How can I test my website for accessibility?

An often-cited rule in Web design is "Test your website." Typically this involves reviewing your site in multiple Web browsers and at multiple screen resolutions, as well as checking spelling and links. This process generally involves the use of automated tools as well as a manual review. An accessibility check should also be included in this process.

Web Accessibility in Mind (WebAIM), an organization funded by the U.S. Department of Education, recommends the following seven-step process in its document titled The Planning, Evaluation, Repair and Maintenance Process:

  • Validate your HTML
  • Validate for accessibility
  • Check for keyboard accessibility
  • Test in a screen reader
  • Check your pages for WCAG compliance
  • Conduct user testing
  • Repeat this process

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C®) also offers recommendations for evaluating sites in a similarly titled document, Evaluating Web Sites for Accessibility. In its document, W3C makes a distinction between a preliminary review (which can identify general kinds of barriers on a website), a conformance evaluation (which can determine whether a site complies with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines), and a conformance evaluation plus review of procedures for ongoing monitoring. The latter helps ensure that a site, once made accessible, will continue to be accessible in the future.

The processes documented by both WebAIM and W3C allow for the use of automated evaluation and repair software. However, using these software tools is only one small component of each process. An automated evaluation tools can only check whether sites or Web pages are not in compliance due to missing required elements or attributes.  For more on evaluation and repair tools, consult the article What Web accessibility evaluation and repair tools are available?.