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6 quick tools to test for accessibility

By
The Big Hack
There are several automated tools that test against global accessibility standards. Use these quick web tools to find out how accessible your website is.

Being able to use websites is an important part of independent living for many disabled people. It can be the difference between being able to order their groceries online or having to ask somebody to do their shopping for them.

It’s been more than ten years since WebAIM published the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). But still, less than 2% of websites are accessible.

Use the following tools for a basic accessibility audit.

Note, automated tests only give you a basic analysis of how accessible your site is. An automated audit is not as comprehensive as a manual audit.

They can report on automatic fails, but not necessarily the user experience.

Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool (Free)

Powered by non-profit organisation WebAIM (Web Accessibility In Mind). Consider this website like a deep dive MOT tester for your car. The tool evaluates live web pages and organises any issues it finds into a left-hand panel. It sorts these into structural elements, HTML 5, ARIA and contrast errors. It also highlights missing alt-text.

Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool

Contrast Ratio (Free)

An invaluable tool for graphic designers, illustrators and people working within branding. This tool indicates how drastic the gradient is between two colours, written in ratios like 1:4. The greater the difference between the two numbers, the easier it will be to read.

WCAG guidelines state that large text should have a contrast ratio of at least 3:1. This allows people with colour deficiencies to distinguish between text elements.

Contrast Ratio tool

Google Lighthouse Accessibility Audit (Free)

Did you know you can get a quick review of how accessible your site is using simple Chrome Developer Tools? Available through Google Lighthouse Accessibility Audit, all you need to do is install Chrome.

The tool gives your website an accessibility rating out of 100 and offers a breakdown of areas to improve. From a review of HTML structure and buttons to interactive elements. It even has an in-built contrast ratio check.

Google Lighthouse Accessibility Audit

Stark by Adobe (Paid)

It’s hard for developers to imagine what it’s like being colour blind without having a visual deficiency themselves. Fortunately, Adobe’s Stark plugin simulates what it’s like for people living with a range of colour vision deficiencies.

The tool covers common forms of colour blindness like deuteranomaly, (reduced sensitivity to green light), as well as protanomaly, (lowered sensitivity to red light) and tritanomaly (rare, reduced sensitivity to blue light). Comes with integrated contrast checker.

Stark by Adobe

PEAT – Photosensitive Epilepsy Analysis Tool (Free)

Developers and front-end designers are finding more creative ways to build websites. This means more dynamic, interactive features using Javascript, Flash and media-rich software. While great for creativity, it can be problematic for photosensitive epilepsy sufferers.

There are over 18,000 people thought to have photosensitive epilepsy in the UK alone. If you’re designing a website for an international product or service, that audience will be a lot bigger.

It’s obvious that videos with strobe lighting or flashing imagery should not autoplay as a homepage loads. But there are other risks too.

Seizure-inducing content is varied and complex. It can range from bright, rapid flashes to quick transitions between light and dark colours and certain spatial patterns. Even hover over states with excessive styling can cause problems.

The Trace Center’s PEAT tool identifies seizure risks in web content and software and is free for developers to use.

PEAT – Photosensitive Epilepsy Analysis Tool

Use Contrast (Paid)

Smart MacOS app with browser extension. It offers quick access to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) colour contrast ratios. The best part? It works within design software like Sketch, Illustrator and Photoshop.

Use Contrast tool

Test your content with disabled people

That said, the best way to test your website’s accessibility is to ask people with a range of conditions and impairments to try it.

Holding focus groups and ensuring user testing includes people who use screen readers and other assistive technology is a great place to start. Be open to feedback or criticism and be ready to implement those changes.

Which accessibility tools do you use? Get in touch with your recommendations.

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