How to Test Your Site’s Accessibility

Man working at desk on computer with open notebook next to him.

You know about web accessibility and why it’s important.  You know that your site should be accessible and you’d like to make that happen.  But how can you tell if your site meets the necessary requirements?   Where do you start? 

Automated Web Accessibility Tests

There are a lot of accessibility tests out there.   Some of them, like AChecker, are very comprehensive and assess your page on a line by line basis.   Other tools, like Axe by Deque can be installed directly into your browser.  But the two I just mentioned are definitely geared toward web developers.  

If you’re not comfortable reading code or you just want someone to explain it to you in simple terms, then I highly recommend using WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool by WebAIM.  It gives you detailed results and overlays them directly onto your page—not the code that makes up the page.  This way, you can see which elements are causing problems even if you aren’t code-savvy.   It also provides easy-to-understand explanations of every issue it finds.  WAVE is available as a browser extension or you can simply put your URL into their site to run a test. 

Keyboard Navigation Test

This is an easy one that you can do yourself.  Part of web accessibility is the ability for a user to navigate your site using only keyboard inputs.  This is commonly done by pressing the tab key.   If your site is accessible, this will trigger a “focus” on the first available navigation element.  This focus usually looks like a dotted or solid border around the selected element. A navigation element could be an item in your nav bar or an inline hyperlink or a clickable image that takes you to another page. 

Pressing tab a second time move the “focus” onto the next available navigation element.  Continue to tab through all of the navigation elements on your site.  Make sure that it’s always easy for a user to tell which element is in focus.  Take note of any navigation elements where the focus is difficult to perceive or nonexistent.   

These tests will get you started but there are a lot more things to consider.  If you’re serious about making your site more accessible, it’s a good idea to connect with an accessibility consultant or a local accessibility consulting firm.  Automated tests can only diagnose surface level problems and can’t give an adequate assessment of the user experience across all assistive devices and technologies.  An accessibility expert will be able to ensure an optimized experience for all of your users. 

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