There’s a general debate in the web accessibility community about the best way an organization can perform a website accessibility audit. Many believe that manual audits are better than automated audits, but I beg to differ. First, it is important to note that web technologies are incredibly dynamic. Furthermore, regulatory laws are constantly being reviewed, and with each review comes new recommendations.
In 2018, the European Standards Organizations published an updated version of the EN 301 549 “Accessibility requirements for ICT products and services”, in which they referenced the WCAG 2.1 directly; as opposed to the previous version which merely included WCAG 2.0 as an “electronic attachment”.
The only way to consistently stay compliant and provide the best possible accessible experience for your customers is with the help of an automated web accessibility audit tool. It quickly adapts to any changes in technology and regulations. Plus, automated solutions are incredibly fast and efficient.
🔎Top Tip: Find the most suitable web accessibility audit tool for your business.
What Is an Accessibility Audit and Why Should I Audit My Website?
An accessibility audit is a detailed analysis of a website (both background and foreground elements) to determine whether it is up to acceptable web accessibility standards. Based on the region where you are, there might be some regulations requiring web content to be accessible to people with disabilities. The generally accepted reference material for website accessibility is the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines).
WCAG is an international standard created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an active community of the foremost accessibility specialists and organizations. Although WCAG compliance is not a legal requirement on its own nor is WCAG specifically cited in the ADA as the technical standard to follow, it would still benefit your organization to strive for WCAG compliance. The WCAG standard has been tried and tested and is under routine development by accessibility experts, making it a reliable standard.
I’ll be straight with you, you’re required by the law to enable people with disabilities to access your website. But for your website to be made accessible it first has to go through an audit process to identify the extent to which it doesn’t meet the WCAG standards. Now, for the most part, it’s best to aim for WCAG 2.0 level AA. You can aim higher if you like, but you’ll be safe if your website meets the WCAG 2.0 level AA standards.
Recommendations for Website Accessibility Audit
Make It an Iterative Part of the Web Development Process
A web accessibility audit is best done when your website is being developed, so that appropriate fixes can be initiated. However, if you didn’t do it during the development process, you can still do it here with Equally AI’s free accessibility audit tool. We’ll give you a standard audit for free with elaborate reports and recommendations for fixes.
Perform Audits Regularly as You Scale
Accessibility audits don’t end after you comply with the WCAG standards. As long as your website experiences growth, the tendency to break something exists. Make accessibility audits a regular part of your yearly plan. You can’t be too careful; you don’t want to receive a demand letter after your latest website upgrade. Endeavor to perform frequent audits and fixes.
Establish Internal Standing Policies
Educate your staff on accessibility best practices. Organize webinars to demonstrate the importance of web accessibility in your operations procedures.
Incorporate your accessibility goals into other policies and procedures. Thus, responsibility will be spread, and accessibility will become a daily part of life.
Regularly Consult with People Who Live With Disabilities
This is a very important practice that a lot of companies overlook. Every now and then, you should invite web accessibility consultants living with disabilities to test your systems for conformance. No one knows the difficulties related to navigating an inaccessible website like people who use screen readers and other assistive technologies.
Think You Can Handle It All by Yourself
A web accessibility audit is a complex and iterative process. You may not be able to handle all the intricacies and technicalities it has. Don’t make the mistake of performing an audit by yourself without the insight of a trained professional or a web accessibility solution. You run the risk of relying on false results to fix your website. A demand letter might just be knocking at the door.
Assume an accessibility statement and a web accessibility policy are the same.
A web accessibility statement publicly declares your commitment to ensuring that your website is accessible. You post this online (on your website). On the other hand, a web accessibility policy directs your organization’s internal decisions and procedures about accessibility.
Customers and clients might not be interested in hearing about your accessibility policy. Instead, you should disseminate it among relevant departments in your organization, alongside any necessary training.
Assume It’s a One-off Process
As mentioned earlier, a web accessibility audit is not a one-off process. You can’t simply perform an audit, make the recommended fixes and forget all about it. Well, actually you can if you’re using an automated web accessibility solution like Equally AI.
Ignore third-party vendors.
Often, you may need to purchase technologies or content from third-party vendors to supplement your internal efforts. However, you must ensure that such external resources do not re-introduce accessibility barriers that exclude people with disabilities.
Make sure that your third-party vendors are aware of your accessibility policy. Also, include a contract clause that demands vendors’ products meet or exceed your technical accessibility requirements.
➡️You’ll find our article on this topic very helpful: How To Mitigate Non-compliance Risks From Inaccessible Third-Party Content
- A web accessibility audit is an iterative process of analyzing a website to determine its level of conformance to established guidelines.
- It’s best done by experts who can handle your website as you scale.
- Performing an audit by yourself may predispose you to legal risks.
- Making your website accessible is the right thing to do and it begins with an accessibility audit