All technology, including websites today, must provide easy access to people with disabilities without any potential barriers. So as a website owner, you need to ensure your website adheres to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)2.1 Standards to measure website accessibility for business, legal, and practical reasons.
The problem, however, is that it is not easy determining where to start, especially if you are not well-versed and strong with technical requirements. This is where accessibility experts play an important role in determining whether your website is barrier-free.
The good news is that while you may require guidance from accessibility experts to ensure your website complies with laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), there are some tests you can perform on your own to get a rough context.
These tests generally revolve around a compliance/conformance-based approach comprising a checklist of criteria or user testing by people with different cognitive disorders who rely on assistive technologies. While both have their strengths and limitations, neither can declare a site’s accessibility individually.
6 Simple Web Content Accessibility Guidelines To Follow
Here are a few quick tests anyone can perform to measure website accessibility:
1. Check Alt text for non-text content like images
People use the internet differently today. Many people with disabilities may access the internet using the help of assistive technologies like screen readers or refreshable Braille displays. However, these technologies need accurate alt text to interpret and communicate objects like graphics correctly.
While you can request a free and confidential website scan to identify the missing alt text description, these tools can’t help determine if the image has an appropriate or sufficient alt text.
2. Check video closed captions and transcripts
Captions are text alternatives for audio content synchronized with the video. It comprises dialogues and other contextual elements like music the reader will need to understand or feel the video content thoroughly.
These captions are beneficial to the deaf and those with hearing loss. It is also useful when the user needs quiet settings like nursing a baby. The transcripts are also a form of essential text descriptions and thus work as a significant SEO booster.
It is easy for anyone to check for captions and transcripts.
Go to the video, and check for a button or option to turn on closed captions. Don’t forget to ensure the button works with a mouse and keyboard. If you don’t find any text transcript accompanying the video or seem inadequate, you need to make the video more robust and accessible by providing some.
3. Color contrast
Sufficient color contrast helps differentiate between the page content font and the background. It is not only proves beneficial to visitors with color deficiency, low vision, or low-contrast vision but even those with good vision. They appreciate not having to strain their eyes much while reading.
The WCAG success criterion 1.4.3 states an actual numerical value identifying the contrast level. It says that standard text should have a minimum contrast ratio of 4.5:1, and large text should meet a minimum contrast ratio of 3:1.
4. Keyboard-friendly website
Some people can’t or prefer not to use a mouse for web navigation but instead, use a keyboard or alternative input device.
So it’s common sense that every link, control, and feature should be accessible through the keyboard. There should also be clear indications of the present element in focus, like drop-down menus and form submissions to help visitors know where they are and which link or control to select.
You can test the keyboard yourself by using common key commands like Tab and Shift-Tab keys to check usability and web URL conditions. You know you have keyboard accessibility issues if you can’t reach some elements or get lost easily on a page.
5. Easy zooming in without loss of content or functionality
WCAG criteria recommend that content that is 200% zoomed in should have the ability to work without assistive technology and not interfere with other accessibility requirements.
You can quickly test by zooming in your web browser to 200%.
Note what happens to the webpage layout and content. There are accessibility issues if some elements overlap, disappear, or don’t work correctly. While this is not a comprehensive test, it can help identify potential barriers.
6. Switch off CSS
Proper use of cascading stylesheets helps properly handle a URL layout by reducing document weight. As website compliance is essential, it is possible to disable CSS from Firefox, Internet Explorer or any browser if you can’t view it.
However, make sure to take note if you turn off styles.
There are numerous free and paid tools to measure website accessibility APIs of an individual or multiple web pages. Examples are:
- Our Free Site-Scanner
- Web Accessibility Toolbar comprises numerous aids that help you manually examine different types of page accessibility.
- WebAim WAVE offers a quick way to check and provide easy-to-understand results for a single web page.
- HiSoftware Compliance Sheriff’s Accessibility Module provides for automated monitoring of site compliance.
- Deque Worldspace FireEyes is useful for compliance testing of static and dynamic web content.
- Total Validator helps validate pages against accessibility guidelines.
- Sort Site tests broken links and accessibility and browser compatibility based on WCAG2 level and section 552 specific guidelines.
- Functional Accessibility Evaluator checks URL accessibility based on WCAG 1.0/508 guidelines. The results are classified into navigation, scripting, styling, orientation text, and HTML standardization based on a percentage of each category.
- Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool is one of WEbaIM’s many web accessibility tools, assessing pages based on Section 508 standards and WCAG requirements. It is available online as a Firefox add-on to provide an easy-to-understand technical report with icons and indicators of assessed pages instead of extensive web reports.
- Diagnostic.css is a bonus HTML file that displays page accessibility errors. It tests websites without having to buy or install any software.
While an automated tool is helpful and valuable, it cannot be entirely relied upon to indicate accessible web content. It is always better to have human evaluators interpret and confirm the results.
How long does web compliance testing take?
Website owners, designers, and developers often wonder about the best way to evaluate their digital accessibility goals. As mentioned above, there are two main approaches for checking website accessibility: conformance review and user testing. While a thorough evaluation involves both processes, time and budget constraints often make it impossible.
Conformance review is pretty standard and involves an expert manually inspecting the entire website’s compliance based on a predetermined checklist of criteria. You must evaluate the correct pages to indicate non-compliance issues that may trigger multiple end-users and technology problems.
