What is a Web Accessibility Audit?
In order to determine if websites are following Web Content Accessibility Standards (WCAG 2.1), it is necessary to conduct a web accessibility audit. WCAG 2.1 was developed to provide guidelines for web content accessibility standards that meet the needs of individuals, organizations and governments.
Identify and Document Barriers to Access
The goal of a web accessibility audit is to identify barriers that are present and that are preventing individuals with disabilities from accessing websites successfully. These obstacles create a frustrating experience for users. Many of these individuals rely on the Internet to complete day-to-day tasks or live independently; infringing on their ability to do that is coming to the forefront as a civil rights issue. In some instances, web accessibility audits are also referred to as conformance evaluations, since their main purpose is to evaluate compliance with rules, laws and standards.
According to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), accessibility involves accommodations for users with various forms of disabilities, including visual, hearing, cognitive and mobility disabilities. Since each disability is unique and can affect each individual in a very unique, W3C provides the WCAG 2.1 guidelines which are comprised of a wide range of recommendations to ensure that all aspects of compliance are met to address specific needs.
The Value of a Web Accessibility Audit
Accessibility audits are utilized for a variety of reasons. In many instances, they are used to facilitate the decision of whether a website should be redesigned entirely, or if specific non-accessible elements can or should be fixed. That decision is sometimes dependent on available testing tools and apps for web accessibility, as well as financing. Audits are also used to help minimize risk, including litigation, for organizations and to enhance overall user experience and overall satisfaction.
Web accessibility audits provide in-depth, page-by-page analysis that documents areas in need of remediation. Following the audit process, a Corrective Action Plan is created to provide guidance on how issues should be resolved and in what order of priority.
Web Accessibility Audits Use Automated Software
Software audits, also known as automated audits, are often the first step in testing ADA compliance with web accessibility standards. Software audits are performed with scanning software and also running scripts on a website. These accessibility tools report possible issues or areas that are not in compliance with WCAG 2.1 guidelines. Through the use of a series of scripts, a software audit assesses the presence or lack of certain code conditions. Software audits are very beneficial because they help to quickly identify major problem areas and provide the manual testing technicians an overview of where deeper issues exist. Software audits are a first step in the overall auditing process.
A Good Starting Point, But Human Review is Necessary
Despite the benefits associated with software audits, they do come with particular downsides as well. Each software program designed to conduct software audits was developed by different programmers and authors. Each software option, of which TOBEADACOMPLIANT utilizes several, is only able to identify technical accessibility issues that can be found through logical software tests. This underscores the importance of automated web accessibility testing to be simply a first step.
At TOBEADACOMPLIANT Web Solutions, we provide a worry-free audit solution by starting with the best software options to test website accessibility. This software produces a wealth of information but it also reports issues that are later identified as false-positives. As a result, the next steps include the a human element in web accessibility testing for ADA compliance, otherwise known as a manual audit.
Manual Web Accessibility Audits Performed by User Testers
Disabilities come in many forms, including visual, hearing, cognitive and mobility impairments. This means that there is a high likelihood of encountering a wide variety of accessibility issues on a given website. Identifying those issues by software or machine is currently impossible because of software testing limitations and the individual practical effects each disability can have. Manual accessibility audits provide insight that a computer can’t and they are essential to ensure that disabled users will be able to access websites to their fullest extent.
Through the use of manual testing for web accessibility, page-by-page click-throughs and reviews are completed and tested with assistive technology such as screen readers and keyboard-only commands.
Keyboard-only commands are a tool that many individuals with disabilities utilize, so by conducting this form of testing, keyboard traps are often located. Using commands such as space, arrow, tab, shift and enter allows a user the ability to move between the sections and elements of a web page. Through the use of a keyboard, disabled users are able to access menus, links, forms and other important aspects of a website. Screen-reader testing is also conducted within a manual audit, as this is the most common tool used by non-sighted users.
The Value of Manual Audits
The manual audit process identifies the false positives that were previously reported in the software audit phase, thanks to the in-depth examination by our human experts. At TOBEADACOMPLIANT Web Solutions, our manual testing teams are comprised of web accessibility experts and individuals with visual impairments, hearing impairments, cognitive impairments and mobility impairments. This provides the first-hand perspective of a user with a disability and a wide-overview to ensures no accessibility issues are missed. Talk to our experts now!
After the Audit – What’s Next?
Reporting and Planning
Following the software and manual web accessibility audit process, a comprehensive analysis of your website and a detailed report outlining all web accessibility issues will be provided. High-impact issues will be identified and a plan personalized to you will be developed to address those issues effectively. The product of this work is the Corrective Action Plan. Through our collaborative approach, TOBEADACOMPLIANT Web Solutions will work with your organization’s web and content teams to develop a path going forward. This may include executive leadership, internal technical resources as well as your contracted teams. During this planning process. our trusted team will fully explain what issues need to be addressed, by whom, in what order and clarify ways to ensure they are addressed quickly.
Are You Already Involved in Legal Action?
If your company or institution is already involved in legal action, either through the course of a letter of complaint or a lawsuit, don’t worry. Here at TOBEADACOMPLIANT Web Solutions, we will expedite the process of auditing and remediation to alleviate the complexity and stress of dealing with the legal process.
Preparing for Accessibility Remediation
Preparing for remediation and addressing current issues is not the only service our team can provide for your business. At TOBEADACOMPLIANT Web Solutions, our leading professionals will also help develop new policies and procedures with you in order to maintain ongoing monitoring and compliance in the future. Due to the rapidly changing world of telecommunication and continual updates to accessibility standards, TOBEADACOMPLIANT Web Solutions provides ongoing website accessibility assurance plans. Through these plans, we are available to reviews your website once or twice annually (or more often, if desired) to ensure that your newly added and modified content continues to be compliant. It is also important to determine that no new issues have developed. Additionally, by educating your team on ways to be vigilant and proactive, you can provide increased protection against future issues, thereby limiting your overall risk.
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When Should You Audit Your Website and Digital Environments?
If you are debating when to begin the audit process, it is never too early to start. An accessibility audit can be performed at any point during a project: within the early stages, during development and design, or even in the late implementation phase. Despite this, it is best practice to be proactive and take the appropriate steps early to ensure your organization is not at risk of a civil rights violation due to an inaccessible website. By addressing issues early, quickly and efficiently, your users with disabilities are provided with equal access to your web content, allowing for a better overall experience and satisfaction with your organization.
It is important to note that accessibility audits should be performed by trained professionals only. At TOBEADACOMPLIANT Web Solutions, our teams consist of trained individuals with over a decade of experience and expertise in web accessibility. We can provide first-hand insight on assistive technology, such as keyboard-only navigation, and inform you on areas where your website is lacking. With our in-depth knowledge of ADA, WCAG 2.1 and Section 508 standards, we can offer a thorough education on how to rest assured that your website will stay up-to-date with standards in the future. If you’d like to learn more about web accessibility or begin the web accessibility audit process, contact TOBEADACOMPLIANT Web Solutions today and allow our teams to set your organization up for success.