Accessibility Testing Part I

One of the issues faced by many developers and testers is the ability to test for accessible installations and applications without having the specific disability. Hopefully, we are going to explain how to perform some of that testing without cutting off a hand or poking out your eyes.

What is ISO testing? It is the testing of each CD image before it is released for public use. Most of us are familiar with the releases, called milestones, of alpha and beta CDs. Well, before those images are released, they are tested to insure they work. That testing is done by Quality Assurance Testing, and we can always use help. We also run tests in between those milestones, since finding bugs and trying to get them fixed right at release time is problematic. The earlier the bugs are found, the better chance we will get them fixed for the final release.

Who does the testing? I am not a developer nor a programmer. I am, however, a tester. I can download any CD, follow simple directions to test that CD, and file bugs if it fails to work the way it should. I voluntarily do this testing because I want to see users able to use the CD the way it is intended. If I find a problem that gets fixed before the user gets the CD, they can use it with fewer problems.

When we are testing the milestone ISO, we track the results of the testing at, called the ISO Tracker. When using the tracker, the tester looks at which CD is being tested. By clicking on the CD symbol to the left of the description, the correct image can be downloaded or z synced. Clicking the description, you see several tests listed. To the left of each test is a symbol which takes you to the test case, which is a description of how to perform that test. Clicking the test itself takes you to a place where you tell the tracker you have started or finished the test.

When we not testing the milestones, we can still use the test cases, which are located at If you are testing the installation, you can go directly to the install tests at The only difference between this and the ISO testing of milestones is that you will not be logging your tests on the ISO Tracker. Please file bugs you find, and use the testcases every couple of days. Since we are specifically interested in Accessibility testing, we will use the installation testcases at Each test case will describe how to perform the test, whether or not you are disabled. At the time of this writing, we have the screen-reader test. We will eventually have tests for the Magnifier and On-Screen Keyboard as well. We will also attempt to add individual tests for the applications.

How are you going to run this test without looking at the monitor? Well, turn it off, of course, if it is an external monitor. That lets you see exactly what those with severe visual impairment sees. If you can not turn the monitor off, put a towel over it. Many visually impaired individuals can distinguish light and dark. Using a white towel gives you the “light means on” type of indicator. Of course, you still can not read the monitor screen.

The third step of this test is “Select your language and press ENTER”. Inevitably, at this point, the question is asked “How do I  select my language with a towel over the monitor?”. Remember, this is exactly what happens for the visually impaired user. The default language is English. Just press ENTER to select it. No, it might not be what you really want, but it is what you can select. The other trick we use is to memorize where the language we want is. Have an assistant tell you how many down or up arrows to use to get to your language of choice. Is this getting annoying yet? Are you concerned that you might not be able to do this test? Relax, and try to have fun. This is a new way of trying to install for you. But while doing this, take some time to think about the user who is forced to always do things this way.

Post written by Charlie Kravetz


2 Responses to “Accessibility Testing Part I”

  1. XM Says:

    Why is there no information about features to configure compiz for people that are visually impaired that make daily use of zoom en inverse colours feature in compiz-settings-manager? I’ve tried to make it work but no suc6 yet. I’m using Ubuntu 10.10 at the moment and there everything is working fine. But i think in the new 11 versions the are still some bugs with it. Can you help?


    • Alan Bell Says:

      I wanted to focus on stuff that is on the CD for this article. I have found compiz zoom to work and the colour filters, however they don’t affect the top panel or the unity launcher. There is a bug about that (several I think). The unity layer is drawn by NUX which is kind of on top of the compiz stuff and doesn’t get affected by any of the compiz transitions. Fixing it will be a bit of a challenge because of the workspace switcher. That uses compiz to zoom out of the workspaces, but the launcher stays unzoomed. If the NUX layer was included in the scope of things compiz can mess with then the launcher would shoot off into the distance when you use the workspace switcher. Hopefully at UDS there will be a plan to fix this.

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