Ask Promet Accessibility: The Intersection of ADA Web Accessibility & Usability
Question: Do I need actual disabled individuals to audit and test my site?
This is a question we have continued to receive from clients on a regular basis, and while accessibility auditing with disabled individuals may seem to make sense, it becomes quite cost prohibitive to test individual specific disabilities at this stage in the process. Disability types are vast with very few disabled individuals also trained in web development and accessibility. In contrast, any web developer (regardless of ability) can use modern tools and/or assistive technology to determine if accessibility has been met according to WCAG 2.0 (Level II).
At Promet, we believe that our developers benefit from understanding assistive technology first-hand so as to gain insight about accessibility from new perspective, which encourages them to think about accessibility throughout the development process. Additionally, we believe that this will ensure the majority of users are able to access everything on your site from a functional standpoint.
As many leading industry experts have pointed out, conducting usability testing and including disabled users will yield the largest 'bang for your buck'. Instead of a large specialized team spending hours looking for bugs, the users align with your use cases to determine if it's possible to complete a set of tasks.
As WebAIM states, " usability test that includes individuals with disabilities will result in more useful feedback and a more accessible web site than conducting distinct accessibility user testing." Usability experts such as Steve Krug and The Jakob Nielsen of the Nielsen Norman Group both express similar sentiments.