A Beginner’s Guide to Web Accessibility Auditing

When you hear the word auditing, usually the first thing to pop up in your mind is your finances. Although finance is an essential element to every organization, one shouldn’t ignore accessibility. For instance, you are at a supermarket where the things you need have been put on the top shelf and the staff refuses to assist you in retrieving them.

Would you visit this place again? Obviously, not.

This is similar to how people with disabilities experience when they visit a non-accessible website. Therefore, they might prefer an inclusive website and may not recommend your site to others. In this blog, we will go through the basics of accessibility audits and the tools required to do basic testing.

What is Accessibility Audit?

An accessibility audit is an evaluation of the accessibility status of your organization’s digital assets. It is usually done by conducting a series of accessibility tests against WCAG requirements or other accessibility standards. The audit report consists of current accessibility issues in your digital asset with recommended actions required to remediate it along with their priority.

Types of Accessibility Audit

1. Self Audit

In this audit, the testing is usually conducted by in-house staff as these tests are basic and require no expertise. These tests are economical and can be carried out regularly. However, since the staff might not have enough experience they may miss out on identifying issues that may be critical to the accessibility of the website.

2. Accessibility Audits by Specialists

As the name suggests, a web accessibility audit is carried out by experts who have the complete knowledge and experience required to recognize every issue.

It is recommended that you get your digital asset audited by an expert as it is easy to fix issues in the beginning. Also, organizations can get their in-house staff trained in accessibility testing which will help them in the long run.

Automated Accessibility Testing Tools

Automated testing tools greatly help in reducing time by identifying accessibility errors on your website. However, these tools can only find 20% of the issues on your site as not all guidelines can be checked automatically. Furthermore, it is difficult to guarantee the correctness of the fixed issues without manual intervention. For example, although the images on your website have alt text, an automated tool can’t determine whether the alt text conveys all the information on the image to users.

Here are some popular tools used in automated testing:

  • Google Lighthouse: It is an open-source automated tool by Google that can be run on any website to analyze the performance, accessibility, and search engine optimization of web pages.
  • Axe: It is another open-source automated testing tool to identify and resolve common accessibility issues without any advanced accessibility issues.
  • Wave: It is a confluence of accessibility tools by WEBAIM to check accessibility issues on your website. It provides visual feedback by displaying icons or indicators on your page.

Common Accessibility Issues and their solutions

Here are some basic accessibility issues that you can identify and fix easily. However, please note that these are just basic accessibility checks for your website and they don’t in any way ensure that your website is completely accessible to everyone.

Page Titles and Heading Hierarchy

Page titles are essential for every website, it helps everyone with or without disabilities. Always ensure that every web page on your site has a title. You don’t need to understand coding to fix this, usually, it is available in the control panel of your website by the name: Title Tag.

Next always make sure that your headings follow the hierarchy, ie H1> H6. As a rule of thumb, always ensure that the input title on each page is assigned as H1, followed by H2, H3, H4, and so on.

Alt text for images

Images are a great way of conveying information to users. However, it is difficult for people with visual impairments to get that information. Therefore, you have to provide them with alt text. Alternative text is a brief description of the image in a textual format.

Here are some tips to write alt text for images:

  1. Provide alt text to all non-decorative or relevant images
  2. Always keep the length of alt text short and descriptive
  3. Don’t start alt text with “Photo of” or “image of”
  4. Mark images as decorative if they are only there to enhance the visual appeal

Turn off Autoplay

Have you ever opened multiple tabs and realized that one of them is playing audio? It is exhausting to find that tab playing audio when you have 13 tabs open simultaneously. Therefore, turning off autoplay for your videos and audio will collectively help everyone to navigate through your website easily.

Captions and Audio Descriptions.

Just like images, you need to provide an alternative way for users with hearing impairments to access the information provided in your audio or video.

To make your videos accessible, you should provide captions, and similar audio descriptions for audio. Furthermore, you can also include a sign language interpreter in your videos to convey information in a better way to users with hearing impairments. Also, avoid using animations that have repetitive and flashy content as it might trigger seizures in people with photosensitive epilepsy.

Manual Testing: Zooming and Keyboard Navigation

People with visual impairments navigate websites through screen magnifier software. Therefore, you can also test your website by enlarging your website by 200% and checking whether your content optimizes itself accordingly(content reflow). If not, you can discuss it with your developer and fix it.

Similarly, you can go mouse free and navigate your website through the keyboard alone and check whether you can navigate freely and access all forms and interactive elements.

Wrapping Up

Before diving into an accessibility audit, it is essential to ensure that your staff is aware of it. Making them familiar with the benefits of website inclusivity will help them be more open to design changes on your website. An audit by an accessibility expert ensures that most of your accessibility issues are identified and remediated to help users with disabilities access your website. Therefore, when your team and accessibility specialist are on the same page, they will fix most issues as quickly as possible.

Organizations must also keep in mind that accessibility is not a one-time thing. It is a constant process of evaluating and optimizing your website to accommodate more users with disabilities on your website.

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