False positives

Teams are raising issues that aren't accessibility defects

What’s happening

A consistent stream of accessibility issues are being documented by developers or QA testers that are not accessibility defects.

Teams are chasing issues that aren’t present or worse, they are making accessibility worse by addressing the false defects.

Common examples

  • A developer is adding tabindex to non-interactive elements like headings
  • A copywriter is being asked to author aria-labels for elements that don’t need it
  • A tester records radio inputs should be operated with the tab key (instead of the arrow keys)
  • A product owner thinks screen reader output should be identical across all platforms and devices

How to help

Recognize this is a process problem, not a singular person.

Gather the key stakeholders

Meet with the relevant team members, typically the product owner, developers and testers so information can be transmitted efficiently.

Ask the following questions

  • What is your team’s process for accessibility testing?
  • Are you using accessibility acceptance criteria in your stories?
  • How many of these kinds of stories have been worked on? Are there more like this?

Discover the source of the false positives

This may involve interviewing the stakeholders, or if your project management system allows, look up the author of the issue. There may even be multiple sources.

Make sure the responsible parties have the training resources they need. If the issue persists, escalate it to leadership.

Establish a single source of acceptance criteria

This generally indicates accessibility acceptance criteria are lacking, ignored or misunderstood in their process. Even if the source of false positives is a singular person, the team as a whole should be referencing the same acceptance criteria.

Be prepared to demo your single source of acceptance definitions and spend time coaching the team on their processes.

If this doesn’t work

As always, don’t be the police.

If a team continues to produce false positives, follow your team’s escalation procedures and leverage leadership to define priorities and enforce processes.

Your checklist

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How to help
If this doesn't work
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