Testing refines your accessibility strategy and to test properly, you need the best tools. These tools provide additional oversight on your applications so that, if there is an accessibility error, you’ll catch it before your platform goes live.
Accessibility is a key part of building any product, app, or website. It’s important that all of your users can access your design as you intended it, and that you’re not inadvertently including design elements that are inaccessible for those with visual or hearing disabilities, individuals with seizure disorders, or others who may have difficulty navigating your platform.
What is Accessibility Testing?
Accessibility testing is a subset of usability testing — a more general approach to evaluating a product or service that looks at how your application works when it’s put in front of real users.
As a designer, it’s your job to address the needs of your users. You want to be sure that you’re not just meeting the bare minimum requirements for accessibility but that you’re offering disabled individuals a full and complete experience.
Testing for accessibility can bring many challenges. It can be difficult to find enough testers with specific disabilities, so many of the tools we love simulate disabilities.
How to Approach Accessibility Testing
Step one: Define your “core scenario.”
Your core scenario is the specific area that you’re testing. It may be a web page, a feature, or a process on your site, such as viewing a demo or adding a product to a cart. Narrow down your core scenarios as much as you can, since you’ll get more detailed results testing smaller portions of your platform than trying to test the whole thing at once.
Step two: Build your testing matrix.
There is no shortage of accessibility testing tools and browsers, but not all of them will be the right fit for your purposes, nor will all of them be compatible with each other. Evaluate which tools you think will be best suited to the job, and build a testing matrix with a combination of compatible, automated testing tools that together can give you a full picture of where your platform is succeeding in terms of inclusive design and where it may need some additional work.
Step three: Start testing
Once you know which tools you’ll be using, you can get to work. We recommend starting with a variety of the automated tools below, and then having your platform manually tested by a certified accessibility tester. Manual testing is crucial, since the fixes you put into place in response to your automated testing results may fail to fully solve the problem.
Ultimately, you want to be sure that your accessibility testing procedure is applied to each major function and feature of your platform. To cut down on time, do all of your automated testing first and then have a certified accessibility tester come in to manually assess the entire platform as one cohesive application.
Our Top Picks for Accessibility Testing Tools
Accessibility Extensions for Chrome
axe by Deque Systems. This automated tool makes quick work of accessibility testing, generating a list of errors while on site. Deque Systems also offers more advanced, paid accessibility testing tools that we love. This tool has recently joined forces with Microsoft to release the open source Accessibility Insights.
Chrome Accessibility Developer Tools. Adds an accessibility audit (and an accessibility sidebar pane in the Elements tab) to Chrome Developer Tools.
Tenon Check. This extension integrates into your existing toolset, catching inaccessible design features in real time so you can make improvements without having to start from scratch.
WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool. Get detailed reports and visual feedback on the accessibility of your web content. WAVE also puts icons and indicators right on your page so you can see yours hits and misses as they happen.
WCAG Accessibility Audit Developer UI. Scans your site to identify areas in need of improvement, with custom reports that give you a broad overview of what your accessibility to do list looks like.
WCAG Luminosity Contrast Ratio Analyzer. Pick colors from your web site and test their compliance against WCAG 2.0. An interactive toolbar lets you know how successful your contrast is and also offers other color options you can choose from.
Web Developer Extension by Chris Pederick. The official port of the Web Developer extension for Firefox. This extension enhances your existing toolbar to offer accessibility testing options that are seamlessly integrated into your toolset.
Gunning Fog and Flesch Reading Ease Test. Reading-ease tests determine how easy copy is to read and understand. The easier copy is to understand, the more accessible it is — especially to users with cognitive disabilities. Remember, users who rely on a screen reader face stressful cognitive loads on some pages. Easy-to-read copy helps them navigate a site with much more efficiency.
Color Contrast Analyzer. This tool allows you to quickly test the text and images on your page for color contrast and see how your web content appears to people with less than perfect vision. Correct color contrast ratios are important for many low vision users. The tool provides a pass/fail assessment using the WCAG 2.0 color contrast guidelines and also simulates certain conditions such as dichromatic color-blindness and cataracts.
Photosensitive Epilepsy Analysis Tool (PEAT). PEAT scores animations and videos to see if they are likely to cause seizures.
Total Validator. Total Validator is an HTML validator, accessibility validator, spell checker, and broken links checker all rolled into one tool, allowing for one-click validation of your website.
There’s no use building a stunning product, app, or website if it isn’t going to be accessible for all of your potential users. With accessibility testing you ensure that anyone who visits your site will be able to navigate it exactly as you planned.