Mobile technology has gone beyond the scope of communication and has empowered areas like education, entertainment, finance, and much more. When it comes to app development, it is crucial to cover features and functionalities based on accessibility.
Today, smartphones and mobile apps, in particular, have changed the way assistive technology is perceived. Advances in Accessibility Testing Services can be observed in many accessibility features for mobile devices. The WHO reports that around 15% of the global population has some form of special ability needs. Hence, accessibility testing is a crucial part of an app development process.
So what is accessibility testing, what are the different types of accessibility categories, the key limitations and requirements, and the main tools which are used as part of the Accessibility Testing Services? Find out in this guide.
What is Accessibility Testing?
Accessibility Testing Services are conducted to ensure that a mobile app is suitable and usable for everyone including those who are specially-abled. So what does it involve? It is an assessment of the mobile app about how much of the content or services provided are accessible to those with special needs. It can involve evaluation of the simplest of design aspects like color schemes and font sizes to check whether they make it easy or difficult to access the content, features, and/or services.
Users with different levels of abilities use an app accordingly. So there are different testing tools to ensure that an app is tested for accessibility at its optimal level. Such tools are also referred to as assistive tools.
Importance of Accessibility Testing Tools
Accessibility testing can help in uncovering design issues and bugs that may cause or contribute to poor UX for both general and specially-abled users. Studies show that around 20% Americans and 17% Europeans have some form of special ability needs. Just 20% of these Americans have a stunning purchasing power of over $490 billion. So when it comes to developing apps, you cannot ignore this market.
There is another important factor at play here. 53% of millennials are serious about supporting companies and brands that invest in morals, values, and ethics. So when you ignore accessibility, you will be making a costly mistake. Both ethical and economic incentives make Accessibility Testing Services important for your app.
Categories of Special Abilities
The different levels of special abilities around which Accessibility Testing Services need to be designed are as follows:
All Accessibility Testing Services must use tools to check accessibility for users who are visually impaired. This can include color vision tools, Bluetooth keyboards, Screen Reader and single control keyboards. Some of the different sub-categories covered by such tools include the following:
There will be some users who are completely visually impaired. There are tools like Screen readers that can narrate the content on the application. It can narrate not just the content, but also the buttons, links, images, and other elements in the app. It will also narrate word-by-word anything you enter into a text box.
When an app is poorly designed or developed, a Screen reader cannot narrate the content or elements correctly. This can mean inaccessibility for users who are visually impaired or have inability to see.
Accessibility Testing Services also need to test color blindness when testing apps. Color blindness refers to the inability to view certain colors properly. Blue and red are the most common colors that people with color blindness cannot see properly. So when someone with color blindness of red color uses an app that is more than 50% in red, they will not be comfortable using it.
So an app needs to be designed in a way that even people with color blindness can use it without any accessibility issues. In the above example, if a button is red, it can be outlined with black to make it more accessible. Typically, black and white are treated as universal colors.
Accessibility testing tools should also be able to cover accessibility by users with poor vision. This refers to users who do not have a clear vision or have a wide range of eyesight issues. Such users can have various problems with the retina. Apps can be designed to overcome poor vision challenge using the following strategies:
- Avoiding small text.
- The content or features should be designed to be zoom-able. The layout should not break when the text or other design elements get zoomed.
Need for Vision Accessibility Tests
Digitalization has improved everyone’s life. Technology continues to play an important role in assisting people with special needs. It also provides them with opportunities to maintain a more independent life.
Accessibility in apps is essential and there is a growing need for apps that help the visually impaired. Both Android and iOS come with screen readers built-in to the devices supporting them. Screen readers can allow users with severe vision impairment and blindness to interact with mobile apps without even seeing.
Manual Testing Tools for Android
i. TalkBack Screen Reader
TalkBack provides 2 common methods of navigation:
- Touch: Users can drag their finger on the screen and hear the content or control under their finger. Selection can be made with a double-tap anywhere.
- Linear: Right or left swipe can help users navigate the screen elements in a sequence. Selection can be made with a double-tap anywhere.
ii. Color Inversion
This tool used by Accessibility Testing Services inverts all the colors to provide the high-contrast look. It is suited for users with low vision and color blindness.
iii. Color Correction
This tool is used for testing accessibility for users with color blindness. It allows different mode settings including the following:
- Deuteranomaly for Red and Green color blindness
- Tritanomaly for Blue and Yellow color blindness
- Protanomaly for Red and Green color blindness
Manual Testing Tools for iOS
This tool works as a screen reader for visually impaired users. It can read buttons, links, icons, and other UI elements. Users can use gestures for selecting or navigating.
ii. Invert Colors
This tool allows users to choose between Smart Invert and Classic Invert options. Smart Invert inverts all colors except those of images and certain media. The Classic Invert option inverts the color of all the elements. This tool is ideal for those with low vision.
iii. Color Filters
This tool allows users with different types of color blindness to access apps more easily. The different color filter options include Grayscale, Green/Red filter, Red/Green filter, and Blue/Yellow filter.
