What is Accessibility Testing: WCAG, checklist, tools

As a software tester, you understand that your job is much more than just finding software bugs. You’re in charge of quality assurance, and that means taking all aspects of the product into account. But what if I told you that there’s one field that’s not getting enough attention that could take your work to the next level? I mean accessibility testing. So let’s take a look at what it actually is, why test for accessibility, what are the basic standards and tools in the industry.

What is Accessibility testing?

Accessibility testing is the process of finding out how easily a software or website can be accessed by people with different kinds of limitations. It is about exploring whether everyone, regardless of their physical or mental limitations, can use the product without problems.

With the advent of the digital age, accessibility has begun to move into the virtual world. With the rise of the Internet and personal computing, accessibility has become a critical aspect of information technology. Websites and apps have started to be designed with readability, colour contrast, navigation and interaction in mind, to make them accessible to people with visual, hearing or motor disabilities.

Here are some of the user groups for which accessibility testing is performed:

  • Persons with visual impairment: Accessibility testing helps determine if software or websites are compatible with screen readers and other assistive technologies.
  • Persons with hearing impairment: For these people, it is important that multimedia elements include alternative forms of communication, such as subtitles or visual instructions.
  • Persons with motor limitations: ensure that websites and applications are navigable using keyboard, voice commands or other assistive devices.
  • Older people: With age, limitations related to vision, hearing or motor skills may appear. Accessibility testing ensures that the product is usable by the older generation.
  • Persons with neurodiversity: This group includes people with disorders such as ADHD, autism and dyslexia. Here it is important that the content of the page is clear and easy to navigate.
The Ishihara test is a diagnostic method used to detect color blindness, created by Japanese ophthalmologist Dr. Shinobu Ishihara in 1917. Image source: webeyeclinic.com
The Ishihara test is a diagnostic method used to detect color blindness, created by Japanese ophthalmologist Dr. Shinobu Ishihara in 1917.
Image source: webeyeclinic.com

Why test accessibility?

Ethical responsibility

The first and most important reason is ethical responsibility. Imagine your app or website is inaccessible to people with disabilities. By doing so, you are preventing them from accessing information, services or entertainment. Such inaccessibility is not just a technical transgression, it is an ethical problem that directly affects people’s lives.

Legal grounds

In some countries, such as the United States or EU Member States, there are laws that lay down accessibility rules. If your product does not comply with these rules, you could get into significant legal trouble, including fines.

Extension of the target group

People with disabilities represent a significant proportion of the population. By ignoring their needs, you are unnecessarily limiting the range of users for your product. Accessible software can greatly expand your target audience.

Competitive advantage

When your product is fully accessible, you become more attractive to a wide range of people and organisations. Many companies prefer accessible solutions because it increases their social responsibility and positive public image.

Quality and usability

Often, improvements made in the name of accessibility turn out to benefit all users. Whether it’s better navigation, clearer design or more intuitive controls, the result is a higher quality, more user-friendly product.

Innovation and creativity

Solving accessibility problems often requires innovative thinking and creative solutions. He thus contributes significantly to the overall development and improvement of the product.

Feedback and community

Persons with disabilities and the organisations that advocate for their rights and interests are often very involved in providing feedback. This can also help you identify problems quickly and solve them efficiently.

Site acceptance test

Site Acceptance Test (SAT) is the phase of testing software or hardware before it is finally installed and put into operation. This test is the last step in the development process and is designed to verify that the system meets all requirements and is ready to be used in a real environment.

But what does this mean for you as a software tester? Do you think this is just another phase you have to go through? Wrong. The SAT is your opportunity to show that everything you’ve worked on is not only functional, but also usable and effective in the real world. During this phase, you often engage with end-users, providing valuable feedback.

Accessibility testing standards

WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines)

WCAG, which stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, is a set of guidelines designed to make the web accessible to all users, including those with various kinds of physical or mental limitations. These guidelines were developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and are widely accepted as the global standard for web content accessibility.

Section 508

Within the United States, you will encounter Section 508, which is part of the Civil Rehabilitation Act. This standard is primarily focused on federal agencies, but is often applied in the commercial sector as well.

EN 301 549

In Europe, you should be interested in the EN 301 549 standard, which is harmonised with WCAG standards and governs the accessibility of ICT (information and communication technology) products and services.

Accessibility checklist

Do you want your website or app to be accessible to as many people as possible? Here’s a quick checklist that can help you meet the basic WCAG criteria.


  • The text is legible and easy to understand.
  • Images have alternative text that describes their content.
  • Form elements have descriptions and labels.
  • The page has a proper heading structure (h1, h2, h3, …).


  • It is only possible to navigate using the keyboard.
  • It is obvious where the active control (focus) is located.
  • The page has skip links for better navigation.
  • Each link is clearly recognisable.

Vision and Hearing Aids

  • Images, icons and buttons are sufficiently contrasted.
  • Text content can be easily enlarged without losing functionality.
  • Video and audio content has subtitles or transcripts.
  • The site is tested with screen readers (e.g. JAWS, NVDA).

