Reviewing accessibility testing results with development staff, whether they are contractors, product vendors, or internal developers, is a very effective best practice. Whether through a simple phone call briefing or with development staff present during the entirety of testing, project teams and Section 508 testers benefit when all parties can ask questions, see demonstrations, and suggest possible solutions.
Best Practice Guidelines
Uninitiated developers and project teams have difficulty understanding the nuances inherent in meeting 508 standards, and effective test programs make a point to clearly explain and demonstrate issues discovered in testing. Reports can seem intimidating and project teams often mischaracterize the level of effort required for remediation.
By involving project teams in the testing process, individuals can make the mental leap from bewilderment, annoyance, and confusion to clarity, planning, and resolution. Seeing firsthand how people with disabilities are adversely affected by accessibility defects also humanizes accessibility testing results for project teams.
For instance, when project teams and product vendors hear questions like “Can this product be used without a mouse?”; “Does your product expose information about its user interface elements?”; and “Do your scripts contain functional text which can be read by assistive technology?” it often results in blank stares, apathy and confusion. Conversely, when project teams see the effect of an accessibility defect on disabled users, understand how their content interacts with assistive technology, and take the opportunity to collaborate on possible remediation techniques, they transform these esoteric concepts into actionable and simple tasks. A developer creates an error page that uses red to denote items needing correction and does not understand the problem until a screen reading demonstration shows how unreasonable it is to navigate the page laboriously hunting for the red text. The idea that users can just query selected text for font color ceases to become an equitable solution to them and they become open to alternative methods of developing their error pages.
A number of agencies have established centralized testing programs whose sole purpose it is to review applications and electronic content to determine their level of accessibility. Their procedures and protocols are often different, but they all help the agency bridge the gap between the Section 508 standards and what employees and members of the public need to access Electronic and Information Technology. Assuming an agency has deployed a test center or plans to deploy a test program, agencies should consider the following to support this best practice:
- Institute an internal policy to review all defect reports with project teams or include project staff in the testing process;
- Establish remote capabilities so defects may be demonstrated to developers who are not local to the testing staff;
- Ensure that test tracking tools can capture when a defect review occurs and who attended the review; and
- Establish metrics and monitoring, seek project team feedback, and mature testing programs by incorporating feedback into the process.
Agencies that regularly employ a defects review as part of their testing regimen experience measurable benefits:
- Project teams progressively mature their content and knowledge base, and hence, the overall number of defects encountered in testing is reduced.
- Less time is spent contending with vendors and project teams over Section 508 interpretation.
- Resources and time saved in testing can be redirected into training, remediation, and other areas.