Website Accessibility Audit

What is a website accessibility audit?

clipboard with paper used for an auditA website accessibility audit is the process of assessing a digital property for accessibility issues to see how well it accommodates the needs of people with disabilities. Such individuals often engage with the web in ways that are different from people without disabilities. If a website does not conform to accessibility web standards, people with disabilities will often have a frustrating and fruitless experience online.

People with disabilities sometimes rely on assistive technology to use the web. For example, users with visual impairments often use an assistive technology called a screen reader, which will convert text on a web page to audio output they can hear. They rely on a keyboard rather than a mouse to navigate through websites and accomplish tasks. If a site is set up to accommodate screen readers, the visually impaired person’s experience will be comparable to that of an individual without an impairment.

Another scenario for accommodating users with disabilities is more well-known: closed captioning. Most people are familiar with closed captions, having seen them on televisions at crowded bars, airports, doctor’s waiting rooms, etc. While the previously mentioned use cases for closed captions are helpful for people without hearing difficulties, deaf and hard of hearing individuals rely on closed captions for a user experience that is similar to those with hearing. If a website has a video, including an option for closed captions ensures that everyone will be able to understand the content.

These are just a few examples of what accessibility experts conducting manual testing will look for during the accessibility testing process.

How to conduct a digital accessibility audit and review

As you can see, there are many scenarios that can play out to accommodate users with disabilities. It can feel daunting to attempt to try to identify them all. Luckily, you don’t have to. An accessibility audit relies on what are known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to form the basis of the review. These guidelines are created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an international assemblage of individuals who develop standards to propagate long-term web growth. Over several years, the W3C has released three versions of WCAG, the most recent being WCAG 2.1.

An individual looking to conduct an accessibility audit will run tests on a sampling of web pages that have enough diversity to represent the entire website. He or she will determine how well these web pages conform to WCAG success criteria. Like any other review, an accessibility audit can be comprehensive or high-level, depending on budget, resources, and time allowed to conduct the audit. TPGi offers a few types of accessibility reviews that will enable an organization with any size budget to get a better sense of the conformance level of its digital assets.

Accessibility auditing tool

Individuals conducting a manual accessibility audit have a host of accessibility testing tools at their disposal. One such accessibility testing tool, ARC Toolkit, was created and is used by experts at TPGi for our accessibility reviews. If choosing tools to conduct an accessibility audit seems overwhelming, you can read more about the accessibility testing tools utilized by our experts on our blog.

When should you perform a website accessibility audit?

Now that you know the what, how, and tools to perform an accessibility audit, it’s time to learn when you perform this critical task. Whether you are building a website or preparing to launch your organization’s new digital app, a best practice is to embed accessibility testing into your testing process as early as possible and at each stage of your development process. By including accessibility early in your software development life cycle (SDLC) process, you can identify any accessibility issues that may arise at each phase. We call this continuous accessibility. 

While there are many benefits to building digital products with accessibility in mind from the start, one of the significant benefits is working with your team to develop an accessibility strategy that allows everyone to work together to accomplish your desired accessibility compliance goals. This team alignment will save your development team time and money in the long run. 

An alternative approach is to test for accessibility after your developers and designers complete your website or app development. Then, after your accessibility audit is complete, your team will review the report and go back into their code to make the changes needed to achieve your compliance goals. 

One of the common requests TPGi receives is to conduct accessibility risk reviews of digital products and assess their level of compliance. We find it’s usually more expensive in both time and money to include accessibility requirements at the end of your development versus creating an accessibility strategy at the beginning of your digital projects. 

Conducting an accessibility audit does require a certain level of proficiency with the concepts and fundamentals of digital accessibility in order to be a worthwhile endeavor. If you’re looking for an accessibility expert for guidance or an external resource to carry out accessibility audit testing on your website or app, contact TPGi today.

Categories: Business