Has it been a while since you took a look at how your website content handles ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessibility options for those with disabilities? Are you working with an older website that wasn’t really built with accessibility in mind?
The rise in recent years of lawsuits related to lack of website accessibility has some businesses worried. Your team’s project for website accessibility has to start somewhere – and one of the best places is an effective audit of your current site. Let’s dive into what ADA website testing means, and how you can do it.
What is Website Accessibility Testing?
Accessibility testing is an audit for websites that shows to what extent they comply with accessibility requirements. We dig into the details behind this in some of our other guides, but this can mean things like:
- Including alt text on images
- Coding layouts in the right way for screen readers to use
- Adding the right HTML tags or using a description system like ARIA
- Structuring your website’s pages in a way that work with assistive technology
Audits check for these necessary inclusions and create a list of where a website comes up short. These lists are an excellent place to start when the time comes to optimize your site and avoid the risks of a lawsuit or other issues.
Manual Audits Vs. Automated Audit Tools
We will get to the automated audit tools, which can give you a quick, inexpensive way to see if you have ADA and accessibility issues. We have a link below to over 150 tools and criteria you should use for picking a few automated accessibility audit tools.
However, automated audits are never a replacement for a manual audit by a human using assistive technology tools and software. We always recommend a full manual audit by a human, who has experience and understand what they are testing and analyzing as it compares to the WCAG 2.1, if you are looking for a full report of accessibility on your website.
With being said, there is no reason you can’t start with some automated audit tools, because they will catch some obvious issues and give you a starting place for remediation.
These automated tools are fast and very easy to find – but it’s important to use the right one for your business. Let’s take a look at what that means.
Where Do We Find a Website Accessibility Testing Tool?
There are many available options online. For example, take a look at the list created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), a fairly comprehensive guide of more than 150 different testing tools that can be used on your site.
Not all these tools are created equally. Some are made to look for very specific issues related to a single disability or a certain type of code. Others were created many years ago and haven’t been updated to properly audit today’s modern websites. And some are only made to work with certain platforms or editors instead of any site you want.
Obviously, your business doesn’t have enough time to research the auditing rules for every potential testing tool out there. But we can take a look at the signs that an accessibility tool is right for a general business website.
Signs of a Capable ADA Accessibility Testing Tool
- It’s Developed by or with an expert: Good tools are developed by experienced organizations that know the ins and outs of online accessibility. They are often made in partnership with disability associations or can at least show some commendation by those associations.
- It’s recommended by independent organizations: If an independent organization like National Association for the Deaf or the American Foundation for the Blind specifically mentions a tool, it’s a strong sign that it’s a capable option. Always check to see what the experts in the field are recommending!
- A guarantee of compliance: It’s good to see an accessibility tool that specifically mentions ADA or Section 508 compliance, because that increases the chances that the tool was designed for specific types of business and government sites, and that it will do a thorough job of auditing all key aspects of the site. Some also offer documentation and certification for sites that pass the audit, which – while not exactly a legal form – can still be nice to have.
- It covers multiple accessibility issues: Good audit tools won’t just mimic screen readers or perform other basic functions. They will include a broad look at color and contrast, tagging and ARIA use, keyboard navigation effectiveness, and more. Advanced tools can show teams at a glance how their current solutions are working, which can be useful during the process of fixing issues.
- It specifies WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) 2.1 standards: The WCAG 2.1 is the latest standard for optimizing websites to meet accessibility guidelines, and is referenced in federal law. If an accessibility testing service doesn’t mention WCAG, or mentions a version before 2.1, that’s a warning sign it may not be right for you.
- It creates readable, actionable reports: Good auditing tools produce very useful reports that can be used to take immediate action to resolve problems. They should be easily understood by the whole team – after all, clarity and common-sense interfaces are a core part of website accessibility.
- It avoids cheap fixes like accessibility toolbars: Remember, users with disabilities have their own assistive technologies they use. Tools that promise easy fixes like adding an accessibility toolbar to your site aren’t giving you the whole story. Look for a tool that enables your team to make the necessary, core changes to your website rather than trying to fix everything with a casual overlay. This will also help ensure that mobile versions of your site get the attention they need.
If this still sounds like a lot, your business may want to partner with a firm like Blue Atlas Marketing. We work with professional-grade auditing tools designed for U.S. compliance, and help make the changes your website needs. We utilize human testers to conduct more thorough manual audits as well.
Also keep in mind that automated tools do have their limitations. Sometimes they can create false alerts or miss certain problems the tool wasn’t designed to see, like including captions on an embedded video. That’s why even the best accessibility testing are often paired with someone that has some experience in the accessibility field and knowledge of how to interpret the results correctly.
Setting Up a Timeline for Solutions
With accessibility testing able to replicate assistive technologies and produce an actionable report, it’s time to start prioritizing the changes your website needs. Some changes require minimal experience and can easily be delegated. Other solutions may require a trained web developer or other professional to help with redesign and implementation. Remember, Blue Atlas Marketing is happy to help you create a roadmap and offer our experience.