Remote accessibility testing of BBC inputs


The problem

The BBC Global Experiences team work to ensure that all BBC content is usable and accessible to a wide range of audiences. Their work includes producing guidance for elements used across the BBC, for mobile, tablet and desktop platforms. As part of their work, they were looking to create input guidance and test it across the three platforms to assess how usable and accessible it was.

When conducting accessibility testing, we often find that doing so in-person provides us with a better opportunity to build rapport. It also allows us to deal more easily with technical barriers that people with accessibility needs often encounter. With COVID-19 isolation measures in place, however, we adapted the format of this qualitative research to carry it out remotely.

The solution

To assess the usability and accessibility of the inputs prototype, we planned a natural exploration task to start each session; to determine how easily each participant could complete the inputs and identify any barriers or obstacles to completion, without interruption. After gathering feedback about their experience on one device, we then asked each participant to load the same inputs prototype on a different device. This allowed us to explore the experience of the inputs across different platforms and also gather feedback on particular points of interest, such as error messaging (which they may not have naturally experienced). As much as possible, we prefer to observe participants using their own devices, which they are familiar with and have preloaded with their preferred assistive technology and settings.

BBC registration form; with a rainbow behind

Using both our database of users with diverse accessibility needs and a trusted third-party recruiter, we recruited a representative sample of people with accessibility needs likely to struggle with digital form completion. These included:

  • two screen reader (blind) users
  • two screen magnification (partially sighted) users
  • one keyboard-only user (with a dexterity issue and a mild visual impairment)
  • one participant with dexterity and information processing issues (due to a brain injury)
  • one participant with severe dyslexia and dyscalculia
  • one participant with autism (causing difficulties with information processing).

We worked flexibly with the global experiences team to change from face-to-face to a remote testing set-up. Due to this change, some of the participants felt they were unable to take part, and so we acted quickly to recruit new participants to meet the specifications. We used Zoom to allow participants to share their screens with us during the sessions. As participants were unfamiliar with Zoom, we sent them bespoke written instructions on use of the software across the different platforms. We also dedicated an additional team member to call each participant before their session and provide technical support. This was an important consideration, particularly for participants with accessibility needs, because it allowed us to tailor our instructions to meet each person’s specific needs (for example, our instructions for the screen reader users could not refer to button locations or styles).

The results

Working flexibly with our client and adapting the session guide ensured that we delivered our research findings to budget and within their timeframe. Our observations of the participants’ natural interactions with the inputs prototype provided the BBC team with valuable insights.

Throughout the sessions we captured comprehensive data about specific elements of interest with the inputs. The feedback from participants was very detailed, and highlighted some significant issues with the inputs, as well as suggested recommendations for improvement. A mixture of verbal quotes, combined with video recordings of participants experiencing unexpected difficulties, painted a clear picture of next steps for our researchers and the BBC observers.

Following the two days of remote testing, we produced a report summarising what worked well with the inputs and where improvements were needed. We provided our own expert insights to ensure a breadth of common accessibility needs were considered, even if our research participants did not encounter those specific issues.

Within the report we ensured all our suggestions were based on WCAG 2.1 guidelines, where appropriate. This comprehensive approach gave the BBC clear direction for improving their inputs guidance, as well as areas for further research to ensure cross-platform accessibility alongside a distinguished user experience for all.

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