The landscape of website compliance and accessibility is changing rapidly – and so are the automated tools being used to optimize and fact check. Software as a service (SaaS) tools such as Siteimprove, Silktide and Monsido are quickly becoming important to helping identify website accessibility issues, and scan for ongoing accessibility issues as sites are maintained.
Using one of these tools can be a great tool in a website manager’s arsenal, since they can run conformance checks on your website automatically. It’s important to know that these tools alone aren’t always a magic bullet, and that dedicating resources to managing and understanding these scans and fixes is equally important. Explore how SaaS accessibility tools, in combination with manual testing and management, can help your website remain conformant – ultimately supporting your site’s user experience and creating a fair experience for all.
Why Do You Need an Accessibility Tool?
There are a number of benefits to investing in an automated accessibility tool. One of the main reasons why using an accessibility tool to audit your site is beneficial is knowing that you are proactively focusing on ADA compliance for your website. By adhering to WCAG 2.1 conformance protocols, you are ensuring that your website can be navigated by all persons regardless of their disability. Images, text, audio and other issues can be checked through a website conformance SaaS tool and once addressed, can ensure your website is in a better place than it was prior to using the tool.
Additionally, as the owner of an accessibility tool with such capabilities, you will be able to run these audits yourself at any time, while enlisting the help of ADA experts to separate critical issues from false positives. Website owners primarily leverage accessibility tools for these automatic site scans to mitigate legal complications and improve usability for all visitors.
So, What Can an Accessibility Tool Do?
Website accessibility checkers can perform a variety of tasks to identify issues with your website compliance and more. Beyond conformance checks, these tools also explore related QA checks like 404s (page not found errors) and check for false positives, misspellings and long sentences, as well as issues with your site’s search engine optimization tactics.
One important audit these tools can run is to check every image on your website for the proper ALT description. This is both an ADA and SEO best practice. Let’s say, for example, a 200-page site has around 1,000 images embedded into it. There are at least four checks a tool can run involving its ALT:
Five hundred of those images may have an ALT. Those ALTs must be checked for descriptive accuracy (500+ occurrences).
Each image must be checked to see if there is text within the image (1,000 occurrences).
If this image has a blank ALT – such as a blank spacer image - is it a decorative versus functional image? (500+ occurrences)
If it’s an image link, does the ALT describe the link? (250+ occurrences)
In total, that’s 2,250 “issues” that can be found. On a well-made site there may be 5 or 10 real errors out of that amount of “issues”. Therefore, that’s 2,240 false positives with images alone.
When run correctly, accessibility tools repeat this process with aria-labels, aria-labelledby and describedby, landmarks, tables, tabbing sequences, roles, dropdown boxes and bypass blocks – just to name a few. But any tool, without training and ongoing management, isn’t recommended unless you understand when and how to enlist a website usability expert as well.
How Can an Accessibility Expert Help?
Having a tool to support your website accessibility experts is a great idea, but more often than not, the reports can be misleading if not reviewed by someone who truly understands website accessibility. Website accessibility agencies can help separate true issues from false positives and if also a development agency, can work with you to fix the issues as well.
If you are thinking about using a site accessibility tool but want someone to help you with some of the heavy lifting, let’s chat.