When it comes to Accessibility Testing Services for mobile apps, users with hearing impairment should also be taken into account. There are different levels of special hearing needs, ranging from minor loss of hearing to complete deafness. While more than a million Americans are considered to be functionally hearing impaired, around 50 million suffer from one or the other type of tinnitus.
There are different levels of hearing disability intensity, so different strategies need to be implemented to make an app accessible.
So what should the Accessibility Testing Services be looking for when using their tools to test an app.
i. Accurate Captions
- Captions allow hearing impaired users to follow dialogues or action on the app
- Captions need to be accurate and have non-speech elements
A transcript helps users with special hearing needs to follow and consume content in a different way. Transcripts should be used along with captions and not replace them.
iii. Multiple Contact Modes
Since hearing impaired users cannot use the general mode of communication using a mobile device, they need alternate methods. These can include email, apps like Skype or other methods.
iv. Clear Audio
- High-quality audio makes accurate captions easier
- The tools will check audio for clarity, which can be beneficial for users who having special hearing needs
v. Simple Yet Clear Language
Accessibility Testing Services also use tools that test apps for the use of simple and clear language. Some of the features which are checked in this regard are as follows:
- The use of jargon or slang
- Content structuring using headings/sub-headings
- Use of consistent language
- Use of active voice
The American Sign Language (ASL) is not the same as English Sign Language. It is important to make the content and elements simple and clear for users that follow either English or ASL.
Accessibility testing tools should also test apps for users with learning disabilities. It is estimated that around 20% of people in the world have learning disabilities associated with reading, writing, and/or spelling.
- Reading/Writing Accessibility: Users with dyslexia can find it difficult to read and write and your app must be designed to accommodate them.
- Color/Design Format: The display options play an important role in accessibility of apps. Complex UI and layouts make it even difficult for users with such special needs.
Accessibility tools will test apps to ensure suitable contrast, darker colored text, and lighting options. The UI is tested for any unnecessary text.
Apple’s guidelines for UI design have contributed to the simplification of mobile app usability concepts. It is important to keep assistive technology in mind when designing mobile apps. This helps in simplifying your users’ learning capabilities.
When designing and developing your app, you should keep in mind not just the users who can tap and access its features. You should also design it keeping mind users with limited motion abilities. This can include users who cannot use their hands. Accessibility Testing Services will test apps for voice access or control and other input methods.
The following steps or features are expected to make an app accessible for users with restricted motion or reduced mobility:
- Users should be able to use alternative input methods
- If the app uses path-based/multipoint gestures, they should also be usable with a single point or without any complex gestures
- If intentional movements are required to cause action, there should be the option to disable the motion and use alternative methods to take the action
Some of the different types of accessibility capabilities that an ideal app should have include the following:
- Voice Recognition: To convert spoken words into text, to be used as input.
- Screen Reader: To read the text on the screen.
- Screen Magnification: To enlarge the content and make it easier to read for vision-impaired users.
Special Keyboard: To make it easy for users with motor control difficulties to type.
Accessibility Testing Tools
i. Switch Access
This accessibility testing tool allows users to interact with the device using switches in place of the touchscreen. It is suited for users having dexterity or motor impairments and prevents the need to interact directly with the device. The different types of switches include an external switch, external keyboard, or buttons on the mobile device.
ii. Voice Access
This tool is designed for users who have significant motor impairments. It allows users to control the device using spoken words. Users can use your voice to navigate, open applications, edit text, and do more without using hands.
iii. Switch Control
This tool allows the use of switches for various UI functions such as selection, tap, dragging, typing, and freehand drawing. The users have to use a switch to select something on the display. The switch can then be used for selecting an action. It is designed for iOS platform and makes accessibility simpler for users with mobility limitations.
iv. Voice Control
This iOS Accessibility Testing Services tool can be sued for navigating and interacting with the device using voice. Voice commands can be used in place of swipe, tap, type, and other actions. It can also be used for locking screen and is suited for users with motor impairment.
More Accessibility Testing Tools
Besides these tools, a wide range of extensions can also be used for accessibility testing. Some of the examples include the following:
- Axe for Android: This is a comprehensive Accessibility Suite with features like View Hierarchy and Automated Eventing Stream analysis.
- UBK Accessibility Kit: It aids with accessibility development/testing. Audit your iOS app and avoid the need for stopping and inspect each element using Xcode.
- A11y Ally: It allows you to discover accessibility issues in a passive manner.
- Accessibility Inspector: It shows action methods, information properties, and position related to the object under the pointer.
- Accessibility Scanner: This Android-based tool makes suggestions for accessibility improvements.
Even when the app development environment is improving, there are still apps that create the void of inaccessibility for users with different levels of hearing impairment and other special needs. The incorporation of multimedia sharing and video call features has benefited such users. But the development environment still has a long way to go to ensure that users with all kinds of special needs get covered. Yet these accessibility testing tools make the task of Accessibility Testing Services much easier and faster.