In 2018 so far, there are projected to be nearly 2,000* website accessibility-related lawsuits. As a leading agency offering website ADA compliance services, we get a lot of questions about what tools we use to assess website accessibility. Accessibility tools are important to speed up the identification of potential ADA compliance issues, and – combined with the expertise of a trained, certified accessibility professional, can help make and keep your website conformant to the latest WCAG guidelines.
There are several free accessibility tools that we find helpful to support the important goal of improving the accessibility of your website. Using these tools will not magically make your site fully conformant, but every step you take just might remove a barrier for one of your customers, an important objective for all of us.
The WAVE tool
WAVE can be used either from the webpage or downloaded as a chrome extension. WAVE is the free product from Webaim. It was meant to help developers and average users make their sites more accessibility friendly. Unfortunately, it has also become the tool du jour for less than savory law firms trolling for ADA lawsuit opportunities. With that in mind, it makes sense to use WAVE to fix what issues appear. This alone won’t make your site work for persons with disabilities, but it’s not a bad idea to fix what you find. Also, WAVE easily lets you see how your site functions with CSS turned off, which is helpful for accessibility testing.
Color Contrast Analyser
Sometimes it’s hard to know if text meets the 3 to 1 or 4.5 to 1 standard for color contrast. Black text on a solid background? Sure, that’s easy if you have the hex codes. But what about the white text with shading that overlays your hero banner of a man on a mountaintop? This chrome extension lets you scan a page, the visible content or just a little snippet you want. It also highlights passing content with a bright white border. You can tell right away what passes and what doesn’t.
aXe (Deque Systems)
When downloaded, the aXe Chrome/Firefox extension, provided by Deque systems, will display as an extra tab within your Developer tools (F12 panel). You can get a list of issues occurring on a single page and highlight the code. If you work with a development team, being able to easily cut and paste the offending code into a support ticket can save literally hundreds of hours a year.
Siteimprove, a valuable suite of tools, also offers a helpful chrome extension. It doesn’t track historical issues, provide graphs, SEO or check for 404s like Siteimprove the SAAS product does. Having said that, it still does a lot of things well. First, it is very thorough, covering not just issues, but alerts and suggestions. Second, it is minimally invasive. While other plugins can really slow your browser down, Siteimprove’s plugin doesn’t. Third, it allows for tinkering. When you pair it with the developer tool, you can adjust code in the developer tool, and refresh Siteimprove without refreshing your page. If you get the code right, the issue will disappear from the list. This is a huge time saver.
Tools plus manual testing
These are four of the most useful website compliance tools that we have found to begin understanding and remedying issues with your code that create roadblocks for users with disabilities. Remember that testing tools are important for identifying issues but that manual review of each of these issues is critical to understanding what truly needs to be acted upon, and how. If you have a website that you are interested in making conformant, reach out to one of our website compliance experts.