Accessibility and Mobile Testing Tools: Insights from MTES 2024

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Accessibility and Mobile Testing Tools: Insights from MTES 2024

At MTES 2024, Helen Burge, Director of Digital Accessibility at Testlio, delivered a session on “Accessibility and Mobile Testing Tools.” Her role in the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and active contribution to the Accessibility Conformance Testing Task Force and Community Group has provided her valuable insights into making mobile applications more accessible. Additionally, Helen has spearheaded efforts to develop manual testing rules for accessibility, furthering her impact in the field. 

As was fitting this session was delivered on Accessibility Awareness Day. This blog summarizes the key points from her session, highlights the importance of accessibility and showcases practical tools for mobile application. It also demonstrates how developers, testers, and leadership can integrate accessibility into their products.

“Accessibility should not be an afterthought; it needs to be integrated into the development process from the very beginning.”

Helen Burge, Director of Digital Accessibility at Teslio

What is Accessibility?

Accessibility ensures that digital environments are usable by everyone, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. Helen used a simple yet powerful analogy to explain this concept: navigating a narrow street. Walking, biking, or driving a car down this street represents different user needs and how the environment can create barriers. Similarly, digital environments must be designed to accommodate all users, removing barriers to ensure inclusivity.

Screen shot of narrow street

Benefits of Accessibility

Aside from being the right thing to do, accessibility offers several tangible benefits:

Reach a Larger Audience: By making applications accessible, you can reach a broader user base, including those with disabilities.

Enhance Reputation: Companies known for accessibility are viewed positively, enhancing their brand reputation.

Drive Innovation: Accessibility challenges often lead to innovative solutions that benefit all users.

Increase Engagement: Accessible applications are easier to use, leading to higher user engagement and satisfaction.

Historical Context: Helen provided a historical overview of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which have evolved significantly since their inception in 1995. The guidelines have gone through several iterations, with WCAG 2.0 released in 2008, WCAG 2.1 in 2018, and the latest WCAG 2.2 in 2023. Within WCAG there are three tiers of accessibility guidelines: A, AA, and AAA. 

These guidelines are built on four principles: 

  • Perceivable 
  • Operable 
  • Understandable
  • Robust. 

The legal standard for accessibility in most countries is A and AA. So by targeting AA it is easy to fall within the accessibility guidelines. AAA is nice to have but not necessary and it is a lot harder to enforce because it is more subjective.

“Ensuring that your application is accessible not only broadens your user base but also demonstrates a commitment to inclusivity and social responsibility.”

Helen Burge, Director of Digital Accessibility at Teslio

Mobile Tools for Testing Accessibility

Helen emphasized the importance of using both manual and automated tools for testing mobile accessibility. Here are some key tools and techniques discussed:

Screen Readers

Screen readers are programs that read the visible content for users who may have difficulty reading it, including those who are blind or visually impaired. The most commonly used screen readers are: iOS VoiceOver and Android TalkBack. Ensuring that elements have proper semantic labels and roles is crucial for screen readers to function effectively.

Keyboard and Switch Testing

Keyboard and switch testing are often overlooked aspects of accessibility. Bluetooth keyboards and switch devices are used by users who may not be able to use touch gestures. Testing with these devices ensures that applications are accessible to users with limited mobility.

Color Contrast

Maintaining adequate color contrast between text and background is essential for readability. The recommended contrast ratio is 4.5:1 for regular text and 7:1 for enhanced visibility. Tools like screenshots and automation can help validate color contrast.

Screen shot of color contrast

Zoom and Font Size Adjustments

Allowing users to zoom and adjust font sizes is a crucial aspect of accessibility. Applications should support pinch-to-zoom and system-level font size adjustments to cater to users with visual impairments.

Touch Target Size

This is the touch size of the button and area around it. The best way to test this is by using an automated testing platform such as Kobiton. This application is very hard to test manually because you cannot see all the buttons. The best touch target size is 44 x 44 CSS pixels, but that can be hard and not work with the mobile application, so WCAG amended the checkpoint to a AA and reduced the size to 24 x 24 CSS pixels.

“The flexibility and scalability of Kobiton make it an indispensable tool for mobile app testing, enabling teams to quickly adapt to changes and maintain high standards of quality.”

Helen Burge, Director of Digital Accessibility at Teslio

Automation Tools

Helen recommended several automation tools for accessibility testing:

iOS: Xcode Accessibility Inspector and Android: Google Accessibility Scanner

These tools help identify accessibility issues like touch target sizes, which are difficult to test manually.

Screen shot of automation tools

Key Takeaways

Accessibility benefits everyone, not just those with permanent disabilities. It ensures that applications are usable in various contexts and environments, from temporary impairments to situational challenges. Combining manual and automated testing methods is essential for comprehensive accessibility checks.

Helen’s session at MTES 2024 highlighted the importance of continuous learning and awareness of accessibility best practices. Developers and testers should stay informed about the latest guidelines and tools to ensure their applications meet accessibility standards.

Accessibility is not just a legal requirement but a moral imperative that benefits users and businesses alike. By making mobile applications accessible, developers and testers can create inclusive digital environments that drive engagement and innovation. 

We encourage you to explore more sessions and resources from MTES 2024 to gain further insights into mobile testing best practices. Check out the related sessions and readings to continue your journey towards mobile excellence

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