD’s aim is to initiate a dialogue, create awareness and commitment to inclusion and to disrupt the culture of technology and digital product development to include accessibility as a core requirement because from both, a civil right and a business perspective, the disabled are underserved by today’s digital products. The pandemic has accelerated digitalization at light speed. Businesses cannot survive without going digital, and stand to compromise on their growth and image if they fail to empathize, invest in and practice inclusivity and accessibility.

A product’s universal appeal lies in its ease of use – by everyone. Testing and certifying your products for accessibility has become crucial to empower the differently abled and help them experience digital services.

What is accessibility testing?

Accessibility testing is a unique software testing technique that ensures an app or website is accessible to all, including people with specific disabilities like vision impairment, hearing disabilities, neurological, and other physical or cognitive conditions. Various aspects of a web app/mobile app are checked in this software testing technique, such as page title, image size, color contrast, form labels, keyboard access, content readability, page navigation, etc. Businesses can leverage various accessibility testing services to ensure equally accessible apps/websites to all people.

Today application usage has become an indispensable part of human lives. But, a large segment of our society – 15 percent according to World Health Organization – face disabilities and find it difficult to access the same apps. It is therefore critical that product innovations are delivered to people with special needs as well. This requires the implementation of special technologies in products like screen magnification software, screen readers, speech recognition software, voice commands, special keyboards to work and for communication, and more.

Take for instance, the Xbox adaptive controller has been specially designed for children with limited mobility to play video games with ease. Google Maps provides feature that helps businesses indicate whether their establishments are accessible to wheelchair users. Amazon and speech start-up Voiceitt announced a collaboration to make Alexa more accessible to people with speech impairments communicate.

The Accessibility Advantage

The singular aim of any digital product is seamless delivery of associated services. It’s the driving force of any business for it all comes down to user experience and usability. Every user deserves a first-rate digital experience on the web, and in order stay ahead of the curve, it’s good business sense to invest in accessibility testing. Just as you fortify your business with cyber security as a fundamental rule, accessibility testing too should to be implemented at the development cycle. The need is to be proactive and holistic in approach, not reactive or offer stop-gap arrangements.

Accessibility Test not only focuses on verifying usability, but improving upon it, making sure that an application can be used by people with any disability -temporary (say, a fracture), permanent or age-related disabilities including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning, and neurological disabilities. It is an investment that shall reap dividends by driving more traffic to your site and business. This is also a step that brings out true leadership – how strongly you feel for inclusion and practice it.

With technology enabling people who are disabled/ have special needs, it could change their lives in unexpected ways. For instance, by working with an Edtech client to improve student activity by 9% on their student engagement platform by ensuring accessibility of the application, thereby enabling better learning and collaboration for the differently-abled students. Manual and automated testing of specific parts of digital technology can be used to achieve accessibility. By bringing differently-abled users to the testing process, one enhances the overall experience as users are the real experts in their abilities and assistive technology.

For businesses to ensure their web and mobile apps are compliant with WCAG 2.1/2.2 guidelines (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines), it is necessary to leverage accessibility testing.

WCAG are the detailed technical description of accessibility guidelines, legal requirements or compliances businesses should follow to ensure equal web accessibility. According to W3C, WCAG 2.2 is scheduled to be published by September 2022, and web content under it should meet at least one of the conformance levels ranging from minimal to optimal compliance.

The fundamental principals of accessibility testing according to WCAG are:

1. Perceivable: Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.

2. Operable: User interface components and navigation must be operable.

3. Understandable: Information and the operation of the user interface must be understandable.

4. Robust: Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.

Conclusion

Accessibility is no longer an option. It’s a mandate for businesses to follow for their websites and apps. A seamlessly accessible app helps businesses to increase user outreach and user engagement, to be accessible for users with low-bandwidth and to make the website and the information available for users across all spectrums. It not only boosts the company market share, it enhances brand image, loyalty and search engine optimization. Accessibility compliance can save businesses from various litigations and lawsuits.

Technology is a great enabler and leveler. It’s altering the way we live, and now its practitioners and innovators need to alter how we access it. It is time to unlock the digital doors for the challenged. Access cannot be denied – it’s their right.



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Disclaimer

Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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