Accessibility testing

Accessibility Testing: Why It Matters and How to Get Started


Nearly 96% of website homepages had failures with meeting web accessibility criteria in 2024. Aside from not complying with web accessibility laws and regulations, companies are failing a growing number of users with accessibility needs.

With disabilities, chronic illnesses and ageing populations all rising, brands need to take accessibility more seriously. 

In this article, we explain why accessibility testing is so important and how you can get started today.

What is accessibility testing?

Accessibility testing optimises digital experiences to make them accessible for users with a range of disabilities and impairments. This includes users with vision impairments, hearing loss, neurodivergence, motor disabilities and cognitive conditions.

The goal is to create inclusive experiences for everyone by implementing UX principles that address the usability needs of diverse audiences.

To help developers create accessible experiences, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) created the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The international WCAG standards define the Four Principles of Accessibility:

  • Perceivable: Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they perceive.
  • Operable: User interface components and navigation must be operable.
  • Understandable: Information and the operation of user interfaces must be understandable.
  • Robust: Content must be robust enough to be interpreted reliably by various user agents, including assistive technologies.
WCAG Four Principles of Accessibility

The current version of WCAG (2.2) contains 86 success criteria with three grades representing conformance levels:

  • Level A is the minimum conformance rating, indicating that web content is accessible to most users.
  • Level AA is the recommended conformance level to make content accessible to almost everyone, including users with severe disabilities.
  • Level AAA is the highest conformance rating, making content accessible to everyone, regardless of disability.
WCAG accessibility conformance levels

Why is accessibility testing important?

With record numbers of lawsuits over online accessibility cases, it’s clear that companies underestimate the importance of accessibility testing. Here are seven key reasons you should pay more attention to it:

  1. Create inclusive experiences: Above all, accessibility testing creates inclusive experiences for all users.

  2. Adhere to accessibility regulations: Accessibility laws in most major markets — including the EU web accessibility policy —  make it illegal for companies to discriminate against users with disabilities.

  3. Social responsibility: Companies have an ethical responsibility to cater to all users and consumers. 57% say they’re more loyal to brands that commit to addressing social inequities.
  4. Accessibility needs are growing: 16% of the world’s population (1 in 6) experience significant disability and the number will continue to grow as ageing populations rise.

  5. Improve experiences for everyone: Accessibility improves experiences for all users — for example, 80% of UK viewers aged 18-25 (2021) watch content with subtitles enabled.

  6. Maximise marketing reach: Platforms like Google prioritise accessibility yearly, making accessible content and experiences more visible.

  7. Accessibility is profitable: Inclusive companies earn 1.6x more revenue, 2.6x more net income and 2x more profit, according to Accenture (PDF).
Accenture Accessibility is Profitable

Who needs inclusive UX?

Accessibility testing starts with understanding the usability needs of audiences with disabilities and impairments. Here’s a quick summary of the most common impairments and some of the needs they have in common:

  • Visual impairments: Users may rely on screen readers, magnification software, braille displays, etc. or require certain levels of contrast, text sizes and colour combinations to aid visibility.
  • Hearing impairments: Users may rely on closed captions and subtitles for video content, transcripts for multimedia content and visual alerts/notifications for updates.
  • Motor or mobility impairments: Users might rely on adaptive keyboards, voice recognition and other assistive devices.
  • Cognitive and neurological impairments: Users may rely on technologies like text-to-speech software or require simplified user interfaces, contrast designs, etc., to aid comprehension.
  • Speech impairments: Users may rely on speech recognition and dictation software for any interaction that requires them to speak (e.g., automated customer service machines).

While accessibility tools can alleviate certain accessibility challenges, inclusive design can remove much of the burden from users. This can involve using plenty of contrast, careful font selection, increasing whitespace and plenty of other design choices.

Refer to the latest version of the WCAG for further guidance.

How to run accessibility testing

Now that we’ve emphasised the importance of accessibility, let’s explain how you can implement your own accessibility testing strategy.