Interaction and Dynamic Content

  • Dynamic elements are controllable via the keyboard.
  • Alerts and page updates are accessed and tagged via ARIA elements. (add additional attributes to HTML to improve accessibility)
  • Form validation is accessible and provides clear error messages.

Technical Accessibility

  • The site is tested on multiple browsers.
  • HTML is well structured and valid.
  • The website is responsive and functional on mobile devices.

This is just a basic checklist, but it’s a good starting point for making sure your website or app is accessible. Each item on this list is based on specific WCAG criteria, so by following them, you’ll get closer to broader accessibility and clarity for all users.

Most used accessibility testing tools


WAVE, which stands for Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool, is one of the most popular tools for accessibility testing. This online tool provides visual feedback on how accessible your website is.

WAVE is one of the most popular tools for accessibility testing.


  • Easy to use: You don’t have to be an accessibility expert to know how to use WAVE. Simply enter the URL of your page and the analysis will start.
  • Comprehensive analysis: the tool checks various aspects, from basic ones such as colours and contrasts to more complex ones such as the use of ARIA marks.
  • Interactive tutorials: in addition to identifying problems, WAVE also suggests how you can solve them.
  • Price: there is a free version that will cover basic needs.



  • False positives: not all problems that WAVE finds are real problems. So you need to know which mistakes to ignore.
  • Technical limitations: not ideal for sites that are highly dynamic or use complex JavaScript frameworks.
  • Easily overlooked context: the WAVE evaluates the page statically, which means it has no ability to judge the context in which certain elements are used.


The free version is sufficient for most small to medium projects. For more complex needs, there is a paid version that starts at around $10 per month.


Axe is an open-source library that focuses on automated accessibility testing of websites and web applications. It is integrated into various development environments and offers support for modern web technologies. It is a powerful tool that offers detailed information and troubleshooting guides.


  • Reliability: Axe is known for its high level of reliability. It has fewer false positives compared to other tools.
  • Integration: it is easy to integrate into existing testing frameworks such as Selenium or Jest.
  • Detailed documentation:Axe offers extensive documentation and community support to help you understand how to solve accessibility problems.
  • Price: it’s an open-source library, so it’s completely free.


  • Technical complexity: For some, Axe can be a slightly complicated tool to set up and integrate into existing testing frameworks.


Axe is an open-source tool, so its use is completely free. That’s a definite advantage, especially if you’re on a budget.


AWS is a screen reader designed for Windows that allows people with visual impairments to navigate the Internet and use computer programs. It is a commercial product from Freedom Scientific.


  • Comprehensiveness: JAWS is one of the most comprehensive tools of its kind and offers a variety of features to meet different needs.
  • Broad support: due to its popularity, JAWS is often directly supported by web and app developers.
  • Interoperability with other technologies:JAWS is compatible with many programs and web browsers, increasing its versatility.
  • Active community and support: there are many resources, tutorials and forums where you can get help or advice on using JAWS.


  • High price: JAWS is a commercial product and its price is quite high, which may be limiting for some organisations or individuals.
  • Difficult to use: for newcomers, JAWS can be quite complicated to use.
  • Limitations on the platform: JAWS is only available for Windows, which limits its usability for people using other operating systems.


The price of JAWS ranges from a few hundred to thousands of dollars, depending on the version and licensing terms. Discounts are usually available for organisations and schools.

Accessibility checker extension

Accessibility Checker Extension is a tool designed to evaluate and improve the accessibility of websites. This tool is very useful for you as a software tester because it allows you to quickly and efficiently identify accessibility issues. You can simply add it to your web browser and analyze web pages in real time.

Accessibility testing and manual testing

In software testing, we are increasingly focusing on automation to save time and resources. However, we cannot rely entirely on automated tools for accessibility testing.

The first reason is sensitivity to detail. Automated tests can easily skip over subtle nuances and contextual aspects that are only obvious to a human.

The second reason is to simulate real user experiences. People with different kinds of limitations use the software for different purposes. Only a physical simulation of these interactions, such as using a screen reader or navigating using only a keyboard, can provide authentic insights.

The optimal approach often involves a combination of manual and automated testing. Automated testing is great for quickly checking and identifying underlying issues. Manual testing adds depth and addresses aspects that automated tools cannot cover.


It is always good to remember that accessibility testing is a continuous process. You don’t stop at one iteration or version of the software. Even if you think you’ve reached a sufficient level of accessibility, there’s always room for improvement.

Remember that every step you take towards more accessible software makes a difference. Not only will this improve the user experience for a wide range of people, but it will also help create a more inclusive and open world of technology.

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About the author

Katarína Kučáková

Software Test Engineer

Moja cesta k testovaniu softvéru sa začala v roku 2019 až po štúdiu ekonómie a pracovných skúsenostiach v iných odvetviach. To mi pomohlo vnímať IT svet v rôznych súvislostiach. Ten totiž ponúka neustále nové výzvy, pre ktoré rada hľadám riešenia. Obľubujem oddych pri čítaní, turistiku alebo lyžovanie. LinkedIn

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