Test for Accessibility

Summary

The accessibility of digital content can be evaluated by performing both software-assisted and manual checks to identify issues. Perform a check any time during your content's creation and whenever you add additional content or features. In addition, you can test your content with screen reader software.

You should frequently assess the accessibility of your digital content, such as a single document or web page, a web site, or an entire domain. A thorough process includes both the use of automated tools and manual assessments conducted by knowledgeable humans.

Manual Assessments

The Web Accessibility Initiative provides a guide to evaluating web accessibility that includes information about manual assessment methods.

Assessment Tools

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Canvas Course Sites Inspector

Beginning in spring 2020, instructors can use the Universal Design Online Content Inspection Tool (UDOIT) tool to identify accessibility issues in an entire Canvas course site, plus get suggestions about how to fix the issues .

Digital Document Checkers

Accessibility checkers highlight areas in your document that might be problematic for people with disabilities, as well as for anyone using assistive technology. Accessibility checkers can:

  • Catch accessibility mistakes
  • Provide guidance about how to fix accessibility errors
  • Update according to changes in tools and accessibility-related laws

Accessibility checkers cannot find all accessibility issues. In addition, accessibility checkers won't be able to tell you whether your content makes sense or is out of date. Accessibility checkers and critical thinking must work in tandem to create an accessible document.

Document Accessibility Checkers
Tool Description Resources
Microsoft Word accessibility tool A built-in feature that is one of the quickest ways to check your document; works with any version of Word that was released after 2010  Consult the list of rules for Microsoft's Accessibility Checker.
Google Docs At present, Google Docs does not have a built-in accessibility checker, but one way to check your Google Doc is to use the accessibility checker built into Microsoft Word
  1. Download your Google Doc as a Microsoft Word file.
  2. Use the accessibility checker built into Microsoft Word.
  3. When you are finished, you can upload your file to Google Drive again. Accessibility changes made when the file was in Microsoft Word format are retained.
Walks users through accessibility fixes for content created in some Google Apps; not currently available to accounts managed by the University of Minnesota, but you can try them with a personal account 

Keyboard and Screen Reader Testing

Keyboard Testing

Testing with a keyboard is an essential part of any accessibility evaluation. In order to use a screen reader it also is necessary to learn some simple keyboard commands.

See WebAIM's Keyboard Testing.

Screen Reader Testing

A screen reader is software that enables people who are blind or have low vision to use a computer. When considering web accessibility it is helpful to have an idea how a blind person uses the web.  

  1. Similar to sighted people who get their first impression of a web page from its structure and layout, so will a blind person “scan” the page for structural elements (headings, landmarks, title, and links).  
  2. Once an area of interest is found, a blind person will use the screen reader shortcuts to navigate to that section of the web page.
  3. The user will either listen to the content as the screen reader reads it, or use a Braille display to read it.

There are several screen readers available. At the University of Minnesota we officially support the two described below. 

University of Minnesota Supported Screen Readers
Tool Description Resources
JAWS (Job Access with Speech for Windows) Windows-based application that captures text-based output and speaks it using synthesized speech AKA: Text To Speech (TTS), or sends it to a refreshable Braille display; Hotkey combinations provide access to reading, navigational, and system controls

Basic Overview of the JAWS Screen Reader (video)

JAWS Product Information  

VoiceOver for Mac Apple OSX and iOS application that captures text-based output and speaks it using synthesized speech AKA: Text To Speech (TTS), or sends it to a refreshable Braille display; Hotkey combinations or finger gestures provide access to reading, navigational, and system controls

Voiceover Getting Started 

The Computer Accommodations Program offers adaptive technology services to members of the university community, including services related to JAWS and VoiceOver. Email [email protected] for more information.

Website Audit Tools

A Web accessibility audit assesses the accessibility of a web page, a web site, or an entire domain. A thorough audit includes the use of 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

The most popular and easiest to use audit tools are listed in the table below. Depending on the complexity of the page and the tool you use, it may take from 1 to 30 minutes to evaluate a page, site, or domain. 

While these tools provide fairly comprehensive checks, some issues can only be detected manually, such as:

  • Keyboard navigation
  • Quality of alt text
  • Magnification
Accessibility Website Audit Tools and Procedures
Tool Description Resources
WAVE Browser Extensions or WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool A free tool available as an extension for Chrome or Firefox or a web-based tool that helps you evaluate the accessibility of web content; the extensions provide more thorough results than the web-based tool below
Functional Accessibility Evaluator (FAE) An open source, no cost tool that analyzes web pages for accessibility and offers coding support; you must register for an account, but no download is required See the About section on the FAE site.
AInspector Sidebar for Firefox A Firefox plug-in that evaluates a single page, but allows you to drill down to the element level and inspect the markup; also provides the ability to evaluate web applications when the content of the page is changing based on user interactions or other events See user guides on the AInspector Sidebar site.