What Is A11Y?
You might have seen the term "A11Y" popping up in comments or hashtags.
In this blog, we will break down the meaning of A11Y, how the accessibility movement relates to testing, and how to develop a plan for accessibility testing.
What Is the Meaning of A11Y?
A11Y is a numeronym for accessibility. The “11” stands for the 11 letters between “A” and “Y”. It refers to how accessible software is to everyone, including those with disabilities. The reasoning behind numeronym use is brevity.
Numeronyms date back to the 1980s, with origins at the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), a former computer equipment company. An administrator gave DEC employee Jan Scherpenhuizen an email account with the handle s12n to shorten his surname. What began as an inside joke is now shorthand in the software engineering community.
Other numeronyms include: i18n (internationalization), P2P (peer to peer), and l10n (localization).
A11Y As a Movement
The term A11Y does not reference any specific laws or guidelines that have to do with accessible technology. A11Y is a general term used in social media and in tech circles referring to the movement for making software more accessible.
Many disabled people rely on their devices to order food, pay taxes, commute to work, and communicate with friends and family. Accessible tech is especially important for employment, an area where disabled people have faced discrimination.
One in four people in the United States has a disability. Because of this, accessibility testing is a vital part of a business’ makeup that cannot be ignored.
To make apps and websites more accessible they should be compatible with assistive technology like braille displays, screen magnifiers, readers, and more. More broadly, apps and websites should be designed to reach the widest audience possible. This includes accommodating dyslexia, migraine triggers, colorblindness, and reading comprehension level.
By prioritizing accessibility testing, all people can perceive, understand, and navigate tech, creating better opportunities for everyone.
Ignoring accessibility is not only immoral, but it is also illegal. Between the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), Section 508, and the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), there are many regulations to meet. Failure to do so could result in fines of $75,000-$150,000. In many countries, accessibility is a right protected by law, the same way protections for people's race, religion, and gender are upheld.
Automated accessibility testing is important to ensure user satisfaction, comply with market software standards like WCAG, and avoid business loss.
So, we know that accessibility is important. But how do we go about accomplishing it in our technology? Here is a checklist to get started.
This checklist does not guarantee a site or app is fully accessible. However, addressing the issues in this checklist is a good place to start.
Always offer transcriptions and captions for webinars, videos, and podcasts when you can. For images, offer text alternatives and make sure your alt images are tagged correctly.
Alt text allows screen reader users to grasp the idea of the image on a website or app without seeing it themselves. It is especially important to provide alt text for educational visuals like infographics. When writing the alt text, add the message you want to convey through the image, and if the image has text, include that text in the alt as well.
ALT= Tide Logo (what color?)
ALT= Blue Tide Logo (conveys more)
Screen reader users navigate content with heading structure. The content of your website will be well-organized and easily translated by screen readers if headers (h1, h2, h3, etc.) are used correctly. Instead of choosing headings for their visual appeal, make sure the headings are in the right order.
The title of the page should be in h1. Avoid using an h1 anywhere else other than a website's title individual page titles. For the rest of the content, use the following headings (h2, h3, etc.) in descending order to organize the structure of your content. If you skip heading levels (h2, h4) screen readers will think there is no text.
Here is an example of how to use headings.
It can be hard to communicate if your content is not visible to people, contrast helps with this. Sharp contrast makes things legible, while weak contrast makes things disappear.
Colorblind people have trouble differentiating between hues, such as red and green. Lacking contrast in text and background colors makes it difficult to read. Color combinations with insufficient contrast, like green text on a red backdrop, can cause words to vanish for people with poor vision.
Not everyone uses a mouse, so websites and apps must be tested with and without a mouse. A keyboard is the most universal device to test with.
By pressing the Tab key, you should be able to navigate to each element in a logical order. If you can access all your website or app’s features, you are in a good spot with accessibility.
While this checklist is not comprehensive, it is a good first step towards helping a lot of people. For more information on accessibility, visit the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
Automated A11Y Testing
What is the best way to ensure your web and mobile apps are accessible? Incorporate automated accessibility testing into your testing strategies.
Accessibility testing works well if there is a strategic plan, well-defined structure, and framework set in place. From an agile perspective, accessibility testing should be performed throughout the agile process. The best place to begin is with design, as it provides a structure and framework for conducting effective testing.
Automating accessibility testing can be efficient and effective with the right test automation software.
Whether you are already performing accessibility testing or beginning to explore it, start here >> Accessibility Testing Hub
Accessibility Testing for Mobile
To demonstrate how accessibility testing for mobile devices works with Perfecto, here is a sample Expense Tracker app for Android and iOS. We will automate the following scenario using a Gherkin language powered by Quantum:
BDD testing is a simple process with Quantum. BDD tests written in plain English make it easy for anyone testing the app to understand. Stakeholders can also obtain quick and simple feedback on how an app is performing.
Another benefit of Quantum BDD testing is that these automated tests are run in the Perfecto cloud. Perfecto cloud testing ensures that executions are stable on clean and secure Android/iOS devices and desktop browsers.
Teams can begin by uploading an application file to the Perfecto repository that specifies which screen of the app should be tested for accessibility. In this example, the application file will be for the Expense Tracker's login page.
Once the application file has been uploaded, you are ready to run the native app accessibility sample: "I do an accessibility audit on the tag application screen 'Login Screen.'"
On both your Android and iOS devices, you may check and validate the Live Stream of the execution in the Perfecto dashboard.
For a more in-depth look at BDD test automation with Perfecto and Quantum, read this blog >> How to Achieve Advanced BDD Test Automation With Perfecto & Quantum
The Bottom Line
Align your accessibility testing strategy with your test cycle and synchronize your results in one place with Perfecto. You will ensure that accessibility defects are caught earlier when they are less expensive to fix.
See a demo of accessibility testing, image injection, as well as other advanced mobile testing capabilities that you can explore with Perfecto and Quantum.