Back in December, some of the Jadu team were lucky enough to spend the day with Shaw Trust Accessibility Services, an organisation that supports the private, public and charitable sectors to create an accessible environment, both digitally and physically.
Luke Towers, Test Engineer, and Heather Stroud, Test Team Leader, had the opportunity to work with some of the Shaw Trust testers to find out how they can improve their accessibility testing criteria. Here is Luke’s account of the day:
My colleague Heather and I visited the Shaw Trust accessibility testing offices with the intent on learning how they test websites, to improve our test coverage and knowledge. We would note everything we learnt that day, take it back and share the knowledge across the team and see what we can do to improve the websites we design, and our testing approach.
The day started with Alan and his very well behaved guide dog, Alban, showing us how he uses JAWS. Initially, the screen hadn’t been turned on, so we were solely relying on the screen reader to tell us where he was on the page. Safe to say we found this hard! After Alan turned the screen on things became visually easier and we began to pick up what he was doing. Alan would navigate pages using only headings or links on the page to find the areas he is interested in - this shows just how important it is to make sure headings are formatted correctly.
We then went on to speak with Kevin, who was quite the poser when it came to photos! Kevin would mainly tab through web pages, so the tabbing order of items on the page is very important to him. Kevin comes across problems like no tabbing outline or no tabbing effect, which means he doesn’t know where he is on the page, sometimes forcing him to use a mouse which he struggles with.
Next, we sat down with Darren. He would look for things like alternative content for users. One thing he pointed out was that it’s nice to have an alternative way to contact the council on the site he was testing. As a deaf user, Darren wouldn’t be able to pick up the phone and speak with the council. He showed us a site that had an alternative method like Relay UK (which he was using to talk with us). He liked that some sites had British Sign Language (BSL) within the videos they were using. For some deaf people, BSL is their first language and it is important that they have the same access to content.
Consider using a translation service such as Sign Live or Relay UK.
Adam was next (amazing general knowledge - that day we learnt Elvis Presley’s middle name, Aaron). Adam uses ZoomText and sets his text to two times the usual size. This allows him to read the content on the page without difficulty as Adam has low vision. He also checks for acronyms on the pages as these can cause users confusion (acronyms should always be explained or defined the first time they are used). He would also check for long sentences. Working with increased text size and the screen zoomed, Adam can also check to make sure there is no content being lost on the page and nothing is being cropped.
The final tester of the day Lee. He used Dragon NaturallySpeaking to navigate the web page and NVDA to describe elements on the page to him. This is where we learnt that Dragon is actually a lazy person’s dictation tool that the disabled community have adopted and used. One thing we noticed is that Lee didn’t use the grid tool Dragon offered, because as you got further into the grid, the numbers became smaller and smaller, becoming harder to read the further you went.
Seeing how the testers at Shaw Trust use assistive technology has helped us improve our testing coverage. For example, seeing how Alan used JAWS to navigate through the website with his use of particular shortcuts in the tool means this is something we now cover.
One of the main areas we found we could improve accessibility/usability of web pages was how the content on the page is used. The accessibility statement was the first page all of the testers would go to, so the information site owners put on here is very important - it is also required as part of the new regulations. If there’s a way users can request content in a different format, tell them. If there's a way certain things users need to be aware of, tell them.
Don’t let users struggle or stress about not being able to get information.
Overall, we had a great day speaking with the Shaw Trust team. We learnt so much! We could see from the work they do that accessibility is very important to them; they just want everyone to access everything equally.
We have taken a lot of knowledge back and shared this across both our testing, UX and design teams. This has allowed us to make improvements for projects in progress and most importantly raise more tickets for our UX team 😈.
A huge thank you to everyone who we spoke to that day, we had a wonderful and enlightening day.