How Do I Test My App or Mobile Website for Accessibility?

November 17, 2021

Accessibility testing is an important component of the development process for mobile websites and apps. When creating mobile content, you have a legal responsibility to offer reasonable accommodations to users with disabilities. By ignoring accessibility, organizations take serious risks: According to the Wall Street Journal, the number of U.S. digital accessibility lawsuits rose 64% in the first half of 2021 as compared to the same period in 2020.  

Of course, mobile accessibility has numerous benefits apart from legal compliance.  Accessible mobile content opens up your audience considerably and can improve user retention. Moreover, the best practices of digital accessibility improve the user experience for everyone, regardless of their abilities.

By testing your mobile content frequently, you can remove the barriers that affect your audience and reduce the long-term costs of development. However, for optimal results, you’ll need to consider your testing methods carefully — and prioritize accessibility as you build your content.

When testing mobile content, use WCAG standards

Before testing mobile content, you’ll need to reference independent accessibility standards to set goals and monitor your progress. 

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are the consensus standard for digital accessibility. Published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), WCAG contains dozens of success criteria organized into three levels of conformance: Level A (least strict), Level AA, and Level AAA (most strict). 

Some points to keep in mind when establishing goals: 

  • For most types of mobile content, a reasonable goal is Level AA conformance. 
  • In order to meet Level AA, you’ll need to follow all of the Level A and Level AA guidelines. 
  • Make sure you’re testing for conformance with the W3C’s official recommendations. WCAG 2.1 is the latest official version of the guidelines. However, WCAG 2.2 is planned for publication in late 2021 or early 2022. 

Various automated WCAG testing tools are available for mobile accessibility, and in certain circumstances, automated tests can provide actionable feedback. However, as we’ve discussed on this blog, automated testing has significant limitations. Don’t assume that any individual automated test will identify every WCAG conformance issue — particularly if you’re designing a native app or a mobile website with app-like content. 

Read: Is Automated Testing Enough for Accessibility Compliance? 

User testing should include people with disabilities

Whether or not you’re creating content with complex interactive elements, you’ll need to test frequently. User testing identifies the barriers that affect your real audience, and by testing throughout development, you can avoid expensive remediation. 

Your development team can perform some simple manual tests to find certain barriers. For example, when adding a feature, you might use a mobile platform’s built-in accessibility tools (such as Apple’s VoiceOver or Google’s TalkBack) to determine whether your app functions as expected. You can also perform basic tests by accessing your app with a keyboard — without using a mouse or touchscreen — or by magnifying your content to 200%

However, you should also involve people with disabilities in your testing. This approach ensures that your tests are as accurate as possible. For example, an individual with vision disabilities may be more adept at using a screen reader — and more capable of identifying problems that prevent other screen reader users from engaging with your website or app. Testers who have disabilities can also help with process remediation and recommend tactics that go beyond WCAG recommendations.

Read: When User Testing for Accessibility, Involve People with Disabilities

Prioritize mobile accessibility and test frequently

When testing for mobile accessibility, remember that your objective is to create better content for your audience, not to meet a certain level of conformance. WCAG provides a valuable framework for testing by using a principle-oriented approach; to meet your accessibility goals, you’ll need to understand those principles. 

To start developing an accessible mindset, download the Bureau of Internet Accessibility’s free checklist for mobile accessibility. The checklist includes guidance for visual, tactile, and operational accessibility, which can help you make better design decisions and reach a wider audience.

We also offer mobile accessibility audits, which utilize our four-point hybrid testing methodology to provide strategic recommendations. By testing content with both manual and A.I.-driven methods, we can help your organization create a remediation strategy that integrates with your existing processes. Learn more about our iOS and Android accessibility testing here.

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