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.
"Accessibility of State and Local Government Websites to People with Disabilities." Accessibility of State and Local Government Websites to People with Disabilities. United States Government, n.d. Web. 18 Feb. 2013. <http://www.ada.gov/websites2.htm>. This website explains the importance of complying websites with the Americans with Disabilities Act and has links to section 508 of the Act.
"HTML Writers Guild Web Accessibility Standards." Policy: Web Accessibility Standards. HTML Writers Guild, n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2013. <http://www.hwg.org/opcenter/policy/access.html>. This websites lists the twelve accessibility features of guild websites, including providing text equivalent for non text elements and making sure pages are usable without style sheets.
"Information Technology and People with Disabilities: The Current State of Federal Accessibility." US Dept. of Justice, n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2013. <http://www.justice.gov/crt/508/report/content.php>. This website includes the accessibility standards that all federal agency's webpages must comply with to meet accessibility requirements. Although not all websites are required to meet these standards, they are useful to reference for all websites.
Nielson, Jakob. "Nielsen Norman Group." Beyond Accessibility: Treating Users with Disabilities as People. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2013. <http://www.nngroup.com/articles/beyond-accessibility-treating-users-with-disabilities-as-people/>. This article discusses usability testing with three groups of people: a screen reader using group, a screen magnifier group and a control group with no disabilities. The study found that usability is three times better with non-disabled users.
"Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0." Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2013. <http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/>. These are complete guidelines for making web content accessible to the disabled; this includes the visually, hearing, physically and cognitively impaired. The guidelines are followed to make web content more perceivable, operable, understandable and robust to every user.