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Accessibility Testing vs. Accessibility Auditing

Marcy SuttonMarcy Sutton

Despite having the bulk of my career focused on accessibility, I still don’t feel like an expert some of the time.

This isn’t me trying to be modest. Instead, it’s more of a reflection of how large the field of accessibility really is and how there will always be more to learn and discover.

If you’ve attended my workshops in the past, you might have noticed that I always say “testing” instead of “auditing”.

While it might seem like an exercise in semantics (pun intended), there is an intentional difference between the two that is worth pointing out.

My passion for accessibility grew out of my interest in web development.

I’m a web developer and trainer with an expertise in accessibility.

I test and develop user interfaces but I don’t produce accessibility audits for a living. (I also chose not to get an accessibility certification as I have enough experience in the field to not require it.)

To help clarify, let’s play a game of word association. The word “audit” can carry financial or tax related connotations. If someone is getting audited, there’s going to be a lot of paperwork that will be picked through very carefully.

An accessibility audit is a similar sort of thing. When someone audits a web application, they are looking for every single violation of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or other standards. Any violations are classified and compiled into an in-depth report or spreadsheet, which can then be used in legal proceedings should the need arise.

Who does the fixing, or “remediation” as we say, might change depending on the situation. Sometimes an internal development team will be responsible for remediation — also known as implementation. Other times the company who performed the audit will take care of remediation as well.

There are several “Web Accessibility Audit Service Providers” that are a quick search away. I also can’t stress enough how important it is to prioritize accessibility companies that are owned and operated by people with disabilities.

When it comes to increasing accessibility adoption in the tech industry, we need all the help we can get. The testing approach that I follow and teach allows for anyone to make an impact– not only those with a precise attention to detail meeting the needs of a professional audit. My goal is to teach you a process that prevents common accessibility issues from making it to production. With the number of inaccessible sites and apps out there, I believe we can improve the state of the digital world with collective curiosity and effort.

As long as you’re thinking about user impact for disability and acting on accessibility with the belief that it matters, you’re on the right track. Regular testing uncovers low hanging fruit that can be quick to fix as well the more nuanced issues. You might also try getting through to colleagues by embracing more candid descriptions of how horrible an inaccessible interaction is. “Hot garbage for a person with limited mobility” comes to mind! 😜

There’s a lot of crossover between the techniques, tools, and resources involved in determining the accessibility of a web application. In Testing Accessibility, you’ll learn my favorites and how I use them in my consulting work, along with techniques for remediating the issues you identify. We’ll also explore the psychology of winning over stakeholders, as often the friction preventing accessibility from being successful stems from people rather than code.

Whether your organization chooses to engage with a third party auditing service or invest in bringing the skillset in-house, at the end of the day you’re taking another step toward an accessible web.

I call that a win.

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