Types of Accessibility Testing and Why You Need Them All


My name is Tiffany and I am committed to ​helping your enterprise develop strong digital products and even stronger digital teams.

There are multiple methods identifying accessibility issues on a website or application,  however, they generally fall into two categories: automated (or programmatic) testing and manual testing. Both of these work together to provide you with the most comprehensive understanding of accessibility violations on your experiences.

The Difference Between Automated and Manual Accessibility Testing

Automated Testing

An automated test (also called programmatic review) is done by a tool or script. This tool or script scans code and generates a report of issues and the locations where they exists. 


(1) The script is only as good as the input. If the script is not programmed to look for a certain accessibility issues, they will be overlooked

(2) Some accessibility issues cannot be found with a script. They require human perception. For instance, two elements that independently don’t create an issue can combine to create an issue. 

Manual Testing

A manual test is based on human review, usually an UX or accessibility expert who has a solid understanding of usability principles and accessibility standards. 



(1) Manual testing is a tedious, time-consuming process. Many enterprise websites and applications involve thousands of pages and different scenarios that may need to be explored. 

(2) UX or Accessibility experts may not be available or may be too expensive. 


How Does Manual Accessibility Testing Work?

When conducting a manual accessibility test or accessibility audit, the accessibility expert or UX practitioner  reviews pages (usually a sample of limited pages) on a platform to observe any concerns.

General Process

In general, this process involves:

(1) Making their observations by:

  • Interacting with pages across multiple browsers
  • Analyzing the underlying front-end code of page
  • Navigating pages with assistive technologies

(2) Identifying and documenting any violations of enterprise accessibility standards. 

(3) Developing an accessibility audit report which summarizes each issue, along with recommendations for remediating.  


Common Tools

Screen readers

JAWS: Windows screen-reader. Also provides speech and Braille output for most popular PC applications. There is a cost associated with this tool.

NVDA: Windows screen reader. Free downloadable software.

VoiceOver: Included in all Mac computers, tablets and phones.

Screen magnifiers

ZoomText:  Magnification and reading program for low-vision users. This tool: (1) enlarges everything on the computer screen (2) explains typing & essential program activity, and (3) automatically reads documents, web pages, email. There is a cost associated with this tool.

Speech recognition

Dragon Naturally Speaking: Speech recognition, dictation and transcription software. There is a cost associated with this tool.

Browser Extension Tools

You might use browser extensions to complete additional automated testing. Once installed, you can visit any page on the internet and run a browser report, which notes accessibility errors. 

Two common extensions are WAVE and Lighthouse. They are both open-source and free. 

WAVE, which stands for WebAccessibility Evaluation tool is created by WebAim (Web Accessibility in Mind). 

Lighthouse can be run from your Chrome browser in Chrome DevTools. Simply rright click, then select ‘inspect’ on any webpage within the Chrome browser.

PDF Checkers

For many organizations, PDFs are widely used across their internal and external applications. 

This is problematic for many reasons including search and maintainability, but PDFs are also notoriously inaccessible. 

Adobe Pro has a PDF checker which allows a user to review each PDF and correct accessibility issues. 


How Does Automated Accessibility Testing Work?

There is a growing market of tools which perform automated testing. Each of them provide different levels of coverage, so it may be helpful to include multiple within your testing approach. 

Built-in Accessibility Tools

Some platforms have accessibility testing capabilities already built in. For instance, the content management system you are using to build your website on may have accessibility reporting capabilities. Let’s say you are using WordPress. There are many accessibility-related WordPress plugins that allow site administrators to pull reports right from the control panel.  

Accessibility Tools

Several accessibility software companies have built specialized tools that can be added to your site quickly with a simple script. A great example of this is accessiBe, which is an automated accessibility tool that is commonly used by big brands.

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