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The Cost of Non-Compliance: Why You Can’t Ignore Accessibility Testing

By Gareth Smith

Gareth Smith

Gareth Smith - 9 April 2019

In early 2017, US grocery chain Winn-Dixie invested $7 million to improve its website but overlooked a critical component: testing to ensure it was accessible to people with disabilities. This mistake garnered national attention when the retailer lost a federal case accusing it of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The Winn-Dixie lawsuit is considered a landmark case but it’s hardly a unique situation—website compliance suits are on the rise. According to a legal blog tracking these cases, there were at least 2,258 such suits filed in the US alone in 2018—an increase of 177 percent from the prior year.

Despite this flurry of legal activity, the US has yet to issue any legal standards specifically governing website accessibility, except for government websites, which need to comply with Section 508 regulations. The UK however, in an effort to ensure that all citizens can easily obtain information from public sector websites, recently required that all public sector sites undergo accessibility testing.

This means solving for chief accessibility problems including:

  • PDF forms that can’t be read aloud via screen readers
  • Websites that can’t be navigated using keyboards
  • Color contrasts that make text difficult to read
  • Animation, flickering effects, or optical illusions that could cause seizures

When you consider the number of pages and menus on a typical site, it quickly becomes apparent that fulfilling this mandate represents a significant challenge.

This is a case for AI-driven test automation, as conventional tools are ill-equipped for the challenges of accessibility testing. These solutions typically only automate functional testing and are unable to test every permutation of a site through the eyes (and ears) of the end user. With AI-driven testing that can respond to visual and audio inputs, however, companies can automate the entire testing lifecycle and ensure they stay in compliance with accessibility mandates via continuous testing.

Intelligent test automation moves beyond just testing code to look at interaction—both in terms of how users are accessing the site and also how the site is interacting with other web content. For example, every time an organization conducts an update or links to a third-party article, the technology automatically checks for any compliance issues. This scope is simply too vast for human testers, not to mention the fact that manual testing could easily overlook the visual elements so critical to accessibility testing.

While the laws governing accessibility testing differ between the US and the UK, one thing is clear: the cost of non-compliance is high on both sides of the pond. And when intelligent test automation can so easily address site accessibility, it’s a risk no company should take.

Learn more about Eggplant’s Digital Automation Intelligence and how we assuage our customers' accessibility compliance concerns.