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I'm a developer for an organization that is starting to plan out how to overhaul a number of our web applications with a focus on making them both 508 compliant, and truly accessible for users with a variety of disabilities. We're a small company and relatively small development team, and at this point, none of us really know how to test that we've made something accessible, other than following some of the standard checklist items that are part of the 508 spec.

If we want to move beyond this kind of simple box-ticking and really test that we're making something accessible, where should we start? What sort of tools or applications (i.e. screen readers, etc) should we invest in? What additional staff or client testers to we need to include in our process?

  • This is a pretty broad question. What your org needs specifically is impossible for us to say. If you have the ability to hire staff, though, hire someone that specializes in this. They will then help you figure out the rest of your needs for you. – DA01 Aug 27 '15 at 21:31
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I'll answer this question in a different way - what things don't most companies have or do when they want to properly test web application for accessibility:

  1. A design strategy or framework that is not just about accessibility, but inclusive design (this is another topic/question altogether).
  2. A range of actual devices (not just simulations or emulators) to test the applications on to see what the actual look and feel is like on different hardware.
  3. Actual tests on users with disabilities (you can also try putting on a blindfold and use the screen readers or unplug the mouse) to see how easy or difficult it is to use the website when you have vision or motor impairments.
  4. Having designers working alongside developers not to just check things off the list, but to make sure that genuine usability is not sacrificed for the sake of accessibility (and vice versa).
  5. Listing accessibility (or preferably inclusive design) as one of the design requirements/objectives for the service/product and have senior management sign off on it before release.

Anything else other people can think of, please feel free to contribute.

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