Contents of the audit report
Audit report format
The key deliverable from your web accessibility audit will be a report. The report should record the findings of the audit and recommend actions to improve accessibility.
There is no set format for such reports but a report should contain enough detail for your technical staff to act to improve accessibility where required.
At the same time, other sections of the report should be written for non-technical staff if they are the intended audience. (For example, required changes to content should be written for the content team.)
The report should not be any longer than it has to be to accommodate the key information:
- Background and methodology;
- Prioritised action list, with suggested fixes and timeline;
- Appendix of audit detail.
Any report longer than 15 pages should contain a table of contents.
The report summary (sometimes called an executive summary) should contain the key points of the report in very condensed form. It should contain about 400 words, summarising all sections of the report but with most emphasis on the report's findings and what should happen in response.
The summary should be written in plain, non-technical language as far as possible. Its intended audience is anyone involved in or interested in the website.
Background and methodology
The background and methodology section should contain the what, where, who detail of the audit, including:
- The goals of the site;
- The reason for the audit;
- A summary of the audit requirements;
- Who carried out the audit and when;
- What methodology the audit used;
- What the page sample was;
- The WCAG level for which the site was audited.
Each report should contain a section containing the findings of the audit. You will probably want to know straight away if your website achieves conformance rating Single-A, Double-A or Triple-A with the WCAG. It should also give a high-level description of some of the main issues. For example, it may report that the site contains a substantial number of images that did not have alternative text. It should not, however, list every image without alternative text. This information should be presented in a detailed appendix.
This section should be longer than the summary but not a page-by-page description of every accessibility check.
Prioritised action list
To help you to remedy accessibility problems uncovered in the audit, a key component of the report is an action list. This should contain enough detail to rectify the problems identified.
In some cases, this may be an exact fix. For example, where absolute font sizes are used on the site it should suggest a fix such as: "Replace absolute font size of 12pt for the body style in file mysite.CSS with a relative size of 80%." In other cases, the action may be more generic, e.g. "Ensure that all staff handling images are aware of the need for appropriate alt text and have the skills to create it."
In either event, the action should be clear and unambiguous. Carrying out the action, as described, should be enough to deal with the accessibility problem identified.
The accessibility auditors should also prioritise the actions recommended. This should be done primarily on the basis of gravity: a Level A breach is more significant than a Level Double-A breach, even if the target is to have none of either.
The prioritisation can also take account of how easy or otherwise it is to rectify a breach. "Quick wins" that improve accessibility in the short term should not be deferred just because there are more grave breaches that will take longer to rectify.
The action list should also contain a timeline or roadmap giving an outline of the timescale involved. Timescale is, of course, highly dependent on the budget and other resources available. However, it is still worthwhile to have accessibility specialists set out their view on a realistic timescale to deliver fixes.
Audit detail - appendix
There will probably be further detail arising from the audit. This might include the results from automated tools. The findings of these tools and the actions arising from those findings should be covered in the body of the report.
The results from the tools do not belong in the body of an action-oriented report but it can be included in an appendix. An example of an audit template taken from the WAI website is included for reference in the appendix of this document. Likewise, the completed audit template for each page should be included in an appendix. In this way, supporting detail is available for future reference without cluttering the main report text.
The organisation of detailed appendices may vary. The essential requirement is a full listing of:
- Audit checkpoints;
- Pages checked;
- Conformance of the pages checked with the audit checkpoints.