Web Accessibility Audit

Ensuring your website is accessible to all users, including those with disabilities, is not only a legal requirement but also an ethical responsibility. Conducting a web accessibility audit helps identify and rectify issues that may prevent users from accessing your content. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to run an effective web accessibility audit.

Step 1: Understand Accessibility Standards and Guidelines

Before initiating an audit, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the key accessibility standards. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are the primary set of guidelines for web accessibility. Currently, WCAG 2.1 defines success criteria at three levels: A, AA, and AAA. Aim for at least AA compliance to meet the needs of most users and adhere to legal requirements. Additionally, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act mandates accessibility for U.S. federal agencies and aligns closely with WCAG 2.0 AA. The Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) specifications provide guidelines for making dynamic web content accessible.

Step 2: Choose the Right Tools

Select appropriate web accessibility auditing tools to aid your assessment. Automated tools like WAVE, Axe, and Lighthouse can quickly scan your website for common accessibility issues. These tools generate reports highlighting areas that need improvement. However, automated tools might miss more nuanced problems, so complement them with manual testing tools such as screen readers (e.g., NVDA or JAWS) and color contrast analyzers to ensure a thorough audit.

Step 3: Conduct Automated Testing

Start with automated testing to get an overview of your website’s accessibility status. Use tools like WAVE or Axe to scan your web pages. These tools will identify issues such as missing alt text, poor color contrast, and improper use of ARIA attributes. Automated reports will categorize issues by severity, helping you prioritize fixes.

Step 4: Perform Manual Testing

Automated tools are essential, but manual testing is crucial for a comprehensive audit. Use screen readers to navigate your website and ensure that all interactive elements, such as forms and buttons, are accessible. Test keyboard navigation to confirm that users can access all interactive elements without a mouse. Additionally, use color contrast analyzers to check that text is readable against background colors.

Step 5: Review Content for Accessibility

Examine your website content to ensure it is accessible. This includes providing text alternatives for non-text content, such as images and videos. Ensure that all multimedia content includes captions and transcripts. Structure your content using headings, lists, and landmarks to facilitate easier navigation.

Step 6: Evaluate Forms and Interactive Elements

Forms and interactive elements require particular attention. Ensure that all form fields are properly labeled and provide clear instructions. Validate that error messages are descriptive and help users correct their mistakes. Interactive elements, such as buttons and links, should be easily identifiable and operable via keyboard.

Step 7: Test with Real Users

Involve users with disabilities in your testing process. Real user feedback can provide invaluable insights into how your website performs in practice. Users can help identify issues that automated tools and manual testing might miss, providing a more holistic view of your website’s accessibility.

Step 8: Analyze and Prioritize Issues

After gathering data from automated tools, manual testing, and real user feedback, analyze the results to prioritize issues. Focus on high-impact issues that affect the user experience the most, such as navigation problems and inaccessible forms. Create a plan to address these issues systematically.

Step 9: Implement Fixes and Validate Improvements

Work with your development team to implement the necessary fixes. Ensure that all changes adhere to accessibility standards. After making updates, re-audit the affected areas to validate that the issues have been resolved. Continuous validation helps maintain accessibility over time.

Step 10: Establish Ongoing Monitoring and Maintenance

Web accessibility is not a one-time task but an ongoing process. Establish a routine for regular accessibility checks, especially after significant website updates or redesigns. Use automated tools for continuous monitoring and stay updated with evolving accessibility standards and best practices.

What to Look for in Accessibility Audits

Conducting a web accessibility audit is essential for ensuring your website is usable by all individuals, including those with disabilities. When performing an accessibility audit, it is important to thoroughly check various aspects of your website to identify and rectify any accessibility issues. Here are key areas to focus on during an accessibility audit:

  1. Keyboard Accessibility

Navigation: Ensure that all interactive elements, such as links, buttons, and form fields, are accessible via keyboard. Users should be able to navigate the site using the Tab key, Shift+Tab for reverse navigation, and Enter or Spacebar to activate elements.

Focus Indicators: Verify that focus indicators are visible and clearly highlight which element is currently focused, making it easier for users to navigate.

  1. Screen Reader Compatibility

Content Reading: Test how well screen readers, such as NVDA, JAWS, or VoiceOver, read and interpret the website content. Ensure that all essential information is accessible and conveyed correctly.

ARIA Roles and Properties: Check that ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) roles, states, and properties are used correctly to enhance the accessibility of dynamic content.

  1. Text Alternatives

Images: Verify that all images have descriptive alt text that accurately conveys the purpose or content of the image.

Multimedia: Ensure that videos have captions and audio descriptions. Provide transcripts for audio content to accommodate users with hearing impairments.

  1. Color Contrast

Text Readability: Check the color contrast between text and background to ensure it meets the minimum contrast ratio requirements (4.5:1 for regular text and 3:1 for large text).

Non-Text Contrast: Evaluate the contrast of non-text elements like buttons and form controls to ensure they are distinguishable for users with color vision deficiencies.


  1. Content Structure


Headings and Landmarks: Ensure that content is organized using proper heading levels (H1, H2, H3, etc.) and landmarks (e.g., main, navigation, footer) to facilitate easy navigation and understanding.

Lists and Tables: Use semantic HTML for lists and tables to ensure they are correctly interpreted by assistive technologies.


  1. Forms and Input Fields


Labels: Verify that all form fields have associated labels that describe their purpose.

Instructions and Errors: Provide clear instructions and feedback for form completion. Ensure error messages are descriptive and help users understand and fix mistakes.


  1. Dynamic Content

Notifications: Ensure that any dynamic content updates (e.g., alerts, modals) are announced to screen reader users. Use ARIA live regions to notify users of changes.

Focus Management: When dynamic content is triggered, such as a modal opening, ensure that keyboard focus moves appropriately to the new content and returns to the original position when closed.


  1. Accessible Multimedia


Video and Audio: Ensure that all multimedia content is accessible. This includes providing captions for videos, transcripts for audio content, and audio descriptions for visual content.

Playback Controls: Verify that media player controls are accessible via keyboard and screen readers.


  1. Consistent Navigation


Predictable Layouts: Ensure that navigation menus and other interactive elements are consistent across pages. Users should be able to predict where to find navigation options and other key elements.

Skip Links: Implement skip links to allow users to bypass repetitive content and directly access the main content of the page.


  1. Usability Testing with Assistive Technologies

User Testing: Conduct usability testing with real users who rely on assistive technologies, such as screen readers, magnifiers, and voice recognition software. Their feedback is invaluable for identifying issues that automated tools and manual testing might miss.


  1. Performance and Load Time

Efficient Code: Ensure that your website loads quickly and efficiently, as long load times can be particularly problematic for users with disabilities. Optimize images, scripts, and other resources to improve performance.

Running a web accessibility audit is essential for creating an inclusive online experience. By understanding accessibility standards, using the right tools, and involving real users in the testing process, you can identify and fix accessibility issues effectively. Prioritize continuous monitoring and maintenance to ensure your website remains accessible to all users, fostering an inclusive digital environment.


Table of Contents

Popular Topics

Scroll to Top