What Not To Expect From Web Accessibility Testing Tools

Automated tools help facilitate most of the testing processes efficiently in the field of IT. Functional, Integration, Sanity, Smoke, and Accessibility are a few types of testing where you find an extensive use of an automated tool. The fundamental idea behind the use of an automated tool for accessibility testing is to cut down the effort and time invested via manual testing. Accessibility testing with an automated tool increases the ROI and reduces human errors as encountered via manual testing.

Accessibility testing tools are often associated with challenges, which are hard to ignore. There are uncountable methods and practices which are followed in the IT industry to make the content of the website accessible for the differently-abled users, which automated tools cannot detect as they do not fall under the category of defects as viewed by the tool. Historically, it has been observed that automated tools have provided incorrect positive and negative results concerning accessibility testing.

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Listed below are the challenges that are encountered while using automated accessibility testing tools:

  1. Web Content Real-Time Evaluation
  2. Client-side Scripting in the web pages
  3. Warnings thrown by the web application are incorrectly evaluated
  4. Evaluations of Guidelines are inappropriate
  5. Multiple automated tools generate multiple results for accessibility
  6. Generic issues of automated accessibility testing tool(s)

Web Content Real-Time Evaluation

Automation engineers around the world have typically encountered that the tool/software in consideration is incompetent to detect issues for the dynamic website content.

First and foremost is the language articulation, choice of words and vocabulary used to explain the content displayed. This must be simple to the maximum extent so that there is a parity maintained in understanding the content displayed by all groups of users, be it the abled or the differently abled. No automation tool can detect the ease of understanding/reading of the content displayed.

The content that is displayed on the website should have proper subheadings so that it scores high in accessibility. Apart from this, sentence formation should be easy to understand.

Paragraphs should start with a conclusion and should be loaded initially so that user groups need not move back and forth in understanding the content.

Client-Side Scripting (CSS) In The Web Pages

For an in-depth analysis of JavaScript (JS) or the rich media files on the page, you cannot rely on the automated tools. Automated tools can only access the HTML and CSS for any web page. It has been observed that ‘device-dependent event handlers (JS-based)’ are detected by the tool, and even if no errors are generated it still gets highlighted by the tool.

Warnings Thrown By the Web Application Are Incorrectly Evaluated

Automated tools are found to be guided by a specific set of protocols. After every cycle of execution, a report is generated for analysis which contains the list of errors as well as warnings. However, many of these warnings may be error-free. Automation engineers tend to reduce these warnings by tweaking the website which is unwarranted and may end up reducing the website’s accessibility.

Evaluations Of Guidelines Are Inappropriate

An automated tool examines the web application for accessibility based on a certain set of protocols which we define as guidelines. However, when it gives an end report of the guidelines that have been adhered to, it does not necessarily mean that the integrity of the guidelines has been maintained. It only reveals whether the guidelines have been followed or not. Automated tools cannot judge the correct semantics of the same and can only examine the applications by syntax.

Multiple Automated Tools Generating Multiple Results For Accessibility

It has been observed in today’s IT scenario that there are a number of accessibility testing tools being used by different organizations. Each one of them is governed by a different set of the protocol(s) which vary from one another to a great extent. Thus, the result of accessibility testing varies from organization to organization.

Generic Issues Of Automated Accessibility Testing Tools

Accessibility testing ignores the aspects that need creativity, decision-making and analytical ability of a tester. Some of the generic issues which accessibility testing tools tend to ignore are colour combination, (provided by W3C standards), web forms labeling and display of Alt text.

With these limitations, it can be concluded that automated web accessibility testing tools do not solve your testing needs with a 100% coverage and only offer a quick solution on a few fronts. The better solution is to mix manual and automated testing so that the results from an automated tool can be assessed and monitored by the testing professionals and vice versa.

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