About Switch Testing
According to the accessibility statistics of Interactive Accessibility, millions of websites and mobile application users depend on assistive technology (AT)–such as Switch. Switch is an innovative system that is activated by a one-button touch which allows people with limited manual dexterity to access the web and mobile apps. However, the capabilities of Switch and other AT are rendered useless when there is a lack of compatibility with websites and mobile apps. Being compliant and functionally accessible allows everyone to have access to the service provided.
When it comes to accessibility and compliance with the law, every business owner should be evaluating the usability of their services with respect to compatibility with AT. This will ensure that services are compatible with Switch. This will not only be beneficial to the disability community but to an organization as a whole. Increase inclusivity and increase your bottom line.
Precedent to Follow
In a letter written to members of the US Congress in September 2018, the Department of Justice (DOJ) declared that Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) covers websites; all goods, services, and activities provided to the public must be accessible to all consumers. As a service, websites should be accessible.
The ADA, itself, does not provide standards for website accessibility. However, in a 2017 court case, Gil vs. Winn Dixie, a Florida judge cited Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 AA as the standard to be followed when designing a website or mobile app creating an equivalent level of accessibility to the ADA. The precedent was furthered, specifically for individuals with limited manual dexterity, in a suit against Peapod which required companies to ensure their websites and mobile apps are accessible via Switch.
The WCAG standard provides criteria for a website design that includes aspects of usability and functionality to ensure accessibility for a wide range of individuals. One area WCAG focuses on is the operability of a website. Operability with the keyboard is specifically mentioned, but WCAG does not include success criteria specific to Switch use, though Switch is a vital piece of AT. Meeting WCAG standards does not always ensure a page is fully accessible with Switch use.
WCAG specifies all page functionality should be accessible through keyboard navigation. Keyboard-only navigation and Switch item mode are similar in that they are systems where elements on the web page are highlighted in order for the user to select. However, item mode has marked differences from keyboard navigation, namely, it focuses on the text in addition to interactive elements on the page. This can cause usability issues when item mode focuses on a hidden text that is not displayed until further action is performed (i.e. accordions, menu folders, etc.). This is one area where Switch usability testing comes into play.
Beyond relevant WCAG criteria, usability testing documents the experience of users with disabilities to accurately report accessibility insights when using a keyboard only or Bluetooth Switch. Websites and apps must be tested to ensure compatibility with assistive technology such as Switch.