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Testing Websites with Users with Disabilities Session Reveals Online Barriers

  • Author: Jill Wolters

  • Date:
A dark skinned wheelchair user with long hair and a beanie sits at a small table, using their laptop to participate in a video meeting. The laptop screen is shown to their right, with the call being live captioned. The main speaker is a dark skinned person wearing a hijab and glasses, and 3 other participants are at the bottom of the screen, in smaller windows. In the bottom right corner, a yellow service dog bounds towards the wheelchair user.

July 13th was our first monthly session for Testing Websites with Users with Disabilities since the pandemic. These monthly sessions focus on Assistive Technology (AT) users and are twofold. 1) to create awareness and, 2) to provide a discovery opportunity for barriers to content.

We created awareness

Participants experienced screen reader assistive technology reading aloud a UCSF website. The native screen reader tester slowed the reading speed from his preference of the fastest at 100% down to 50% so participants could listen along.

“Sitting with actual users is game-changing. Going forward, we need to incorporate assistive devices more as part of our accessibility reviews,” commented Jayson Jaynes, IT Web Services Senior Web Developer | UI/UX Lead.

We discovered online barriers

Barriers to content and opportunities to improve functionality were found on the website. Sometimes it takes a user with disabilities to try and access the content with their AT to reveal that content is not accessible at all, or the site might not provide the optimum experience.

Automated tools like Siteimprove and WAVE only catch about 20-30% of errors and are considered the 1st tier of testing. The 2nd tier is automated testing paired with manual checks and requires human judgement. Testing with users with disabilities is the 3rd and final tier and recommended by the Department of Justice for website owners to help avoid ADA website accessibility lawsuits.

Don Eddy, IT Web Services Web Production Specialist, said "Observing specialists, especially watching specific use cases, created a broader understanding of the challenges we need to plan for in our site builds."

Feature your website

This session is every second Wednesday from 9 to 10:30 a.m

Get your website in the best possible accessibility shape following the 3-tier testing approach. When you are ready for the 3rd tier, reach out to Jill Wolters, Web Standards Program Manager, by email at [email protected] or call 415-514-2941 to get on the list of monthly featured websites.

Funds provided by the Financial and Administrative Services (FAS) Value Improvement (VI) Program.


You must sign-up to attend future sessions. (Requires MyAccess login.) The Zoom details will follow soon in a calendar invite.

To request an accommodation for this event, please contact Jill Wolters by email at [email protected] or phone at 415-514-2941 as soon as possible.

Illustration credit: "On A Video Call" by Dana Chan for Disabled And Here. The Disabled And Here collection is published under Creative Commons attribution licensing, which means you can use, share, and adapt the images for free with appropriate credit.