Make People with Disabilities Part of your Accessibility Testing Program

Do you have an optimal accessibility testing program abilities mix?

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Child’s hands holding toy stethoscope surrounded by toy medical equipment and a stuffed bear

Running an accessibility testing program without people with disabilities is disrespectful

If your testers do not have any disabilities, what they are doing is simulating disabilities. At the end of the work day, those non-disabled testers get to go back home to their abled lives. They do not experience the day-in, day-out 24x7 frustration of someone with a disability slamming head first into either digital or physical barriers every single day. A layout quirk or an extra swipe that a non-disabled tester might not think twice about might be infuriating to someone with a disability who runs into this issue all the time. Accessibility testing is about more than just identifying WCAG violations.

Running an accessibility testing program without people with disabilities is inadequate

No one can legitimately claim that testing with completely able bodied testers will give you the equivalent experience of a population of people with varying degrees of disability. Yes, I can use a switch to navigate through a website or native app. But I am not going to experience the same level of fatigue and frustration as somone who HAS to use a switch. Also, I would not be carrying the same levels of frustration about software developers ignoring the needs of people with fine motor skill disabilities. People with disabilities doesn’t even always understand each other’s disabilities. Someone who is deaf may not understand my frustration with doors that take 50 lbs of force to open. It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a testing village of people with different disabilities, both visible and invisible, to build a software program that works well for everyone.

Running an accessibility testing program without people with disabilities is neither inclusive nor diverse

Yes, it is more work to hire people with disabilities. If it was easy, then more than 4 % of companies would have targeted disabilities as part of their diversity programs. As a hiring manager:

  • You have to navigate your company’s reasonable accommodation program
  • You may have to request facilities modifications
  • You will have to repeatedly deal with inaccessible internal tools such as purchasing systems, expense reporting, booking travel, etc. etc.

If you run a largely overseas testing program, chances are few if any of your testers will have disabilities

Access to tech jobs requires a decent education. In some low-cost labor countries, this type of education is hard to come by even without a disability, and almost impossible to come by if you are blind, deaf, have dyslexia or autism, or are a wheelchair user.

If you run an accessibility testing program with 100 % abled individuals, chances are your company is #Diversish

‘Diversish’ is a satirical term for businesses that call themselves diverse, but overlook, ignore or postpone anything having to do with disabilities. If you haven’t heard the hashtag #Diversish before, it was first publicly discussed in Davos at the end of January this year.

Conclusion

Representation is important, and representation of a wide-variety of disabilities in accessibility testing is no exception. Making sure that people with disabilities are included in a corporate accessibility testing program not only will improve the quality of the testing, it will improve corporate diversity and make the company less #Diversish. While there may be more initial effort required to hire and onboard people with disabilities (especially at a company where people with disabilities are largely under represented), the pay off for your customers and shareholders will far exceed the cost.

Blogger, disability advocate, nerd. Bringing the fire on ableism. A11y Architect @ VMware. Wheelchair user w/ a deaf daughter. CS, Law, and Business background

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