Create your accessibility testing plan

Careful planning is crucial for making accessibility testing affordable and profitable. This starts with identifying the assets you need to test and optimise. This may include:

  • Website or web app
  • Mobile app
  • Videos
  • Podcasts and audio
  • PDFs
  • Marketing emails

Map out all the assets your target audience interacts with and bring them into your accessibility testing plan. Optimising your website for screen readers is great, but you don’t want to forget your marketing emails and exclude vision-impaired users.

Once you’ve got a complete list of assets, identify the elements and interactions with each one that require accessibility testing. For example, on your website, you should optimise navigation, user interfaces, layouts, web forms, etc.

You also need to consider the impact of device types. For example, how touchscreens change the experience for motor impairments.

Now that you know the scope of your testing strategy, it’s time to define your accessibility standards. Use external frameworks like WCAG guidelines and relevant legal requirements to create an internal set of standards.

Once your accessibility standards are complete, train your staff at every level. This includes designers, developers, and content creators — everyone who works on assets is included in your accessibility testing strategy.

Implement your accessibility standards throughout the design and development phases. Aim to create the most inclusive experiences possible before the accessibility testing stage.

Implement accessibility practices at every level

Treating accessibility as an afterthought is the biggest mistake you can make. Aside from neglecting the importance of accessibility, it’s simply not affordable to create assets and then optimise them for accessibility.

Instead, you need to implement accessibility standards in every design and development stage. This way, you create inclusive assets from the beginning, and accessibility testing flags minor fixes rather than overhauls.

By extension, you can take lessons from accessibility tests and update your accessibility standards to improve the quality of future assets.

Set clear specifications in your accessibility standards for everyone to follow. For example, content publishers should be responsible for adding alt-text to all images. Make designers responsible for following contrast guidelines when optimising elements like CTA buttons.

A comparison of CTA buttons

Next, managers can review assets and check for accessibility standards before anything is signed off. This way, you achieve higher test accessibility scores, and most fixes should be minor.

This is the key to making accessibility testing manageable and profitable.

Automate accessibility testing

Automation is the other big factor in making accessibility efficient. With the right tools, you can run tests periodically without any manual workload, collecting data and flagging potential issues at almost no cost.

For example, you can run automated accessibility tests on your website every month to check for common issues. This might flag up pages without alt-text for images, colour issues on a new batch of landing pages or a sudden drop in mobile loading times.

Every automated test you can run reduces the manual workload of optimising accessibility. This frees up more time for the manual tests that require the attention of accessibility experts. 

  • Free up time for accessibility tasks that require manual testing
  • Identify issues with new content, assets, code, etc. faster
  • Run automated accessibility testing on new CRO changes

Schedule manual accessibility reviews

While it’s important to automate as much accessibility testing as possible, most accessibility standards require some form of manual testing. If we use the WCAG standards as a guideline, more than 70% of success require manual review and verification, including:

  • Testing websites with a screen reader
  • Navigating apps by only using a keyword
  • Quality assessing closed captions and subtitles
  • Testing web forms for people using speech input
  • Checking conversion actions for users with mobility issues (CTAs, forms, payments, etc.)

Yes, you can automatically check all images for alt-text, but simply providing alt-text isn’t enough. You also have to review alt-text to make sure they’re descriptive, accurate and informative about the experience.

Once again, the best way to minimise your time spent on manual testing is to implement accessibility standards throughout design and development. Train your content publishers to create alt-text that meets your criteria and editors to review them before pieces are signed off. 

This way, you should always have the required alt-text before the content reaches the accessibility testing stage. The same applies to video transcriptions, web forms, website navigation, etc.

Building a culture of accessibility makes the testing process as efficient as possible.

What tools do you need for accessibility testing?

