About Access Works

About Us

Access-Works is a service of Knowbility, Inc., in partnership with UserZoom and Loop11. This service connects organizations to persons with disabilities for the purpose of Web site usability testing. AccessWorks provides test participants, either from people already registered in our database, or on request for specialized recruitment of new participants. Our partners provide the platform for unmoderated testing; we also offer assistance with remote moderated testing.

Remote usability testing is most effective when used as a quick, low-cost supplement to other techniques—for example, as a follow-up to a formal expert accessibility review, or a check of new material that has been added to an already-accessible site. It is not intended to be a stand-alone accessibility validation tool.

Frequently asked questions:

Q. What is the difference between moderated and unmoderated testing?

A. Unmoderated testing means that the person testing the site is working alone online, using his or her own computer equipment (including assistive technology), having no interaction with the person who has set up the test. Moderated testing involves interaction with a trained usability professional, who may be working with the tester either via online conferencing or in a dedicated laboratory setting. Unmoderated testing is clearly the least costly alternative; moderated remote testing may provide more useful information at slightly higher cost; in-person lab testing is the most costly and the most consistent with advanced research techniques.

Q. What is the difference between usability testing and accessibility testing?

A. "Usability is a quality attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces are to use" (Jakob Nielsen, usability pioneer). "The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect" (Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web). A Web site may be "usable" (or not) by most people who are fully sighted, hear well, and use a mouse or touchpad—but the same site might be difficult or impossible to use without all of those abilities. Testing for both usability and accessibility is essential.

Q. What is unique about using persons with disabilities to test your site?

A. You may discover usability issues that even a compliance audit might have missed. There is wide variation in the assistive technologies that are used by different individuals, and there is wide variation among individuals in their technology skills. Some participants may need help in setting up their own systems to work with a testing platform, and some testing platforms may simply be incompatible with the participant's system. We can help you work through all of these challenges.

Q. Isn't this kind of testing just for big commercial businesses?

A. No. AccessWorks testing can benefit any organization with a Web site: small businesses, non-profits, state and local government agencies, and academic institutions at all levels.

It is an especially good strategy for getting fast, useful feedback about your site, even with limited resources. We also recommend AccessWorks testing as a follow-up check for sites that have undergone formal accessibility evaluation and remediation. see: Why Access-Works?

Q. Do I have to be a usability or accessibility expert to use AccessWorks?

A. Although some AccesssWorks clients do have staff members trained in usability, many others simply rely on their existing Web development team for this testing. Yes, that team does need to understand accessible development techniques; we can help you get started.

Q. What kind of tests can I run with this system?

A. Most tests will ask the participant (tester) to perform a task or series of tasks on your Web site; for example: starting at the home page, select and complete an order for a specific product, enroll in a specific class, or request a service from your organization. This will generally be followed by a series of questions to determine what kind of difficulties, if any, the participant has encountered during the process. You may need to provide information such as fictitious logins or credit card numbers for your site. If this is new to you, we can help you get started.

Q. How many participants (testers) do I need?

A. It depends on the test and how you will use the results. For many tests, four or five can give useful descriptive feedback at very low cost. If results are to be statistically analyzed, the number will need to be much greater. Due to variable individual skills, we recommend choosing more than one tester in each category that you wish to examine (e.g., blind/voice reader, motor disability/keyboard only).

Q. What kinds of disabilities and assistive technology use are available?

A. There are five major disability categories of registered testers in our database: vision, hearing, motor, cognitive, and neurological. Each of these are sub-categorized: for example, vision disabilities include blindness, low vision, color blindness, and light sensitivity.

Assistive technologies are characterized similarly; our list includes the most widely used adaptations for each of the disabilities.

Our largest number of currently registered testers are blind, using one or more of the most popular screen readers. We are always recruiting more testers, so exact numbers will change frequently. Please contact us for the latest information. Contact Us

Q. What other participant characteristics can I ask for?

A. Also in our database is information about registered testers' gender, age, and residence (by country, U.S. State, or U.S. Zip Code range. So, for example, we can find low vision women over 50 years of age who use a mobile device and live in the United States. (This one is a fairly short list, though.)

For information not in the database, we can survey potential testers before they become eligible for the test. Typical questions might include amount of Internet use (by years and/or hours per week), types of activity performed on the Web (shopping, making travel arrangements, etc.), or use of technology even more specific than we have recorded (Windows 10; iPhone 5 or newer).

Q. What if there are too few (or no) testers in the AccessWorks database who meet my requirements?

A. Knowbility has access to numerous disability organizations around the world. We will contact these organizations to recruit more testers as needed; this service will be done at additional charge to the testing organization.

Q. How do we protect the testers' privacy?

A. Only the AccessWorks system administrator—who selects or recruits testers according to your specifications—has access to our full database. Participants are identified to our testing platform partners only by an arbitrary ID number; neither they nor you (the testing organization) will know their name, email, or any other personal information about any individual tester. If your own staff will be working remotely with the testers, we will provide anonymous logins for your online conferencing system.

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