User Testing Tips for Accessibility

User Testing Tips for Accessibility

There are plenty of relatively simple ways to sidestep the accessibility issues that plague the disabled community and ensure the accessibility of your website; primarily by user testing on people who actually have the disabilities you are trying to account for.

In axesslab’s article “Seven Tips for User Testing with Users with Disabilities,” Sethfors gives readers practical advice he has picked up over years of conducting user tests on digital products with disabled individuals as participants.

Ironically, the first bit of advice Sethfors’ article gives is not to call it a “user test,” as “test” can be an anxiety triggering word, and people with disabilities may be even more deeply affected by that negative association, since “tests” for them have often represented lack of ability or achievement. Sethfors suggests referring to the user tests as “Feedback sessions,” since this is a more positive term that doesn’t imply failure is an option.

When conducting user testing with a disabled population, it is necessary to be sensitive. People with cognitive impairments especially can require a delicate hand, and must  not be made to feel pressured or mandated to comply with what you’re used to in the way of test regulation.

It can take people with disabilities more time to do things, so patience will be the most valuable resource at your disposal; you will need to be prepared and set out extra time to account for your users. As your testing group will have extra impairments, it will be important to explain clearly what your invitees will need to expect, as well as give explicit instructions regarding how to get there, what to do when they get there, what to bring and how to cancel if they can’t come. Being clear at every stage is imperative, including during testing. Sethfors refers to personal experience when he explains how important it is to give directives rather than asking questions; the user may misunderstand and be made to feel inadequate and uncomfortable when they realize you were telling them to do something, not asking them to tell you something.

Despite the difficulties inherent in a task such as recruiting disabled individuals for user-testing purposes, Sethfors is adamant that it is important to user test with users who are disabled. This is the only way to get the kind of constructive criticism you need to effectively build accessible material, and the benefits will far outweigh the difficulties.

While it may be more difficult to user test using disabled people, it may be easier to recruit disabled test subjects than it would be ordinary users; collaborating groups are plentiful in disabled communities, and many disabled people will often want to help you make your product more accessible for their own sake. Ultimately, a disabled user testing group is going to have the most helpful feedback when it comes to making your content more accessible.

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