Sarah Arnold, former Content Strategy Librarian at the University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill, shared additional observations about user testing drawn from her experience working to improve the accessibility of a LibGuides A-Z Database list. Arnold worked with a graduate student, Devon Waugh, to design a usability test for a group of low vision and blind users. Waugh discussed the outcomes of this study in her MA thesis, “Site Unseen: Website Accessibility Testing for Academic Libraries with Visually-Impaired Users.”
Arnold and Waugh both noted that in-person interactions were extremely helpful for uncovering usability and accessibility issues. They also pointed to lessons they had learned about setting up usability studies that include people with disabilities.
- Work with your local office of access/disability services to find users willing to participate.
- If you are scheduling the test in a physical space, do a complete walk-through to check for accessibility barriers like limited elevator access.
- Choose a location accessible by public transit and provide directions for finding a given building/room.
- Provide instructions/tasks in large print and offer to repeat instructions as necessary.
- Offer remuneration for people’s time and expertise. Recognize that facility with screen readers is a skill that merits remuneration.
- Have a basic understanding of the assistive technology a person typically uses and provide options for performing tests in the way that the person finds most comfortable.
- Consider opportunities for remote testing—a practice learned during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Get students involved in improving web accessibility. This study was invaluable to Waugh as a student but also to the library as they advanced their accessibility efforts.
Arnold and Waugh ultimately advocated for libraries to take a lead in accessibility work, including advocating to for-profit vendors to improve their tools and products. For more about their project, see their 2019 conference presentation at IDEAL.