What is User Testing for Website Accessibility?

User testing is the testing of a digital asset for accessibility issues by one or more accessibility professionals with one or more disabilities.

Depending on the disability, assistive technology is used during the testing.

So, for example, someone with a visual condition such as blindness or low vision will typically use a screen reader during the testing.

And user testing is best performed by accessibility professionals who have a disability so this is really what user testing is is getting that effective that you can’t get unless you do have a disability.

Moreover, user testing is ideally performed under formal conditions and results in a formal report that documents the findings of the tester.

So the key with this is formality you really need in accessibility professional to do this the right way because if you don’t have an accessibility professional, it’s you’re not going to get as good of results. It’s not going to be the same then.

Now the most common disability associated with user testing is vision related but keep in mind that there are multiple types of visual disabilities as well as many other different types and different degrees of disabilities.

And even if two people have the same disability and the same disagree degree of disability, their assessments may still be different.

So it’s important to keep that in mind there’s this is not just about, okay well let’s have user testing performed by one person who is blind and be done with it.

User testing involves in at least, in theory, people with many different types of disabilities so I highly recommend a panel of professionals with varying disabilities who use multiple types of assistive technologies.

Because that’s also part of the test, you want to make sure that your digital asset let’s say it’s a website is compatible is accessible by different types of assistive technologies so that’s what this is.

This is testing. This is not an audit. An audit is a formal evaluation – it can be by someone performed by someone with a disability but it doesn’t have to be user testing needs to be performed by a professional with a disability.

And this is what ensures the accessibility robustness of the assets by testing with different from different perspectives and different environments so I recommend it if you have the budget.

Now this is this is where you get into the excellence category is when you have user testing coupled with a manual audit.

And keep in mind these are two separate things. You don’t- user testing is not performed when an accessibility audit is being performed.

These are two separate things so do not blur them together.

It’s a two tier approach and with this- with this approach you can really make sure that you’re that any oversights or any issues that might have been missed are caught.

So this is a great way to do this and neither neither approach is 100% but you’re getting near 100% when you take this two tier approach.

So for the chronology I recommend an audit is performed and then the remediation occurs.

Because if you don’t do remediation after the audit you’re- you’re likely going to catch the same issues.

You want to save user testing for the end because then you’re making sure that everything has been done correctly and there are practically that the digital asset is accessible and user testing might catch something that the technical audit doesn’t even catch.

And maybe it’s something that’s missed, but maybe it’s something that isn’t missed – maybe there’s a environment combination where user testing finds some sort of difficulty involved.

But user testing you want to rely on on the back end and not at front because user testing is very expensive to do and you- you want to make sure that you’re testing what you have you’re not initially finding issues because if you initially find issues it’s going to be a waste of time.

It’s going to be a waste of resources so you save user testing until the end.

Now this is going to ensure robust- robustness this is going to make sure you have a very accessible asset.

Moreover you’re going to have documentation not only from the audit but you’re also going to have the user testing report that’s completed and there should be a formal report that goes along with user testing where it’s going to state what accessibility issues were there and hopefully also speak to the accessibility of your digital asset.

I’m just reading to my notes hereā€¦ now this hasn’t got this is not realistic for all budgets this is something where you’re going above and beyond but it is extremely helpful and whenever feasible I highly recommend it.

And if you do invest in user testing, especially if you do it on a reoccurring basis this is something that is certainly worth highlighting in your accessibility statement.

And the last thing I’ll leave you with is that is very, very important that when you when you are purchasing a service for a user testing and or an audit that you understand that an audit and user testing are separate.

And with user testing you need to find out is there a panel of accessibility professionals with different disabilities that are testing my asset because sometimes it’s just it’s just one person sometimes it’s just one person with the vision of impairment and that’s fine that’s great there’s there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it’s important to know.

Well you know if you are being sold on user testing well what else or is there a panel involved right, because you shouldn’t just let user testing be something that is like broad and and not hashed out.

It needs to be detailed and you didn’t know exactly what you’re doing.

Moreover, it’s problematic if user testing and audits are involved. Testing is fine- audit testing happens during audits during audits, there are- there is some testing performed but it is not the same as user testing.

Very, very important to know that so make sure to keep the two separate.

There should be a an audit formal evaluation performed by an accessibility professional then you have remediation and then you have user testing which is as we’ve gone over.

It’s the testing- it’s the practical testing of an asset by an accessibility professional with at least one disability and then hopefully there are additional professionals that are also testing and they have different disabilities or degrees of disabilities and they’re using assistive technologies.

So extreme difference very important to point that out but if you can get user testing done, it’s highly beneficial moreover and with litigation it is very compelling to have to have a user testing report that speaks to the accessibility of your product. I mean not it won’t be it won’t be your product or of your digital asset asset- I should say it couldn’t be a product it could be a product it could be a service but likely it’s your digital asset so in most cases for most people watching this is going to be your website or your mobile app.

Snd so if you have a user testing report that speaks to it that is going to that’s a great defense to anybody that’s challenging the accessibility of your digital asset.