Website accessibility is a critical aspect of online business success. With ecommerce stores quickly closing the retail sales gap and more users than ever willing to leverage online services for financial, health, and legal advice, there’s a growing need for websites to deliver accessible content to all visitors.

As a result, it’s critical you use web accessibility guidelines in your design as well as test those design elements to ensure they’re working properly.

Download Now: Free Website Accessibility Checklist

The Need for Improved Accessibility

According to the CDC, one-in-four Americans — approximately 61 million people — have "a disability that impacts major life activities.” These disabilities fit into six major categories:

  • Mobility: Difficulties walking, climbing stairs, and accessing physical infrastructure
  • Cognition: Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Hearing: Difficulty hearing conversations and/ or digital media
  • Vision: Difficulty reading text or watching videos
  • Independent Living: Difficulty with basic daily tasks associated with independent living, such as running errands or cooking food
  • Self-care: Difficulty with day-to-day behaviors such as dressing or bathing

By focusing on this accessibility initiative and altering your website for users with disabilities like these, your business increases its pool of potential customers by 25% and builds greater loyalty among customers. 

Now let's review what web accessibility testing entails.

As noted by Web Accessibility Initiative (WC3), "... accessibility evaluation is more formalized than usability testing generally." And well-designed accessibility testing focuses on four goals:

  • Addressing the needs of people with all disabilities
  • Balancing the needs of people with differing disabilities
  • Matching these needs to optimal techniques
  • Using clear language to express those needs and techniques

Put simply, web accessibility testing ensures the functions and features that are put in place to increase website accessibility are working as intended.

What To Test For

Website testing for accessibility should evaluate two key outcomes: Universality and usability.

Universality covers elements and aspects of your site that are usable for everyone. For example, lower curbs on sidewalks and walkways provide universal access; both able-bodied consumers and those with mobility issues benefit.

Usability, meanwhile, speaks to the simplicity and functionality of accessible design elements. The easier to use your website, the better your chances of capturing visitor interest.

To effectively test web accessibility, it’s worth considering each of the six CDC categories we mentioned above:

  • Mobility: How will those with mobility challenges access your website? As noted by Karl Groves, founder of the Tenon.io web accessibility platform, there’s a simple starter test: Unplug your mouse. Can you interact with all controls on your website? Can you see which controls are currently active? Do command orders make sense? If the answer is no, you need to improve keyboard support.
  • Cognition: How complex are the forms and menus on your website? Are they contextually-relevant and easy to identify for those with cognitive difficulties? Does each form field indicate exactly what’s required from users?
    If you have form requirements hiding in field boxes, consider moving them outside.
  • Hearing: If your site has multiple videos or sound clips, do you have options for those who are hearing impaired?
    This includes closed captioning for videos or transcripts for podcasts, product descriptions or other audio media.
  • Vision: On the flip side, does your site support audio descriptions and include context-first text that makes it easy for impaired visitors using text-to-voice software to quickly find what they need?
  • Independent Living: Ease-of-use is paramount here. Users with independent living challenges are often able to take on increasingly complex tasks as long as they include simple and straightforward steps. This is why a streamlined site design makes it easier for these visitors to find what they’re looking for.
  • Self-care: Many of those who struggle with self-care due to physical or cognitive disabilities still possess remarkable mental prowess — here, easily-scalable text and image elements can save these users needless frustration.

Web Accessibility Testing Tools

It’s one thing to recognize the need for web accessibility testing — it’s another to deploy effective tests across your site at scale.

Here’s a quick look at some great accessibility testing tools to help streamline your evaluation process and deliver reliable outcomes to all visitors. 

1. WAVE Web Accessibility Testing Tool

WAVE Web Accessibility Testing Tool
WAVE was developed by accessibility firm WebAIM and Utah State University.
Testing is simple — just enter your webpage address into the provided form field, or use the offered Firefox or Chrome extensions.

WAVE can quickly identify potential contrast errors, test size issues, confusing structural elements, and accessible rich internet application (ARIA) challenges such as undefined elements.

2. A11y Color Contrast Accessibility Validator Web Accessibility Testing Tool

A11y Color Contrast Accessibility Validator web accessibility tool

A11y Color Contrast Accessibility Validator is a free tool that checks the color contrast of your webpage to help identify the optimal contrast between text and backgrounds.

3. ACTF aDesigner Web Accessibility Testing Tool

actf web accessibility tool

ACTF aDesigner is a free disability simulator that evaluates how well website text and content work with voice browsers and screen readers to help you identify areas of improvement.

4. CSS & HTML Validator Web Accessibility Testing Tool

CSS & HTML Validator web accessibility tool

CSS & HTML Validator checks your site for CSS, HTML, PHP, JavaScript, and spelling errors. This will help you catch everything from misclassified structural elements to improperly functioning forms or text issues that could prevent reading and transcription services from delivering accurate outputs.

5. EqualWeb Web Accessibility Testing Tool

EqualWeb web accessibility tool

EqualWeb offers a widget to check your site’s current level of accessibility. Plans include an automatic remediation of key accessibility issues to ensure your site meets ADA guidelines.

Begin Using Web Accessibility Testing Tools

Web accessibility testing ensures your site accommodates all visitors with specific solutions, universal controls, and improved ease-of-use.

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 website accessibility

Originally published Mar 25, 2020 1:24:20 PM, updated April 16 2020

Topics:

Web Accessibility