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Summary: Web page accessibility can be evaluated through an accessibility audit. You'll need to use both software-assisted and manual checks to identify all issues. Perform an audit any time during your site's creation and whenever you add additional features.
What is a web accessibility audit?
A web accessibility audit assesses the accessibility of a web page, a web site, up to an entire domain. A thorough audit includes both automated tools and manual assessments. An audit identifies issues such as:
- Page structure (correct use of headings, for example)
- Alt-text for graphics
- Form labels and controls
- Color contrast
Accessibility audit tools and procedures
Numerous automated tools are available for developers to use. Depending on the complexity of the page and the tool you use, it may take from 1 - 30 minutes to evaluate a page, site, or domain.
Among the most popular and easiest to use tools include:
- WAVE - Helps you evaluate accessibility of web content. There are two WAVE tools: The web-based WAVE tool doesn't require a download. The other tool is an extension for Chrome. Both tools are free. The Chrome extension will provide more thorough results. (NOTE: You should be able to install the extension without needing administrator access to your computer.) A thorough step-by-step guide on assessing the accessibility of a web page using the WAVE tools is found on WebAIM’s website. University of Minnesota Duluth also has a WAVE tutorial. HINT: Run WAVE on your Web site and select the icons on the report to see more details.
- Functional Accessibility Evaluator (FAE) - Analyzes web pages for accessibility and offers coding support for improved accessibility. Open source, no cost, must register for an account, no download required. The FAE site explains how best to use the tool.
- AInspector Sidebar - A sibling to FAE, it is a Firefox plug-in that evaluates a single page, but allows you to drill down to the element level and inspect the markup that contributes to the rule conformance. It also provides the ability to evaluate pages on demand, for example in web applications when the content of the page is changing based on user interactions or other events. (NOTE: You should be able to install the extension without needing administrator access to your computer.)
- Compliance Sheriff - A tool the University subscribes to that is available for anyone at the University to use. The University’s Computer Accommodations Program has information about requesting a Compliance Sheriff account and using the tool.
While these tools provide fairly comprehensive checks, some issues can only be detected manually — such as keyboard navigation, the quality of alt text, and magnification.