Embracing Accessibility in Agile Development

Accessibility in Agile Development

Inaccessibility in today’s digital world can attract expensive lawsuits and damage your brand exponentially. Several countries have enforced legislation to incorporate digital accessibility in solution engineered therein.

Digital accessibility drives to enable software and website inclusion to the widest range of audiences possible. WCAG 2.1 guidelines have made it imperative for organizations to enforce accessibility effectively in digital products and services, especially in the US. For want of individual standards in several countries, Section 508 and WCAG have almost become global guidelines except in places such as in Europe where DDA is prevalent

Accessibility is often perceived as a unique feature. However, it is more spread around interaction and presentation. Developers are expected to implement WCAG 2.1 guidelines while keeping all the stakeholders in the loop.

For instance, visually impaired people need an alternative for image intensive websites. In short, they need a simple description in plain text which can be easily read by the screen reader.

Accessibility Testing from the Start

The common question that prevails is when to start accessibility testing? While accessibility takes full shape once the HTMLs are implemented, there are several other things that can be started in advance.

For instance, testers can start with checking distinct descriptive page titles and consistency in the hierarchy of headlines. Testing links and form fields can also be started. More importantly, tester’s can get involved upfront in validating the design and implementation considerations including collaborating with developers on what it takes to engineer for accessibility. This helps in a product of much better quality released to test.

Leveraging Automation

Several accessibility features can be tested in an automated manner during agile development including APIs, UI and code units among others. Just like grammar scanners and syntax in document editors, you can also check the syntax of HTML and JavaScript to ensure accessibility patterns are present as per the requirement. Free versions and paid versions of these checkers are available online. You can incorporate some of them into your continuous integration model as well.

However, it comes with a caution. Syntax checker might report that the presence or absence of an alt txt but not whether it is right or not. This is where QA InfoTech brings in an automated advantage using Artificial Intelligence, where we have automated the checks and engineering for alt text using image recognition and natural language processing capabilities. While this is still evolving, the importance of manual verification here by real users on the team cannot be underestimated.

Manual Testing

After efficient implementation of the UI; capable manual testing can only enforce the right evaluation from the end-user’s perspective. The process includes thorough checking for contrast and colours, assistive tool usage, text implementations amongst others.
Testers can also conduct this process during the prototyping phase to determine invisible spots after the final inspection. One can also leverage text analyzers to calculate the readability and complexity index of the content on the web page. Testers can get the use perspectives by using screen reading tools. All these should be considered during accessibility testing in agile development.


Identified barriers during accessibility testing should be documented with all other defects, in a similar manner as functional defects giving all the required details.

While any kind of bug can hamper the user experience the same is not true for people with disabilities. An issue which may be ok to live with for regular users, may be a tough one for the differently-abled. Hence, it is essential to keep the specific user group in mind while testing the features.

While testing it is also important to consider the level of severity to identify whether something can be rectified with a simple workaround or would require users to guess, restart, retry, look for assistance, go through several steps etc. Testers need to identify whether the issue is permanently hampering the user experience. It is also crucial to identify whether the issue is acting as a blocking element disabling the user from further using the application.

Accessibility Testing Checklist

It is an efficient practice to collate the checklist of every minute accessibility aspect to evaluate the web page easily. Here are a few points which should be considered during accessibility testing in agile development. VPAT and the guidelines defined in WCAG are also a good starting point herein:

  • Keyboard Operations
  • Assistive Tools’ Functioning
  • Visual Testing through Screen Reader
  • Font and Foreground: Background Colour Testing
  • Image Testing
  • Text Magnification Testing
  • Visual ARI Testing
  • CSS Testing
  • Automated Testing

Accessible Reading

Ensuring that the content of the page is readable through screen reader is an important part of accessibility testing. “Accessible reading” testing involves checking the page’s readability score and ensuring that the screen reader is able to pronounce everything visible on the page with the right context.

Accessible Navigation

User-friendly navigation is the backbone of any successful application. A user-friendly navigation will allow users to easily move from one UI element to another, click buttons, links or input data efficiently.

Testers should analyze each and every UI control through keyboard only option to evaluate for accessibility. Access the content while keeping in mind that accessible reading and workflow should be linear and traceable from left to right throughout the lines.

Herein check for visibility levels as well to ensure all application’s features are visible and readable.

Paired Testing Approach

Adopting paired testing approach can help testers in achieving better results. Testers should sit with a differently abled person while testing the software or website. The differently-abled person can give a real picture about how difficult or accessible the software is to use.

Paired testing approach can also help in faster identification and fixing of accessibility challenges. It also leads to better understanding of how differently abled people function and react to the software.

While accessibility is still not a global mandate, adding the goodness of inclusion to products and services can reap immense benefits. Today’s user base has become diverse due to easy access to smartphones. Smartphone users are easily able to use web from anywhere and at anytime. Besides, it should become the moral responsibility for organizations to provide highly accessible applications to differently abled people.
Accessible apps are also a boon for senior people who suffer from common health issues including hearing, vision, perception and motor abilities. With a growing ageing population that is digitally savvy, accessibility will soon become an inevitable engineering consideration.

It will become a win-win for everyone if engineered well

Accessibility testing can help in achieving faster time-to-market with better market reach and user coverage. QA InfoTech has been helping several product organizations roll out highly accessible software and websites including testing and fixing defects found. Come talk to us to understand more on how we can help you.

About the Author

QA InfoTech

QA InfoTech

Established in 2003, with less than five testing experts, QA InfoTech has grown leaps and bounds with three QA Centers of Excellence globally; two of which are located in the hub of IT activity in India, Noida, and the other, our affiliate QA InfoTech Inc Michigan USA. In 2010 and 2011, QA InfoTech has been ranked in the top 100 places to work for in India.

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