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Usability and accessibility are different lenses to assess user experience. An accessibility assessment supports evaluation of IT systems for compliance with applicable statutes and policies. For a system to truly be accessible, it must be usable for the person employing assistive technology and provide an experience comparable to a person not using assistive technology. A usability assessment will identify design issues with the user interface that could be problematic for the end-user, and in some cases, prevent access to the system’s core functionality. Completion of both an accessibility and usability assessment is essential to providing the best possible user experience.

Factors to consider when performing the accessibility assessment:

  • Methods & Procedures
  • Assessment Setup and Support
  • Reporting


Prioritization | Planning | Assessment | Remediation | Resources

Method and Procedures

Automated Accessibility Scans
Automated testing provides a quick/broad initial system assessment and verifies system compliance with governing regulations. However, it is not recommended to use the tool to validate accessibility. Instead, use the tool to help identify problem areas for additional testing and research.

The accessibility scans should be included as part of the standard pre-production testing activities. Performing post-production accessibility validation on an annual basis or after each major release is also recommended.

For information on available tools, refer to:

Manual Assessment
Manual testing activities identify aspects of the user-interface that are technically accessible but still awkward or difficult for users with accessibility needs. Identify and plan testing activities in advance to ensure thorough testing of the system’s core functionality during the assessment. It is recommended that instead of proving users with step-by-step instructions, participants should be provided with usage scenarios to follow.

Participants and use cases for the assessment need to represent the diverse user community, including users with accessibility needs. When selecting participants for the assessment, it is highly recommended that the user base includes individuals who are skilled with assistive technologies (including: screen readers, speech recognition software, and magnification software). For additional information on how to learn more about assistive technologies and testing strategies, or for information on how to find skilled participants, refer to the “Resources” section below.

While performing the assessment, it is recommended that participants use non-production environments to navigate through scenario based exercises. A preconfigured persona and credentials should be provided. Participants should not be asked to enter personally identifiable information; only fictitious data should be used. Participants should be encouraged to navigate naturally through the system or website, guided by functional scenarios.

Participants should also be provided with any known workarounds for assistive technologies. For example: if alternate key strokes in a screen reader must be used for certain functionality to work, that information needs to be provided to the participants before they begin performing the assessment.

Additional Note:
Even if an automated assessment was performed, it is recommended that participants validate the functionality and modules manually to ensure that accessibility issues are properly addressed.

Assessment Procedures
To help focus users during the assessment, it is recommended to provide the assessors with basic procedures on how to use the system being evaluated. To help facilitate a more thorough review of the system, users should be given a list of tasks to perform. Instructions could be employed to help guide the users through the assessment, but providing them with step-by-step instructions may reduce the scope of the assessment. Instead, consider providing users with enough information to direct them to the modules that need to be evaluated, but don’t direct them fully. This will assist with evaluating not only system accessibility, but also system usability. When evaluating the system using specific assistive technologies, it will also help to provide users with additional instructions or tasks to complete that are more geared towards the assistive tools. This can be done by establishing standard procedures that users can follow for the different technologies:

  • Screen Readers
  • Speech Recognition Software
  • Magnification Software

As different Internet browsers interpret code differently, if the system is web-based, it is also recommended that the testing be performed using multiple browsers.

Setup and Support

Metrics and Reporting