Summer Fun Time with Accessible Testing By Harley Fetterman

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This summer, I had the opportunity to intern with Knowbility. I’ve learned so much about web-accessibility, from what standards developers are supposed to implement, to when and how to choose which web-browser and screen-reader is most useful in a particular situation.

At the very beginning of this internship, I learned about blogging. I’d never really thought about how there was more than just text that makes a blog happen. But I quickly learned that by using HTML code, a blog is shaped into interactive text, links, buttons, and headings. That was pretty cool.

When they put me to work testing websites, I discovered how differently websites can show up on different web-browsers, devices, and screen-readers. For example, between the iPhone and a Windows computer, screen size made a big difference. In fact, in one test, a task couldn’t be completed on the iPhone because the screen was too small. Putting a resize piece of code into the website most likely would have fixed the problem. But, it was still interesting seeing how screen size affected performance.

It was also very interesting to discover the differences in accessibility between web-browsers. Some things that weren’t accessible in one browser could be easily accessed in another. At first, I did everything on Internet Explore because that’s what I was used to. But as I started comparing browsers, I found that Firefox handled ARIA a lot better, as did Safari on the iPhone. And drop-down boxes in IE are impossible to use. But Safari and Firefox dealt with them easily. On drag-and-drops, or moving an item into a category, the iPhone’s screen could not fit all the categories on it at once, making it impossible to finish. On IE, the Drag-and-Drop worked, but once in the category, it was difficult to tell what it was in. With Firefox though, the process worked and I was able to go back and check that my answers were in the correct spot. There were several different tasks that lead me to believe that Firefox was overall more user friendly than the other two web browsers at least for these tasks.

I spent a lot of time with different screen readers, too, checking out how NVDA versus JAWS, versus VoiceOver interact with web browsers and content. One of the things I discovered is that NVDA is able to operate combo boxes with Firefox, whereas JAWS on Firefox doesn’t recognize there being anything there at all. And on IE, JAWS sees the combo boxes but can’t operate them. VoiceOver generally operates websites pretty well, except for screen sizing issues on the iPhone as I mentioned before.

At the beginning of the summer, WCAG was just another four letter acronym. Now I can say I’ve learned what it means on a broad level and I have a way to evaluate and present information in an organized fashion about web accessibility. With this newfound knowledge, I can better explain why certain web sites are accessible and why others are not. In short, hopefully this knowledge will help to make a difference at school for me and other students as well.

I would like to thank Knowbility for their generosity in selecting me for this internship. There’s a lot about accessibility I could have sought out and tried to figure out, but with Jeanine’s and Sharron’s technical knowledge, I was able to learn and work, use my new knowledge. Plus, lunchtime is always enjoyable with a wide range of conversations had between the team. Now, who knows what I can learn on my own.

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