Top tips for running Accessibility Testing

March 9, 2017
Posted by in Brain bites: 2 min insights

There are around 12 million of us with disabilities in the UK, amounting to 19% of the population. With almost 1 in 5 people having access needs and the majority of them having acquired their disability later in life (Disability facts and figures, 2016), you would think that all products are designed with accessibility in mind. But this is far from reality.

Image of a cartoon lady bringing along a cartoon ear as she shops

We will bring our accessibility needs wherever we go

When it comes to a site’s accessibility, the best solution is to consider it at every step of the design process. While testing your site’s conformity to the WCAG 2.0 accessibility guidelines is important, testing with real users is key to ensuring that your product is designed for the widest range abilities and contexts.

Here we outline our tips for running accessibility testing based on our own experience, including our recent project for the BBC to test one of their new services with users with diverse needs and users of assistive technologies to ensure optimum accessibility.

General tips

  • Try to involve people with a range of disabilities – people with visual impairments (blind, low vision), people with motor impairments, deaf, hard of hearing and people with cognitive disabilities (dyslexia, learning disabilities). The range of participants you recruit always depends on the nature and the objectives of the project
  • We like to have 2 researchers in the room (a moderator and a note taker) so that we can keep up with the session, support the participant and take notes
  • Introduce yourselves to the participant and clearly explain why you have asked them to help you with your research
  • Participants should always be your priority – make them feel comfortable, offer cookies and hot drinks, reassure them that they can take breaks at any point during the testing.

For participants who are blind

  • Offer your elbow to lead the participant into the lab
  • Describe the room and the set up: the position of their chair and the equipment they will be asked to use, the researchers’ locations etc. It’s useful to think about what a non-blind participant would see to help you describe the room
  • Blind participants may come in with their service dog – make sure you take care of it.
  • Don’t try to pet a service dog, you may distract it!
  • Be the participant’s eyes – describe your activities – e.g. if you need to approach them to set the recording equipment up let them know before you do so.

For people with hearing loss

  • Understand your participants’ communication needs prior to the testing – book an interpreter or speech-to-text reporter if needed
  • Run the testing in a well-lit room to ensure the participant is able to see the interviewer’s face
  • Ensure the participant faces both the moderator and the interpreter
  • Try to always maintain eye-contact with the participant, even when the interpreter describes what the participant said
  • Make sure you speak clearly and at a natural pace to accommodate lip-reading
  • Allow enough time in-between sessions to give interpreters breaks (usually 30 mins).

For people with learning disabilities

  • Use simple language
  • Encourage them as they go through the tasks
  • Offer to help them if you see them struggling
  • Reinforce positive feelings when completing the task.

For all users of assistive technologies

  • Make sure you understand the exact set up well in advance of the session, so you can thoroughly test it with all the recording equipment running too.
  • Ensure the participant has enough time to adjust the assistive technology settings before the session.

We’ve been doing accessibility testing and inclusive design since 1999. If you are interested in including this approach in your research and design, get in touch and we can talk more about your needs.

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