Evaluating Website Accessibility

Designing for accessibility is important during both website creation and updating. Ensure the site meets your accessibility goals by using evaluation methods such as:

  • Hiring a usability/accessibility expert
  • Using automated validation tools
  • Conducting usability testing with participants who have an impairment or disability
  • Conducting a preliminary review yourself

Conducting a preliminary review is a good way to identify accessibility problems on a Web site. However, it does not check every accessibility issue and will not catch all of the problems on a site. A preliminary review will not be sufficient to determine if a Web site conforms to Web accessibility guidelines (W3C 2005). A preliminary review should include steps such as:

  • Use the keyboard only. Can you navigate the screen?
  • Use a screen reader. Can you understand the content?
  • Turn off images. Is appropriate alternative text for the images available?
  • Change the color display to gray scale. Is the contrast adequate?
  • Use browser controls to vary font-size. Is the page still usable at larger font sizes?

While you will get the most authentic results by conducting usability testing with participants who have an impairment or disability, it is sometimes easier and cheaper to evaluate accessibility yourself. Web accessibility evaluation tools are available with descriptions on the W3C website.

You may also want to ask yourself some questions, including:

  • Do my links make sense out of context and are they clearly labeled?
  • Do my links have underlines to make them recognizable?
  • Are my images supplied with alt texts?
  • Is my color contrast high enough?
  • Am I relying on color to convey information?
  • Do all of my audio files have transcripts or captioning?

Keep in mind that accessibility evaluation is an ongoing process. It is nearly impossible to catch all accessibility issues in one pass. It is imperative to continually check for accessibility issues each time your website’s content is updated. This is the best way to make sure that your website is accessible to everyone, no matter what kind of accessibility issues they may have.