A website accessibility audit assesses your website and identifies potential issues that you need to resolve to allow users with disabilities to engage with your brand successfully. While there is no single federally-mandated process or template for accessibility audits, most of them consider the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) the definitive standard for accessibility. Let’s learn more about the nature of web accessibility audits, the need to do an accessibility audit, and a few typical accessibility issues that an audit might help you identify and resolve.
What is a web accessibility audit?
A successful accessibility audit starts with an awareness of the WCAG. The latest recommendation, WCAG 2.2, has three levels of compliance – level A, level AA, and level AAA – with gradually increasing levels of accessibility. While WCAG 2.2 A provides the basics of accessibility, WCAG 2.2 AA compliance allows most users, including individuals with disabilities, to use your website effectively.
To capture all the potential accessibility violations that may be present on your website, a full manual audit is the best option. This includes a code audit, which inspects your website’s HTML code, audits on different types of multimedia content, and manual testing. It also produces useful recommendations for fixing accessibility issues.
Why should you conduct an accessibility audit?
Website accessibility is not just the right thing to do; it is also a legal requirement in many locations. In 2022, plaintiffs filed almost 2,400 accessibility lawsuits against organizations of different sizes, up slightly from 2,352 in 2021. These lawsuits target websites that do not have accessibility features, such as support for screen readers, lack of keyboard navigation support, and poor color contrast, and result in costly settlements and diminished reputations.
An accessibility audit will not just help you pinpoint potential accessibility violations. It will also contribute towards a more inclusive website – one that offers an efficient user experience, high traffic, low bounce rate, and enhanced search engine rankings.
What to watch for in an accessibility audit
An accessibility audit based on WCAG 2.2 standards will usually include tests for the following success criteria.
When your website uses images, they must come with descriptive alt text embedded into the HTML code. This helps visually impaired users understand visual content with the help of screen readers. It also boosts your site’s search engine performance.
Keyboard navigation support
Many users cannot use a mouse or trackpad to navigate websites, so they use keyboard shortcuts instead. A typical accessibility audit will involve testing the arrow keys to scroll up and down the website, the Tab key to switch between website elements like fields or links, and the spacebar or Enter key to open links or submit information.
Screen reader support
More than 7 million Americans with visual impairments rely on screen readers to navigate websites. Screen readers work best when the content is laid out as text, not as screenshots. Adding headings and subheadings and organizing content into bulleted lists also help users find the information they need.
WCAG 2.2 AA specifies a color contrast ratio of 4.5:1 for normal text (12pt) and 3:1 for large text (14pt or larger). It also requires websites to use color combinations that are visible to users with color blindness. Since text and background colors are indicated in your website’s HTML code, color contrast testing is something you can easily automate by using an accessibility scanner.
Accessibility audits: Preparing your website for inclusivity
Accessibility audits play a key role in preparing your website for a more inclusive internet. Using an audit checklist based on WCAG 2.2 AA standards will help you discover accessibility issues and give you the information you need to resolve them. As a result, you can protect your website from potential accessibility litigation and uphold your company’s reputation as one that values diversity and inclusivity. By periodically testing and auditing your website, you ensure that it welcomes visitors from all backgrounds, including those with disabilities.