With nearly 61 million Americans living with some type of disability, it’s more essential than ever to ensure websites are accessible to as many of these users as possible. Ignoring a demographic representing close to 20% of the US population means shutting out 1 out of every fifth visitor to a site due to inaccessible content, not a great strategy to build sales or user trust.
Despite the risks of lost revenue, many websites continue to be inaccessible to many users with disabilities. In a WebAIM survey of 1,000 disabled users requiring screen reader support, 60% reported that web accessibility had stayed the same or gotten worse in the past year.
The reluctance of site owners may possibly stem from the confusion over what accessibility actually means. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) establishes web accessibility standards through the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), featured on the WCAG site. However, the enormous list of standards can be overwhelming for site owners not well versed in web accessibility.
Fortunately, a number of handy tools are available to help sites test for accessibility issues and stay up on the latest standards. In addition to diagnosing accessibility problem areas, many of these tools also identify the areas of compliance being affected, helping site owners better understand how they are used.
DigitalTrust uses some of these tools to evaluate websites at a high level, but using the tools directly will help focus your efforts to improve accessibility.
Here are five tools that help websites get in compliance, stay accessible, and develop user trust.
WebAIM’s WAVE tool is one of the most popular web accessibility tools available on the internet. Known for its ease of use and detailed reports, WAVE evaluates web content for accessibility, using WCAG standards as a guide.
Site owners can access WAVE by either entering the site’s URL into the toolbar found on the WAVE site or, better yet, by installing the extension, available for Chrome and Firefox. Once installed, users can review accessibility standards in real time within the browser. WAVE then identifies accessibility errors and makes suggestions about how to fix them. Errors appear as small icons on the page, indicating the particular element that needs improvement.
While WAVE has proven to be a valuable tool for web accessibility, it does have its drawbacks. The use of icons on the page, while helpful, can get confusing, especially for a page with lots of errors. Also WAVE has difficulty with absolute positioning, which may cause problems for elements like hidden forms. Despite the downsides, WAVE is a fantastic tool overall.
Deque’s axe accessibility tool is quickly becoming a favorite among developers for its simple interface and clear, helpful advice for fixing web accessibility issues. Unlike WAVE, axe is only available through its Chrome extension, but in terms of interface, it may have WAVE beat.
Each flagged issue provides the related markup in the source code, enabling for easy and instant corrections. Axe also allows users to toggle between the code and elements windows to keep track of markups.
Along with spotting accessibility errors, axe also flags elements to review. This feature is useful for elements that aren’t necessarily violating any accessibility rules, but may benefit from some tweaking.
WebAIM Color Contrast Tool
Another wonderful and free offering from WebAIM, this tool checks to see whether a website’s color contrast complies with WCAG guidelines. This is useful for visitors with vision problems, such as color blindness, and ensures that page elements are visible to all.
Just enter the RGB hexadecimal codes for background and foreground and the tool provides a contrast ratio that complies with WCAG 2.0 standards. Helpfully, the tool also lets you lighten or darken the site’s colors until you achieve an acceptable ratio.
If this sounds too technical, you can also use the Color Contrast Analyser from the Paciello Group. Rather than hexadecimal codes, this tool allows users to point and click on the site’s text and background colors and adjust them as needed. In addition, the tool also allows users to check images for contrast, in addition to text and background. Color Contrast Analyser will then generate a report analyzing your color combinations and determining whether they fall under WCAG 2.0 standards.
Similar in form and function to WAVE and axe, Siteimprove is another comprehensive accessibility checker that is particularly popular with government, nonprofit, and higher education websites.
A free site audit from Siteimprove delivers an accessibility report detailing all accessibility issues and the steps to address them. Siteimprove also provides on-page and in-code highlights, similar to the axe interface.
Unique from its competitors, Siteimprove includes some additional features, such as broken link and spelling checks. Siteimprove also integrates well with a CMS like WordPress and Drupal. Best of all, users can automate checks to keep updated pages consistently accessible, allowing owners to crawl site content every 5 days.
In previous blogs we’ve discussed Google’s commitment to accessibility, so it’s not surprising that they also created their own Lighthouse accessibility tool, available for the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge.
To access Lighthouse, open DevTools and click the Audit tab. Click the “Perform an Audit” button and you’ll be led to a list of available audits able to be carried out by Lighthouse, including accessibility.
Lighthouse uses axe-core for audits, so many of the functions are similar to the axe program. However, Lighthouse does not highlight problematic elements like the other tools on the list and isn’t as comprehensive as axe.
On the other hand, Lighthouse also offers speed and SEO audits, so it’s not a bad place to get started on your path to accessibility. As with any of these automated programs, always be sure to also perform a manual check.
While all these tools are helpful in their own way, your preference will come down to the business’ needs and your comfort with the interface. No matter which tool is used, making consistent accessibility checks goes a long way toward broadening your user base, increasing sales, and gaining user trust.
Being accessible signals to users that you care about their experience and want to make it as comfortable as possible to navigate your site. Just as confusion causes customers to flee, comfort keeps them around. The first sign of trust is showing that you care.
If you want to continue down the road to user trust, consider getting a trust score from Digital Trust. The trust score analyzes your website for over 50 factors in the areas of safety, transparency, usability, and reputation, including elements of accessibility. You can also have the chance to earn a free Trustmark, providing you with third-party authentication of your site’s trustworthiness.