Now that we’ve covered the key essentials of accessibility testing, let’s look at some of the best accessibility testing tools to help you implement your strategy.

accessiBe: AI-powered accessibility testing automation

accessiBe is an accessibility testing automation and management system. It incorporates two core products: accessWidget for automating UI accessibility and accessFlow as an all-in-one solution for developers.

screenshot of accessiBe

Key features:

  • Automated accessibility testing
  • Accessibility widget for easy optimisation
  • Product accessibility for web, mobile and native apps
  • AI-powered accessibility insights
  • Compliance with WCAG, EAA and more

As explained earlier, automation is crucial for making accessibility testing efficient and profitable. With accessiBe, you can automate the first line of accessibility checks so testers only need to get involved when manual action is necessary.

Maze: Intelligent usability testing software

Maze is a usability testing system that uses AI and automation to enhance traditional qualitative testing. You can run automated tests on live websites, capture survey feedback and recruit users to test experiences with real people.

screenshot of Maze

Key features:

  • Live website testing
  • Feedback surveys
  • Usability interviews
  • Test recruitment
  • Automated analysis

While traditional usability interviews can provide in-depth insights, they’re expensive, time-consuming and difficult to run at scale. Maze’s solution is a hybrid testing system that automates data capture and analysis while supporting real user testing in one system.

Matomo: Empowering people with ethical web analytics

Matomo is a web analytics solution that gives you 100% data ownership while respecting user privacy. Think of this as a Google Analytics alternative that doesn’t use your visitors’ data for advertising purposes.

Matomo dashboard

Key features:

  • Privacy-friendly and GDPR-compliant tracking
  • Conversion rate optimisation features like heatmaps, session recordings, A/B testing and more
  • Accurate, unsampled data – see 40-60% more data than other analytics tools that sample data
  • Open-source

Accessibility starts with creating quality experiences for everyone. Matomo reliably captures 100% of the data you need to optimise experiences without losing their trust. Instead of handing their personal info to Google or other tech giants, you retain full data ownership — fully compliant with GDPR, CCPA, etc.

Try Matomo free for 21-days (no credit card required), or speak to our sales team for more info on how Matomo can enhance your site’s user experience and support your accessibility testing strategy.

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Get the web insights you need, without compromising data accuracy.

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UserTesting: Video-based user testing software

UserTesting is the more traditional system for running usability tests with real people. The platform helps you recruit users and manage usability tests with a series of sessions and video interviews.

screenshot of UserTesting

Key features:

  • Usability testing
  • Test recruitment
  • Live interviews
  • AI-powered insights
  • Usability services

UserTesting is a slower, more expensive approach to testing experiences, but its video-based interviews allow you to have meaningful conversations with real users.

Siteimprove: WCAG compliance testing

Siteimprove automates website testing, accessibility and optimisation. It includes dedicated tools for checking WCAG and DCI compliance with an automated scoring system. This helps you keep track of scores and identify any accessibility and usability issues faster.

screenshot of Siteimprove screenshot of Siteimprove

Key features:

  • Automated accessibility checks
  • Inclusivity scores
  • Accessibility recommendations
  • Accessibility tracking
  • Marketing and revenue attribution
  • Usability insights

Siteimprove provides a first line of accessibility testing with automated checks and practical recommendations. It also tracks accessibility scores, including ratings for all three WCAG compliance levels (A, AA and AAA).

Find the value in accessibility testing

Accessibility testing isn’t only a moral obligation; it’s good business. Aside from avoiding fines and lawsuits, inclusive experiences are increasingly profitable. User bases with accessibility needs are only growing while non-disabled audiences are using accessibility resources like subtitles and transcripts in greater numbers.

Accessibility improves everyone’s experiences, and this only does good things for conversion rates, revenue and profit.

Start building your datasets for accessibility testing today with a Matomo 21-day free trial — no credit card required. Gain 100% ownership over your analytics data while complying with GDPR and other data privacy regulations.

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Get started with Matomo

A powerful web analytics platform that gives you and your business 100% data ownership and user privacy protection.

No credit card required.

Free forever.