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Accessibility Testing – An Integral Component of Usability Testing

by (August 31, 2015)

Usability Testing

Technology has been advancing at a rapid pace and introducing innovative applications. Have you ever imagined a blind person using a mobile application? How will he/she be able to perform all the activities which can be performed by a regular user? This is the context from where the term ‘Accessibility’ and ‘Accessibility Testing’ comes in. The concept of accessible design ensures both, direct access and indirect access, in other words compatibility with a person’s assistive technology. Most of you might be familiar with Usability testing, the technique used in user-centered interaction design to evaluate a product by testing it by the users. Accessibility Testing can be considered as a subset of Usability Testing where the user cares for, both, usability and accessibility of the application.

What is Accessibility Testing?

Accessibility testing is the technique of ensuring that your product is accessibility compliant. It is a type of system testing, designed to determine whether individuals, with disabilities, will be able to use the system in question, which could be software, hardware, or any other type of systems. Disabilities encompass a wide range of physical problems, including learning disabilities as well as difficulties with sight, hearing and movement. It, also, encompasses the users (especially elderly people) who are not familiar with the device.

Why Accessibility Testing is Important?

Internet and Mobile Phones have become an inexorable part of our daily life.  It is used in different contexts like education, employment, entertainment, health care, etc. Websites and mobile applications are some of the essential ways of receiving as well as providing information and interacting with other people. Websites and the mobile applications need to be accessible in order to provide equal access and equal opportunity to people with disabilities.

Governments are legislating to ensure that accessibility issues are taken seriously, and commercial entities are looking at their own social responsibilities as well as the financial benefits of making their products and services accessible to a larger consumer base. Accessible websites enable people to make independent decisions, and provide greater opportunity for participation, interaction, education and employment. Therefore, Accessibility testing is one of the important aspects of Functionality testing.

Accessibility Testing in iOS devices

Apple has provided in-built features to create an inclusive environment for people with any disability. To access the features, click on Tap Settings > General > Accessibility

Accessibility Testing in iTunes

Accessibility testing in iOS devices - Screen Shot

It is not easy to test the accessibility of an application without looking at the screen and to go through the workflow of the application. By running it with the VoiceOver screen curtain in place, one can simulate the experience which a visually impaired user might have with the applications.

To turn off the display while you use VoiceOver, triple-tap the screen with three fingers. Screen curtain will be ON. When you activate the screen curtain, device display is turned off so that no one can read. Testing with the display turned off obliges you to rely on the information the Voice Over provides and removes the temptation to use the application as a sighted user would. To turn the display back on, perform the same gesture again.

The commonly used VoiceOver Gestures and its corresponding actions are listed below:

VoiceOver Gesture

Once the voiceover is turned ON, “double tap” each time, instead of merely touching controls. Users, who are blind, shall normally use two ways to explore the screen. Either they can move finger around the screen, listening to the controls as they are spoken, or they can skip from control to control by swiping in a left/right motion.
Therefore, in order to ensure that each control speaks correctly, move your finger around each screen and also, swipe through all the set of controls and ensure they speak correctly. Makes sense, verbally, and also indicate if they are dimmed or available.
If VoiceOver is turned ON, you must double tap each letter in the virtual keyboard when entering text, also. Users, who are blind, prefer to perform touch typing which allows moving around the keyboard until the right letter is heard and then lift the finger to type it. You get audible confirmation that the letter is entered.

Performing Accessibility Testing in Your Application

Here are some guidelines for you, while performing accessibility testing in a mobile application:

  • User with disabilities will be trusting voiceover, completely, to access the application. Hence, make sure that swiping left/right through controls is played correctly in the voiceover (including their status).
  • Ensure that the user is able to enter the text, easily, in edit fields with voiceover, either by using standard typing or by using touch typing.
  • Ensure that the voiceover provide adequate description for the visual elements like pictures, especially, when they are used for critical information like instructions.
  • If your application contains links, which directs to Safari, make sure that it can be read, easily, with voiceover. Ensure that the user can navigate, easily, to various controls like buttons, links, and form and headers fields.
  • Ensure that the voiceover does not lose focus or reads the contents improperly when the screen changes in your application.
  • Ensure that zoom, and/or invert colors, font, typeface, and background presentation are invoked in accessibility settings.
  • Ensure that the application voiceover functions correctly upon minimize-restore. Some applications, that have audio output experience, conflict when they are in the application switcher.
  • Turn the Rotor (Rotate two fingers in a clockwise or counter-clockwise motion, as if turning a dial, to cycle through rotor options) to the item desired such as “headers”, then swipe down, listening to each header in turn, swiping right to hear the information below the header desired.
  • Ensure that the voiceover functions properly when you refresh/update the application.
  • Ensure that all controls, that allow for adjustment, work easily with voiceover.
  • Some complex applications may require a walk through the tutorial without which the application may be difficult to access. Hence, if your application has tutorial, ensure that is it played usefully with voiceover.

Accessibility Management using iTunes

It is possible to manage some of the Accessibility settings using iTunes. Follow the below mentioned steps to manage accessibility through iTunes:

  1. Connect your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to any computer with iTunes installed.
  2. In iTunes, select your device.
  3. From the Summary pane, click > Configure Accessibility in the ‘Options’ section at the bottom.
  4. Select the feature you would like to use and click OK.

Accessibility Testing in iTunes

Have you performed accessibility testing before? Do share your experience.


Lakshmi K P, Software Test Engineer and Vidya VG, Practice Manager-Testing Services, RapidValue


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