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Real Users: The Power of Accessibility Testing

Accessibility testing is a crucial aspect of web design that often gets overlooked. While automated workflows and compliance checklists are essential, they don’t always capture the experience of actual users, particularly those with disabilities. Live sessions with real people can provide invaluable insights that facilitate a more enjoyable experience for users of all abilities. In this article, we will focus on screen reader users, who are visually impaired individuals that rely on special software to convert a site’s source code into speech.

What is Accessibility Testing?

Accessibility testing evaluates the accessibility of digital products and can be categorized into two major approaches: auditing and testing. Auditing is when a site or app is compared against a list of accessibility requirements, typically a universal standard or a country-specific law. This can be achieved via automated means or by a professional audit.

Testing, on the other hand, is a one-on-one session facilitated by a professional, which evaluates the site’s accessibility through the use of assistive technologies. While auditing can flag potential issues, testing gives a more contextual and sensible report by using real individuals with disabilities.

Usability vs Accessibility Testing

While both usability and accessibility testing use a written script, testing for accessibility involves individuals with disabilities and employing assistive technology. Usability testing primarily considers demographic characteristics when selecting users for testing, whereas accessibility testing takes the senses and assistive technology involved in using the product into account.

Why Opt for Testing?

One significant advantage of accessibility testing is that it provides valuable insights that can help developers improve their product. Additionally, storytelling through real user experiences can build empathy among the development team to the accessibility challenges and inspire advocates for inclusive design.

Recruiting Users

Recruiting for accessibility testing requires identifying the type of disability that a digital product caters to, such as visual impairment. A good rule of thumb is to involve at least three to six users for the first accessibility session.

Screen reader users can be found through local advocacy groups, schools for the visually impaired, and online forums. For users with color blindness, including several individuals with different variations of color blindness is an acceptable practice.


Accessibility testing is a powerful tool that should not be overlooked in the pursuit of creating the best digital product. By conducting live sessions with real users with disabilities, developers can ensure a more inclusive product and empathize with the challenges users face. Taking the necessary steps to include accessibility testing in the development process can result in a more enjoyable experience for users of all abilities.

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