This testing is quicker and easier to implement than user testing, proving beneficial in an agile or iterative development environment.
However, it does not identify the boundary between usability and accessibility issues, like having a shallow or deep site structure. And most importantly, a conformance review doesn’t involve real users performing actual tasks in real time.
User testing involves a group of users with different disabilities and various levels of internet usage skills that require assistive technology like a screen reader to perform multiple tasks.
The participants’ actions help the evaluator accurately identify possible barriers that may prevent some people from accessing the page content.
However, the problem is that it is not easy to recruit participants with different disabilities. And it is not easy to develop test scripts appropriate for test participants with additional requirements. Most important, user testing is both an expensive and time-consuming process.
There, however, is a common feature to both approaches. It is a need for an experienced accessibility evaluator who understands the specific set of barriers that people with disabilities face and how to address them.
1. Do you want to know more about web compliance?
If you want to learn and know more about compliance skills, you might consider taking an online course on accessibility through Interaction Design Foundations. Rather than just learning UX and user experience, it is always worth it and better to take online classes for user interfaces.
2. How do you determine web accessibility?
You can use accessibility-checking software to determine if your website is accessible. Our accessibility checker window reveals the URL inspection results.
3. How can you tell if a website is ADA compliant?
You can check for ADA compliance through a manual inspection. A Manual Audit evaluates the entire site to ensure compliance based on the WCAG criteria.
4. How inaccessible is it?
Today, most government institutions require accessible websites that they determine through informal or formal conformance based on the required standards or predetermined rules like WCAG 2.0 or US Section 508.
Australia, for example, required that all government agencies comply with level AA WCAG2 guidelines by 2014. The Australian Human Rights Commission uses the WCAG 2.0 criteria while considering compliance based on the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act.
However, while WCAG2 provides for Levels A, AA, and AAA compliance, there is a general recommendation not to require Level AAA conformance. It is because it is practically impossible to satisfy all its Success Criteria for some content. So most jurisdictions that use WCAG2.0 require that the website conforms with Level A or Level AA.
Most regulators tend to follow a pass-or-fail approach regarding guidelines, checkpoints, or success criteria. They do not consider or compare the potential severity of a single web page’s non-compliance with individual criteria.
So, for example, suppose there is a site without text alternatives for all images and one with just a few missing image alts on one page. In this case, both of them do not comply with the Level A Success Criteria 1.1.1.
Web compliance matters
As a website owner, designer, or developer, you must make your site as welcoming to as many people as possible. You slowly see benefits through increased traffic and conversions by providing increased access to your website.
The good news is that it is very easy to avoid the risk of some people not being able to access your site. All you have to do is ensure your website complies with WCAG guidelines.
We can help you with your accessibility strategy
We at ADA Website Compliance offer complete compliance solutions and digital accessibility goals to website owners. You can contact our team to learn about more digital business-accessible solutions, or you can also start your free URL compliance scan.
You have to register for your free scan and once you sign up, enter the URL you want to scan. You will receive your web compliance score within minutes. Based on the results, you can then contact us for a complete analysis, guidance, and solution to fix any web compliance issues you may have.
Once you understand the possible design and content flaws, you will ensure your site is optimized for accessibility features. There is no limit to the number of websites that need checking.
We can also conduct monthly scans of your website’s accessibility and send alerts about any sudden UX changes so that you can act quickly. We will also indicate the most critical pages or elements you need to focus on and provide the necessary guidance for quick and efficient website compliance.
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The ADA prohibits any private businesses that provide goods or services to the public, referred to as “public accommodations,” from discriminating against those with disabilities. Federal courts have ruled that the ADA includes websites in the definition of public accommodation. As such, websites must offer auxiliary aids and services to low-vision, hearing-impaired, and physically disabled persons, in the same way a business facility must offer wheelchair ramps, braille signage, and sign language interpreters, among other forms of assistance.
All websites must be properly coded for use by electronic screen readers that read aloud to sight-impaired users the visual elements of a webpage. Additionally, all live and pre-recorded audio content must have synchronous captioning for hearing-impaired users.
Websites must accommodate hundreds of keyboard combinations, such as Ctrl + P to print, that people with disabilities depend on to navigate the Internet.
Litigation continues to increase substantially. All business and governmental entities are potential targets for lawsuits and demand letters. Recent actions by the Department of Justice targeting businesses with inaccessible websites will likely create a dramatic increase of litigation risk.
Big box retailer Target Corp. was ordered to pay $6 million – plus $3.7 million more in legal costs – to settle a landmark class action suit brought by the National Federation of the Blind. Other recent defendants in these cases have included McDonald’s, Carnival Cruise Lines, Netflix, Harvard University, Foot Locker, and the National Basketball Association (NBA). Along with these large companies, thousands of small businesses have been subject to ADA website litigation.
Defendants in ADA lawsuits typically pay plaintiff's legal fees, their own legal fees for defending the litigation, and potential additional costs. In all, the average cost can range from tens of thousands of dollars, to above six figures. There are also high intangible costs, such as added stress, time and human capital, as well as reputational damage. Furthermore, if the remediation is incomplete, copycat suits and serial filers can follow, meaning double or triple the outlay. It's vital to implement a long-term strategy for ensuring your website is accessible and legally compliant.