Ensuring your website is accessible is imperative for business, legal, and practical reasons, but it can be hard to know where to start, especially if technical requirements and testing aren't your strength.
While making your website compliant with laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) usually requires guidance from accessibility experts, there are tests and checks you can begin yourself to quickly get some idea of how well your website delivers on some of the basics of accessibility. Here are some quick ways to check the accessibility of a website.
Quick website accessibility checks
1. Check alt text for images and other non-text content
All images and other non-text content should have a text alternative available. People access the internet a number of different ways, some of which may be through a screen reader or refreshable Braille display. In order for assistive technologies like these to properly interpret and communicate objects like graphics, they require accurate alt text. This is because those tools can't naturally read what's displayed in or the purpose of non-text content.
To check for alt text, you can use a screen reader or other assistive technology on desktop and mobile. If you're tech-savvy and so-inclined, you can review the code and see if there are descriptions in image alt attributes, for example, or if text alternatives have been cared for another way. You can also request a free and confidential accessibility scan of your website, which will identity missing alt text, provided by the Bureau of Internet Accessibility. Please note, however, that while an automated tool can tell you if an image has alt text, it can't determine if it's appropriate or sufficient.
2. Check for closed captions and transcripts on videos
Closed captions and transcripts are vital to the accessibility of media and multimedia, like videos.
Captions are text alternatives of the audio content, synchronized with the video. They should include spoken dialogue, relevant sounds, and other contextual elements, like music, that may be critical to getting the full intended purpose or feeling of the video. What first come to mind for many people are the benefits captions have for people who are deaf or have hearing loss, and certainly they are required for that reason. However, they also have benefits for everyone at different times, likes in a quiet setting or when reading and watching together helps with understanding.
Transcripts are text versions of the video content, and thus should include all spoken words and important sounds, but also a text description of anything important that is being displayed visually in the video. Transcripts can also be a big SEO booster.
Checking for captions and transcripts is easy. Go to a video and within the player, see if there is a button or option to turn on closed captions (if the captions are open, they'll appear automatically and can't be turned off). Make sure the button works with a mouse and keyboard. Then, identify if there is a text transcript that accompanies the video. If you don't find them or they don't seem adequate, it's time to look into making the videos more robust and accessible.
3. Check color contrast
For digital accessibility, color contrast is as critical as it is simple. Color contrast refers to the difference in light between font (or anything in the foreground) and its background. By using sufficiently-contrasting colors, a website's font visibility is stark enough to distinguish for most people.
Website visitors who have low vision, low-contrast vision, or color vision deficiency especially benefit when content has adequate contrast, and most people (even with strong vision) appreciate not having to unnecessarily strain their eyes to read material.
When we talk about contrast ratios, we're talking about an actual numerical value that identifies the level of contrast. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) success criterion 1.4.3 states that normal text must meet a minimum contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 and large text (18 point or larger, or 14 point or larger and bold) must meet a minimum contrast ratio of at least 3:1.
The a11y® Color Contrast Accessibility Validator is a free instant color contrast analysis provided by the Bureau of Internet Accessibility.
Meeting color contrast requirements is truly one of the most important accessibility considerations, and it’s often an area that can be easily remediated.
4. Make sure your site is keyboard-friendly
Many people can't or choose not to use a mouse to navigate the web, and instead use a keyboard, keyboard emulator, or other alternative input device. For this reason, it's essential that every link, control, and feature that can be operated with a mouse is accessible using only a keyboard. Additionally, there needs to be clear visual indication of the current element in focus, so website visitors know where they are on a page and which link or control they might select. This extends to all functionality, including the ability to make selections in drop-down menus, as well as completing and submitting forms.
Keyboard testing is something you can try yourself right now. Using common key commands, like the Tab and Shift-Tab keys, you can begin to get a sense of the accessibility condition of your website. If you notice that you there are certain elements you can't reach or it's easy to get lost on the page, there might be keyboard-accessibility issues.
5. Make sure your site can be zoomed without loss of content or functionality
It's a WCAG requirement that content can be zoomed to 200% and still work without assistive technology. Additionally, screen magnification should not interfere with other accessibility requirements.
Fortunately, testing for this to some extent can be pretty easy. Zoom your web browser to 200% and see what happens to the content and layout of the webpage. Do you notice that content elements overlap or disappear, or do they stack and adjust nicely? Can all the tasks still be performed with both a mouse and keyboard? Do navigation elements and menus still work well? Performing this preliminary testing isn't exhaustive or comprehensive, but it can help you identify some obvious accessibility issues with the display.
Our four-point hybrid testing
We believe our four-point hybrid testing provides the best path to achieving, maintaining, and proving digital compliance. Our comprehensive testing combines the best of human and artificial intelligence. Learn more about our testing methodology.
We’re here to help you with your accessibility strategy
To get all the latest news and tips on accessibility, subscribe to our blog.