Abilitynet, United Kingdom
Jon Gooday is a senior consultant with AbilityNet in the U.K.
He has a breadth of experience in evaluating websites, accessibility training and disabled user testing. He was on the expert panel for the drafting of BSI PAS 78 Guide to good practice in commissioning accessible websites to be published in March 2006, and was the project manager for the BBC's accessibility help website.
In the U.K. disabled user testing has an increasingly important role in ensuring that a website is usable and accessible to disabled people. This short paper gives an overview of how to find disabled testers, practical issues around testing and some of the benefits in this approach.
One of the most challenging tasks in embarking on disabled user testing is finding representative people across a range of disabilities covering the core groups of vision, hearing, mobility, cognitive and learning disabilities. It is important to find testers with a mixture of knowledge from expert to novice using a representative range of adaptive technology. Strategies include placing adverts on websites, mailing lists, special interest groups and contacting local and national disability groups.
Having found suitable candidates you need to consider how you are going to ensure successful user testing within the constraints of a limited time frame and typically budget - ensuring disabled testers do a series of tasks, obtaining their feedback and compiling the information into a report that is clear, informative and takes accounts of individual differences can be a challenge.
The Way AbilityNet has tackled this is to offer a range of testing options:
A key question is how many testers should you use? This is not an easy to answer given you must balance cost against the need to have a representative sample of testers. The main problem is the fewer the number of testers the more likely that there could be erroneous findings due to the results of one individual.
The way AbilityNet has addressed this is to provide an expert review of the user results, identifying erroneous findings and removing them from the final test report. We also recommend that a standard W3C WCAG checkpoint audit should be carried out in parallel to the user testing as an additional safeguard.
Other things that need to be considered are:
The benefits of disabled user testing include:
Disabled user testing offers valuable insight into the accessibility and usability of a website, it specifically highlights practical accessibility issues for a range of disabled users that are not normally picked up in the standard accessibility audit approach. The combination of checklist auditing and disabled user testing is therefore an ideal approach to maximise site accessibility. AbilityNet has taken this further by joining in partnership with the RNIB (Royal National Institute of the Blind) in the U.K. offering a joint logo that combines the best of the popular 'See it Right' award with the benefits of disabled user testing.