How to check your website is inclusive and accessible

A web accessibility audit report is a really good first step in seeing if your web content is accessible. However, as many companies offer audit reports, it isn’t always easy to know what you should be looking for and what you should expect to see in a finished report.

What does an audit report offer?

An accessibility report will explain how accessible your website is. The report will assess your web content against the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.0 (WCAG 2.0). These are international best practice standards in web accessibility.

There are three levels of rating conformance in the standard, single A, double A and triple A. As you progress up the rating scale, triple A conformance is more accessible than a double A, which is more accessible than a single A.

Generally, double A conformance is the rating which web content is assessed against. Double A offers a good compromise between accessible design whilst not reducing functionality. Double A conformance also means all single A conformance must be checked as well.

How to decide on the pages to test

Depending on the size and complexity of your website it’s not always practical to test every page. A representative sample of pages is decided upon and this will become the pages which are tested. It’s a good idea to identify a wide cross section of pages with different levels of functionality throughout. You may have your regular pages, pages with interactivity and even pages with form elements.

What does the testing process involve?

The pages are then tested using a mixture of automated and manual testing strategies. Automated tests identify those easy to find problems, the “low hanging fruit”. These may be colour contrast problems or images missing ALT text. You can begin to achieve several quick accessibility wins by fixing these problems.

Manual testing though is where an audit report really comes into its own. An experienced reviewer will step through the website with a range of tools and assistive technologies, identifying sections which are inaccessible and will cause problems.

These are then recorded, and solutions and recommendations are provided which fix the issue. It may be as simple as adding a missing tag, or it could be something more complex. A good audit report will identify the problem, describe why it is a problem and present a solution which is practical to put in place.

Steps to help you choose a web accessibility company

Not all companies provide web accessibility services to the same standard and there can be a large variance in quality. These are some questions to ask:

  • Does the company do more than web accessibility? – If so they may have a broad range of skills but these skills may not be in-depth.
  • Is their own website accessible? – If a company provides web accessibility services or promote creating accessible websites, run their own website address through the W3C markup validator. This checks the code of the site. The more errors identified the stronger the likelihood of them not really understanding accessibility.
  • Do they offer a certification or statement of conformance when they have reviewed your site? – Such statements are meaningless. The conformance claim is not recognised by anyone else and is only as good as the reviewer.
  • Do they offer quick fix plugins? – Quick fix accessibility via plugins work for easy to find problems but won’t work for problems which are more challenging. If the site changes the plugin may need to be altered as well, using a plugin gives a false sense of compliance.

There are many reputable web accessibility companies. If you follow the above points they will help you make a more informed decision on who to consider, what to ask and who to avoid.

Published by

Ross Mullen

I'm director of CANAXESS, a web and digital accessibility company based in Australia. We help large companies and emerging startups with web accessibility and inclusive design.

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