Running Web Auditing for Accessibility Check and Ensuring Compliance

Written by on August 14, 2019 in Stuff with 0 Comments
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There is an increasing need for bringing your website in tune with the WCAG 2.0 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) standards. This has to be done not only to make sure that your site is compliant and can be used by people having disabilities but also to enjoy many other benefits too like more business reach and also better search engine performance.

In order to plan accessibility for an existing website or to upgrade your existing website accessibility features, you need to follow some standard steps. Let’s discuss.

  • Web auditing: A thorough assessment or audit of your website against the WCAG standards is mandatory.
  • Remediation: Fixing the flaws and implementing measures to address the issues identified in the assessment.
  • Maintenance: Giving appropriate guidelines to the developers and web editors in order to ensure ongoing conformity with web accessibility guidelines and also to ensure it in future development.

Further in this, post we are actually focusing on the first of these three steps.

Web audit for accessibility

In order to conduct a successful audit, you should first determine the scope of the task in hand and ways to perform the audit. This assessment is actually meant to expose the issues which need fair attention even if it is not for accessibility, like malformed HTML, which could be a failure of WCAG as well as noncompliant with website development best practices.

It is possible to conduct audit internally, but when it comes to web accessibility compliance, it is more of an art than a precise science. So, it is advisable to get it run by experts by outsourcing the tasks if possible. If you are planning to move ahead with the audit by your own, then follow the below guidelines.

Before you start, it is ideal for getting familiarized with the WCAG guidelines. The official reference site of WCAG has about 12 parent guidelines and about 61 criterions thoroughly discussed in the documentation, and there are many case studies also showing out the failure of the standard. You can also identify and filter out the success criteria for the targeted level of standard as A, AA, or AAA. This is essential as you will have to decide what level of compliance to WCAG you are trying to pursue before running the audit. You should note that achieving AAA is actually a lofty goal, but available to the most basic and ideally formatted websites.

Web audit process

There are many ways to carry out web auditing. An accessibility audit, for example, can be carried out internally or through external consultants. This can be run entirely manual or with the use of a set of tools, but in using automation also, manual involvement is mandatory. However, passing an audit itself doesn’t mean that the site is fully accessible. An audit may cover all the pages of your website or samples of the pages.

Choosing audit type

The selection of audit type which is apt for your website has to be decided based on many factors. While considering web accessibility auditing, there is no such one-fit all type of audit available. In fact, the major factor which affects the decision as to which type of an audit needed to be chosen may depend on:

  • The expertise of auditors available in-house.
  • The size of the website for the audit.
  • Nature and specialties of the publishing system.

External audit

As we had seen above, the most preferred mode of web accessibility audit is to hire outside expertise. These types of audit have some significant advantages like:

  • Access to the expertise of top-end professionals.
  • Conduction of audit from an unbiased and independent point of view.
  • The final report enhanced with an expert, external viewpoint.

In many of the cases, selection of an external audit tea for web accessibility assessment may be part of their tendering process. The major attributes to check for while tendering external auditors are:

  • The track of the auditors in conducting web accessibility audits.
  • References from existing clients.
  • Providers are offering web accessibility audit as their core offering.
  • The most suitable methodologies and tools to conduct audits.

Self-audit

Self-audit means that the website is assessed by the internal team itself, who otherwise manage and maintain the website. The major advantages of internal audit are that there is no additional cost involved and also that the auditors know well about the website. However, there are many disadvantages, also:

  • It may be difficult to find staff who has enough auditing skills.
  • Even when skilled staff is present, they may have already been into the same management and could be biased.

So, conduction of self-audit along may not be recommendable unless you use some third-party applications or tool to get an unbiased audit report. In fact, in some cases like when new content is getting published, self-audit is a very useful approach. For organizations, it is essential to develop a team of auditors who can ensure the accessibility of the next content published frequently. They need to be adequately trained in web accessibility guidelines and also equipped with appropriate tools for web accessibility audit and compliance.

Automated web accessibility auditing

There is software which comes handy in web accessibility audit, but up to a certain point only. Majority of the W3C accessibility checkpoints cannot be confirmed only with software. As per expert opinion, only one among the 16 priority checkpoints can be automatically verified, and the rest of the 15 requires human discretion.

The automated tools for accessibility audits are best used by experts who are experienced and skilled in reading the data and interpreting the results accurately. In specific, the auditors should be able to quickly and insightfully identify the false positive results as well as false negative results, which are possibilities with tool-based testing.

While auditing the site experientially, the major aspects to consider include, but not limited to:

  • UI/UX
  • Content
  • Alternative text
  • Forms
  • Contrast
  • Images of text
  • Pop-ups
  • Silent actions etc.

On completion of the audit, you must document all the findings in detail about each and every instance against the WCAG criteria which best matches to the case scenarios, the URLs in which issues are found, and also the directives for preferred solutions.

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