A Guide to Your First Website Accessibility Audit

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Whether you run an online-only business or maintain a website to support your brick and mortar operations, your website is often your first point of contact with customers. However, if your website is not accessible to users with disabilities, you risk missing out on a potential customer base that makes up 16% of the world’s population. Performing a website accessibility audit will help you identify potential accessibility issues and resolve them before they affect your users and business.

We will discuss the concept of accessibility, what an accessibility audit is, and common issues that appear in an accessibility audit. We will also give you ideas for resolving these issues without spending too much time or resources.

What is an accessibility audit?

Digital accessibility consists of a set of practices that help individuals with disabilities use websites and other online resources such as multimedia content and apps. These practices are codified in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which is the most widely used set of accessibility standards worldwide. Many countries and regions with accessibility laws, such as the United States with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the European Union with the European Accessibility Act, refer to the WCAG to determine whether a website is accessible.

An accessibility audit uses the WCAG as a yardstick for assessing the accessibility of your website. The WCAG contains a list of success criteria that will determine whether or not your website can be used by individuals with disabilities effectively. These success criteria are divided into different WCAG conformance levels (A, AA, and AAA) with increasingly stringent requirements for compliance. The end product of an accessibility audit is an accessibility report that contains the audit’s findings and suggestions to make your website more accessible.

Common accessibility audit findings and how to resolve them

If this is your first time conducting an accessibility audit, chances are your website does not yet meet the minimum standards set by the WCAG. That’s why you’re reading this article – you need to know what to watch out for and how to make things right. Here are some common accessibility audit findings and recommendations for resolving them.

1.   Low color contrast

For a user to understand your website, it needs to be readable first. However, many websites have an unacceptable level of readability because of low color contrast ratios. The contrast ratio tells you how much text stands out against its background. For instance, black text on a white background has a very high contrast ratio (21:1). The WCAG recommends a minimum color contrast ratio of 3:1 for text 16pt or larger and 4.5:1 for 12pt text. You also need to avoid color combinations that are difficult to read for users with color blindness, such as green text on a red background.

2.   Missing alt text

Images add context and variety to text content. However, users with visual impairments cannot see them, which makes it difficult for them to identify products on a sales website. Adding alt text to your images will allow these users to identify images and make informed purchasing decisions. Your image alt text should be descriptive enough to allow sight-impaired users to tell between two products that appear slightly different. For example, instead of using the alt text “diver’s watch” to describe two similar products, you may instead use “diver’s watch with blue sunburst dial and blue bezel” and “diver’s watch with red sunburst dial and red bezel”.

3.   Lack of screen reader support

Many users with motor impairments cannot use a mouse, trackpad, or touchscreen to navigate websites. These users depend on screen readers to get to specific spots on web pages, such as text content sections, forms, links, or buttons. To help screen readers with navigating your website, you need to add heading and subheading tags to your content. You also need to ensure that links and other interactive website elements have labels that describe the desired action, such as “Go to payment page” or “Return to previous menu”.

Website accessibility audit: Useful insights for greater inclusivity

Your website needs to be accessible if you want your business to maximize its reach. A website accessibility audit will check your website for potential accessibility issues, such as missing alt text, insufficient color contrast, or improper text formatting. Identifying and resolving these issues will benefit not only users with disabilities, but all other users too. When your business embraces accessibility and inclusivity, the user experience also improves significantly, leading to increased traffic, improved customer satisfaction, and higher levels of brand loyalty.

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