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Web accessibility assurance – a low hanging fruit of ‘crowd testing’

(Image credit: Image Credit: Geralt / Pixabay)

Web accessibility is an important aspect of an organisation’s digital user journey. From a ‘carrot and stick’ theory perspective, the ‘carrot’ is the additional business revenue gained by tapping into a completely new group of customers. It also packs a punch when it comes to strengthening your brand perception as an ‘organisation that cares’.

Looking at the topic from a ‘stick perspective’, around the globe litigation cases specific to non-web accessibility compliance are on the rise. Yes indeed, in a number of countries companies can be penalised for not having web accessibility compliant desktop web applications, and for not enabling equal access to websites to everyone regardless of any physical, cognitive or technical restrictions.

Needless to say, many of the leading organisations across industries are making the most of the ‘carrot’ approach. They use web accessibility as a trump card in their application usability strategies and enjoy the spoils of First Mover Advantage (FMA). Quality Assurance plays an important role in these application strategies, with organisations having ample room to experiment with technology such as automation tools and platforms, as well as consumption models such as “as-a-service” and outcome based delivery. By combining these, companies can improve coverage, reduce defect leakage downstream, and optimise efforts. When it comes to delivery models, crowd sourced delivery is one key approach that should not be left off any company’s transformation or  continuous improvement strategy.

Accessibility assurance is tailor made for crowd sourced delivery

Crowd sourced delivery is a disruptive model that many organisations are warming to. Tapping into the power of the crowd brings to the table many benefits such as speed, productivity and increased quality of deliverables, which is often unmatched by traditional ‘offshore- onsite’ delivery. Driven by a competition mechanism, it effectively gets the best out of motivated, tech savvy participants, by making them push their limits and also meet every challenge.

From a QA perspective, the most commonly consumed products revolve around traditional services such as functional, performance and exploratory testing. Accessibility testing is one more offering that makes sense when you think of tapping into the power of the crowd. Here is why:

  • Accessibility principles are easy to understand and easy to apply - The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has defined clear accessibility guidelines for testers to follow, known as Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These guidelines are split into three conformance and accessibility levels: A, AA and AAA. On its website, the W3C also provides exhaustive content explaining each guideline, in an easy to understand and consume format. This makes it simple for one to quickly grasp accessibility testing challenges and get to work on solving them.
  • Extremely structured, making it easy to streamline efforts - As mentioned in the previous point, the W3C has made an effort to make accessibility guidelines as structured and granular as possible so that any individual can easily understand and implement them. This aspect favours crowd sourced challenges in a very big way, because participants can easily streamline their efforts and strategise what to test and how, improving the quality of their submissions. This also means participants can increase the speed at which defects are found and logged. This fits in perfectly with competition models followed by crowd sourced platforms.
  • Being a subset of Usability, testing of Accessibility requires human and not machine intelligence - Simply put, accessibility is a subset of usability. Even though the tests can be automated, the best results are achieved when they are done manually. Along with the guidelines, testers also need to apply a lot of common sense and put themselves in the place of a person dependent on accessibility when they analyse each page of the application. In particular this comes in handy when analysing the overall page navigation order and flow, which to date has been seen as quite difficult to automate.

Along with the points highlighted above, one more intriguing aspect about crowd sourced accessibility testing is the ability to amplify the motive driving accessibility itself by asking Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) to take part in these challenges. Not only does this promote diversity and inclusion, it also taps into the rich source of accessibility knowledge that PwDs bring to the table, especially since they utilise these techniques day-in, day-out when using web applications for their day-to-day needs. PwDs have an acute understanding of the problem. They therefore possess keen attention to detail and know possible issues with accessibility inside out.

The best results are achieved when the end-to-end functional flows of the crowd platform and associated applications in the ‘supply chain’ such as Test Management tools are also accessibility compliant. Two key aspects to keep in mind here is to ensure that the page layout order is easy to understand, and that form-based elements are easy-to-use and data input is seamless.

Aditya G Hosangadi, Consultant, Digital Assurance, Wipro