ANDI (Accessible Name & Description Inspector) is a free, open-source accessibility tool hosted by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Accessible Systems and Technology (OAST).
Unlike other accessibility tools, ANDI is a “bookmarklet" — to install it, you simply visit the ANDI page and drag the tool onto your bookmarks bar. It runs on most desktop browsers including Google Chrome, Apple Safari, Microsoft Edge, and Mozilla Firefox.
The goal of ANDI is to assist webmasters in maintaining compliance with the Revised Section 508 web accessibility standards, which are based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 2.0. Below, we’ll explain how ANDI works (and outline a few of its limitations).
ANDI is a free accessibility tool for testing Section 508 conformance
Section 508 requires government agencies and their contractors to maintain accessible online content. It’s distinctly different from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires web accessibility but does not include specific technical standards.
After installation, ANDI can provide basic information about web elements and their accessibility. Here are the basics:
Selecting the ANDI bookmarklet generates an overlay at the top of the browser view.
The overlay includes 18 modules for inspecting content for different types of Section 508 failures.
As the user focuses on different elements (by mousing over them or using keyboard commands to move the focus), ANDI updates to convey information about each component.
ANDI can also generate a list of potential WCAG violations for each module, which the user can browse through during testing.
For detailed information about each ANDI module, review the Section 508 website’s ANDI training videos.
As a digital compliance tool, ANDI has some limitations
Software accessibility tools are designed to complement a human-led audit, and ANDI is no different.
It’s important to remember that ANDI is designed to test for compliance with the Revised Section 508 standards, which are based on WCAG 2.0.
Currently, the latest version of the guidelines is WCAG 2.1, with WCAG 2.2 expected for release in the near future. ANDI doesn’t test for conformance with the new Level A/AA success criteria in the more recent versions of WCAG — and some of the new success criteria are extremely important for people with disabilities.
Other limitations of ANDI:
ANDI does not test visual focus, a common accessibility issue that impacts keyboard users.
ANDI does not provide much remediation guidance, and it’s a fairly technical tool. Without accessibility training, a designer or developer may not understand the output.
ANDI may not work on complex websites (such as desktop-like web apps).
Finally, many accessibility issues require human judgment. An accessibility checker can tell you whether your images have alternative text, for example — but not whether that text is actually useful for human users.
Should you use ANDI to test for web accessibility?
ANDI is a useful tool, particularly in the hands of a trained accessibility tester. The OAST operates a Section 508 compliance certification program called Trusted Tester Version 5 (TTv5), and certified Trusted Testers may use ANDI when generating compliance reports.
However, ANDI is not designed for ADA website compliance testing, and it’s not appropriate for that purpose. The best practice is to test your content for conformance with the Level A/AA success criteria of the latest version of WCAG (currently, WCAG 2.1).
Some additional tips for testing web content:
Use a combination of automated and manual testing methods. A hybrid approach to accessibility will provide the best possible return on investment.
Human testing should be performed by experts who have experience with screen readers (software that outputs text as audio or braille) and other assistive technologies.
Don’t attempt to remediate issues if you don’t understand how they affect the experiences of your users. In some cases, “fixing" a barrier the wrong way may cause additional issues for people with disabilities.
Remember that building for accessibility is much easier (and typically, much less expensive) than fixing accessibility issues after-the-fact.
By working with an accessibility partner, you can test your content for digital compliance — and create a long-term strategy to provide better experiences for your users.