Practical Ecommerce

Testing Site Accessibility

Here’s how to perform a standard test to see if your website and store are accessible to the vision impaired.

Let It Be Seen By All

First, for PC users, open the Narrator program. For Mac users, use the APPLE+F5 keystroke to turn on VoiceOver. Do this before you open your browser.

Open your browser and load your site’s home page. Note that you will hear your keystrokes read aloud.

Unplug your mouse and turn off your monitor. Navigate using the arrow keys and keyboard commands. Feel free to close your eyes; you’re not going to need them for a while.

Use CTRL+HOME to start at the top of the page. (Shift+APPLE+H for Mac users.) The screen reader should read out the name of your site. If it doesn’t, you need to change your title tag so that a visitor using assistive technology knows where they’ve landed.

Using the arrow keys, toggle through your navigation buttons. Let’s say you have links to your blog, product search page, view basket and checkout. Pick one and hit ENTER or the space bar. Did the screen reader state you have been redirected to the correct page? Treat your navigation buttons as signposts. If you’re driving and cannot read the signs, you can’t figure out where to go.

If your signposts are clear, navigate to a page where a user can input information (such as the search page or a contact form). Use the arrow keys to reach the box, then press ENTER or the space bar to open the form box. These commands allow you to enter text. Click ENTER to submit the form.

How did you fare? Did you get the result you expected?

Try placing a test order. Go through the checkout process. Can you easily tab field-to-field to input your address, credit card information and select a shipping option? Can you complete the purchase?

If you find yourself stumbling around, don’t panic. Most assistive technology users do, too, the first few times. Remember, it’s only a test.

Reload your page. Test additional site functionality. As you get more familiar, continue taking notes so that you know what works best, and what parts of your site present difficulties. When you can zip around comfortably, search products, add items to your basket and then check out, you should feel pretty confident about your site’s accessibility.

Joseph Monks

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Comments ( 3 )

  1. Legacy User January 22, 2008 Reply

    I don't know if it's because I'm reading this while drinking my first cup of coffee and am not quite awake… but, what/where is the 'Narrator' program?

    — *Carrie McDougall*

  2. Legacy User January 22, 2008 Reply

    The Narrator program is located in the start> programs> accessories> accessibility menu.

    — *Brent Leavitt*

  3. Legacy User January 28, 2008 Reply

    If you don't know how to make your website more accessible to the blind, you might want to check out an Accessibility Internet Rally. They are all over the country. Here's more info:
    http://www.knowbility.org/air/?content=home

    — *Michelle Greer*