Web accessibility auditing

The following section outlines a number of quick exercises you can carry out to learn a little about accessibility and try to identify if your site contains some of the more common accessibility issues. These simple checks do not require any specialist knowledge. Neither do they give a reliable indication as to the accessibility level of your website. Instead, they aim to help you understand a few of the obstacles that people with disabilities can encounter when accessing content or services on your website.

You can do these checks using a number of methods:

Check 1 -- Alternative text

The most important and revealing check is to test for the presence and appropriateness of alternative text on images. This alternative text is the functional explanation of each image that is supplied to people who cannot see the image itself. Hover your mouse pointer over each important image and see if any text pops up (works in Internet Explorer only). If the text is meaningless or not an equivalent explanation of the image, this could present an obstacle to someone using a screen reader.

Check 2 -- Navigate using the keyboard

Use the Tab key on your keyboard instead of the mouse to navigate your way around the site. If you cannot access content or carry out functions using the keyboard alone, this could present an obstacle to some people with a vision or motor impairment who do not use a mouse.

Check 3 -- Enlarge the text

Enlarge the text on the page by using your browser settings. If the text does not enlarge or layout begins to degrade, this could present an obstacle to people with a vision impairment who need to enlarge the text.

Wave Accessibility Tool

There are a number of tools that can be used to investigate various accessibility issues with your site. A useful non-technical visualisation of some aspects of the accessibility of your site can be gained by submitting your site's address to the Wave Accessibility Tool This checks other things as well as alternative text (help and explanations are provided on the site).

For checking the alternative text, look out for the following icons:
ICON this indicates missing alternative text -- a clear failure.
ICON this indicates where alternative text is supplied. Check that the text provides equivalent information to the image.

Understanding some of the basic issues with respect to how a site is built and maintained will help you get the most from your audit.