Accessibility: testing with users

A very good article collecting answers to a simple question: If you have a disability, what’s the hardest thing about browsing the web?

I’m not completely sure about what to draw from the conclusion though:

A lot of what people comment on is not covered by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. So you need to test with users with disabilities!

Yes, you need to test with users, no question about that. The problem is that you don’t always have all types of users on hand — think dyslexia for instance: the more I learn about it, the more I figure out that there are no two users who have the same problems in front of a computer (we had a study in my company and the results were very educational).

Yes, true, the WCAG do not encompass the whole spectrum of problems, for instance: Amazingly there’s no minimum font size requirement in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. No there isn’t but I’ve always wondered why and thought that perhaps it’s got to do with the incredible variety of displays etc. This would result in a seriously complicated rule, if you want to encompass tablets, phablets, smartphones and such. Let’s make a mental note of it and see where this fits in the future aggregated Accessibility Guidelines.

For the record, though:

SC 1.4.4 requires text to be resizable without assistive technology up to 200 percent. To meet this requirement content must not prevent text magnification by the user.

The following methods might be used:

  • Ensure that the browser pinch zoom is not blocked by the page’s viewport meta element so that it can be used to zoom the page to 200%. Restrictive values for user-scalable and maximum-scale attributes of this meta element should be avoided. Note: Relying on full viewport zooming (e.g. not blocking the browser’s pinch zoom feature) requires the user to pan horizontally as well as vertically. While this technique meets the success criteria it is less usable than supporting text resizing features that reflow content to the user’s chosen viewport size. It is best practice to use techniques that support text resizing without requiring horizontal panning.
  • Support for system fonts that follow platform level user preferences for text size.
  • Provide on-page controls to change the text size.

There is one thing I think is unclear in the conclusion of the article: you may be led to think that you should forget about the WCAG entirely. This would be a mistake though (and I’m sure it’s not the intention of the author), as they have been produced by a collective of people who want to address as many user needs as possible, and one tester may forget whole parts of the population by only considering the users one knows in one’s vicinity.

Full disclosure: I can tell how easy it is to do so, it’s what I was doing when I started in accessibility a long time ago.


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