The use of accessibility in performance testing.

Though sometimes overlooked, one of the things that large corporations such as Microsoft share is they understand the importance of accessible testing and its implementation early on. This applies to not only the accessibility of products overall but also includes accessibility of Performance Testing in certification exams and labs.

At Skillable we are fortunate to have an accessibility concept expert, Andreea Neagu, to keep this topic top of mind when we create custom courseware for our clients.

Andreea has been selected to present at the Performance Testing Council’s Coffee Talk on August 31 to dive into the topic. To get the conversation started, Andreea shares below the benefits of incorporating it early on and how to best change your accessibility journey.

Andreea Neagu

Instructional Design Manager,
Skillable

Andreea Neagu leads a team of Instructional Designers focused on custom content development and is a trusted advisor for designing engaging learning experiences to Skillable’s customers and partners. With 17 years of experience in Learning and Development, Andreea strives to integrate accessibility as a core feature of Skillable’s solutions.

Q: How has the concept of accessibility evolved?

Andreea: Accessibility means making an experience open to all. Now, the need for accessibility has changed since the definition of it has changed. In the 1980s, it was considered just a personal attribute. In the context of health experience, a disability is any restriction or lack of ability to perform an activity within the range considered normal for a human. Now, a disability is not just a health problem, it is context dependent. It takes into consideration permanent, temporary and situational disabilities.

Q: What could the technology industry do to better accessibility?

Andreea: Consider your learners’ needs from the very beginning. There are still situations where accessibility is seen as something to bolt-on later, and this is a mistake as you are not tapping into the full potential of your customers. For example, one of the things we include in our labs at Skillable is providing visually impaired learners with a screen reader to enable completion of lab tasks and maintain a robust learning experience.

 Q: What advice would you give to technology companies that want to evolve in their accessibility journey?

Andreea: Look at implications from permanent, temporary and situational disabilities. An easy example: Imagine carrying a baby in one hand and groceries in the other while trying to send a text—good luck with that! Software providers created Siri and Cortana to help with that. Now apply it to your technology: What can you do to make it an all-inclusive experience for everyone, no matter the circumstance?

Q: What is a common missed opportunity from your experience in Performance Testing?

Andreea: Considering the accessibility features only from a technical standpoint. Let’s say you made your exam certification page perfectly accessible from an assistive technology standpoint, but you’re not considering the way the text is laid out or the task is phrased, and that may be problematic for neurodivergent users.  I encourage you to look at Performance Testing from the way the questions and answers are structured to make sure they are accessible for all.

Q:  If companies could be doing one thing to better accessibility testing, what should it be?

Andreea: Testing real users with disabilities. If they don’t, then how do they know what are they missing out on? By not testing users with disabilities, they are naturally missing out how the experience feels for those truly involved. They also miss out on aspects that, for those that don’t use assistive technology continuously, may not notice.

For example, sure, I can use a screen reader, but I’m sure that my best friend who is blind is going to find things that I won’t because she knows what she needs to make the experience better.

Q: What could be the result of proper accessible Performance Testing?

Andreea: The greatest advantage would be a more inclusive testing environment and exam content that offers a better user experience for everybody, including people that don’t have a disability.

Also, it’s important for not only multiple choice and exam questions, but for the labs themselves to be accessible. Think of it all: Labs, quizzes, registration and the way these tests are proctored. Think about incorporating breaks and how those breaks may be longer for people with disabilities.

For example, Microsoft has an option to take a break whenever needed – for as long as needed – to make sure the learner reaches their full potential, while still ensuring fairness, of course. Think about someone who needs to pause a lab or an exam to take their insulin treatment. These situations should be taken into account as they don’t make somebody less capable, they simply need additional resources to reach the same finish line.

Overall, the conversation of accessibility seems to be one that is no longer lagging. If companies want to tap into their full potential, it is essential to include accessibility testing in all aspects, not just where it seems obvious. Accessibility is no longer about just lack of ability from a medical perspective, it’s all around us, including during Performance Testing and completing labs. By incorporating this into your plans now, you will be able to truly propel your customers and employees forward.

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