If you are in the process of making your website accessible or think that your website is already compliant, you need a reliable way to ensure that you are. In this guide you will learn if your website is actually accessible and understand where you are in the process of accessibility.
Please make sure that you understand that even when going through this guide you may not be able to confirm 100% that your site is fully compliant, but you will be able to have a good idea if you are or not. If you need know without any shadow of a doubt if your site is compliant or not you will need to have a deep audit from a reputable firm that has the expertise to give you the accessibility level of your website and if you are close or have a long way to go in the process.
The following information has 3 areas of importance:
- Website testing software and tools
- Website navigation using a keyboard
- Website navigation and testing using a screen reader.
Website testing software and tools
Making sure that users of your website with disabilities can navigate your site can be very tedious. You need to understand the items that can contribute to navigation difficulties such as image descriptions, color contrasts, keyboard navigation, screen reader adjustments, animations, font sizes, etc. These things can cause many issues for your website users. You also need to make sure the you choose the correct standard you should follow such as the WCAG 2.0 AA standard or the latest WCAG 2.1 standard.
The good news is there are tools that can automate the screening of these items and can make sure that your site matches those type of elements that effect your disabled users. Adally.com provides a free high-level certified website scan that can help you have a good understanding of where you are with your compliance. They also have an Adally certified deep scan and audit that will give you further insight in what exactly are your issues and where to find them on your website. Tools such as this are going to be the foundation of your ADA compliance.
There are also navigation tools that can be easily added to your website that help with some navigation issues, but make sure you understand that these types of tools or widgets are only to be used as a starting point to becoming ADA compliant. Adally has a free widget you can easily install on your website that will allow a large portion of your visitors to have tools that can help in their navigation experience such as being able to change contrasts of different elements on your page and also will read back text to your users. Please remember that even though this tool is amazing, it will not provide all your users with different disabilities the type of experience that is required to have your website become ADA compliant.
Website navigation using a keyboard
One of the ways to make your website fully accessible is to make sure that the website can be navigated with only a keyboard as an input device. You don’t need any special equipment or need to have a professional do this for you. It is extremely easy to do. Just use the TAB and SHIFT + TAB keys only when viewing your website. What where each button press takes you down the page. It should move you down the page through each link, headlines, fields and clickable elements all without missing any elements. You should be able to know exactly where you are on the page without having to look all over. You also need to make sure that you are able to navigate within hidden elements like sub-menus. We need to make sure that each clickable element is abled to be used with the Enter button.
Website navigation and testing using a screen reader
To get an idea what it is like for visually impaired users of your site you can use a free test tool to see what experience your users will have. The screen reader experience for its users is a very different experience than someone who uses a modern-day web browser. This tool is a little more complicated to use but with a little bit of time can be mastered and used to test your website.
There is a free screen reader that you can download and install using this link: https://www.nvaccess.org/download.
You will test the website in a similar fashion to the keyboard navigation method using the arrows on your keyboard. You will verify that all elements are being picked up by the screen reader. If there any elements that are being skipped it is more than likely that there is improper labeling of elements that need to be addressed in order to be properly identified by the screen reader. You also need to verify that the screen reader is correctly identify element functions such as graphics, links and buttons. You will also need to make sure that any forms are your website will be able to explain to the user what each field is and make it clear if the field they are in is mandatory or not.
In order to verify your site can be navigated you need to test your menus and make sure that the screen reader reads out navigation region and that it also reads out collapsed to show that there is a collapsed drop down menu.
These tools and test are a great way to see if your website is accessible to a majority of disabled users but does not guarantee that your site is 100% accessible, but it is a good indication how far you are away from getting there. Adally has a certified deep scan and report that will identify all the issues that you have and where to find them and links on how to tackle the issues. Making sure that you stay on top of new standards and have an accessibility plan in place is key to your success and making sure all users of your website has the best experience possible.
Accessibility is not a destination; it is a journey and making sure you continue to validate user experience and make it an ongoing project is extremely important. Engaging in the right accessibility partner can help make sure you are able to correct any issues as they arise or make sure you are conforming to news standards as they are being implemented.