Ryan Wieland

Importance of Live-User Testing for Web Accessibility

Digital Accessibility has continued to gain significant traction across nearly every vertical in recent years. In some ways, it was a perfect storm of a growing focus on DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion), the COVID Pandemic driving an increase in digital content and assistive technology continuing to provide increased connectivity for people with disabilities.

At the same time, the digital explosion has also created a great responsibility to ensure this content is equally accessible to all.

Accessibility has quickly become a must-have for website design and development that ensures that everyone, including individuals with disabilities, can access and use a website or mobile application without access barriers. However, ensuring accessibility compliance is not always an easy task. Driving compliance requires thoroughly evaluating the website’s design, content, and overall functionality.

The most thorough and efficient way to achieve this is through a live-user accessibility audit that includes testers living with disabilities.

This blog will highlight the benefits of a live-user accessibility audit and why it is essential to creating a WCAG-compliant website.

1 – Improved User Experience

The primary benefit of a live-user accessibility audit is that it improves the user experience for people with disabilities. Beyond ensuring that a website complies with the WCAG guidelines, feedback from a user who uses assistive technology provides valuable insight on giving a compliant experience and a great experience to all users. 

It helps identify the barriers that prevent them from using the website effectively. This includes confusing navigation, unclear text, or an inefficient path through critical website views.

2 – Compliance with Legal Requirements

Another significant benefit of a live-user accessibility audit is that it helps ensure your website complies with various legal requirements. In the United States, website accessibility is mandatory under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 508, for public entities or various state regulations such as the CCPA in California. Additionally, on a global footprint, accessibility is critical for compliance with various regulations such as the AODA in Canada or European Accessibility Act. Failure to comply with these laws can result in legal action. 

By conducting a live-user accessibility audit, you can identify and fix all accessibility issues outlined under WCAG 2.1 AA Compliance while clearly documenting proactive risk mitigation for your organization. 

Simply put, an automated testing tool or overlay widget will not help defend your organization against legal actions in any fashion. Working with a certified accessibility professional that documents and tracks testing from individuals with disabilities and has a track record of providing litigation support in legal cases is your best proactive defense.

3 – Increased Website Traffic

An accessible website is not only crucial for people with disabilities but can also benefit an organization more broadly. Taking the proper steps to make your website accessible can increase your website traffic by improving your search engine (SEO) ranking. 

Search engines such as Google prioritize accessible websites in their search results. Many organizations spend significant resources on building a strong SEO footprint without realizing the additional and automatic lift provided by ensuring their website is accessible to assistive technology such as native screen readers. 

Simply put, when your website is accessible, you will attract more visitors and increase your business’s online visibility.

4 – Cost-Effective

Many design and development teams fail to realize the cost efficiencies by leading an accessibility plan with live-user testing. Compared to other accessibility testing methods, such as leaning solely on automated testing, a live-user audit done by highly trained accessibility professionals is much more comprehensive and accurate. It involves real people with disabilities testing your website, providing invaluable feedback that automated tools cannot test or might report issues as false positives. 

When limiting accessibility testing to only automated testing, many development teams miss critical issues in their development cycles or fix issues not correctly reported by automated testing. This can significantly increase development costs that could simply be avoided by hiring an accessibility vendor specializing in manual testing. 

While it may cost more upfront, addressing accessibility issues during the development phase can save your team money in the long run by preventing costly legal issues and ensuring a better user experience for everyone.

In conclusion, manual testing is required for brands serious about providing a website experience that is both in compliance with the WCAG Guidelines and usable to any visitor. It helps identify critical accessibility barriers that prevent people with disabilities from using your website effectively. 

This ensures compliance with legal requirements, increases website traffic, and is the most cost-effective approach. 

By making your website accessible, you improve the user experience for everyone and create a more inclusive and equitable online reputation for your brand.