Accessibility Checker: A First Step in Engaging a Wider Audience

Designer using an accessibility checker

When digital properties such as websites are designed to be accessible, it means they can be used by people with different types of disabilities. It means that audio content is captioned for people who are deaf, visual content has text alternatives for people who are blind, timeout features can be adjusted or turned off for people who read or type slowly, and so on.

In order to know for sure whether or not a website or app is accessible, it needs to be designed, evaluated or remediated by experts who are familiar with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, the world’s most widely accepted guidelines for digital accessibility. A quick way, however, for someone to know whether or not their digital properties might have disability barriers is to use an accessibility checker.

An accessibility checker is an automated tool, so it doesn’t catch all problems, and it certainly doesn’t do the job of fixing them. A full evaluation and remediation of a website or mobile app always requires human expertise. However, an accessibility checker can give organizations a general sense of any accessibility-related problems associated with their websites, apps and documents.

Learn more about web accessibility testing, why it’s necessary and how it’s done.

Types of Accessibility Checkers

Some software programs include an accessibility checker as an incorporated feature, just like a spell checker. For example, you can run the “Check Accessibility” option in Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint when you’re working on a document. This feature highlights areas of the document that might be problematic for people with disabilities.1

Other accessibility checkers are designed to test online content. AChecker is a free online tool that checks individual web pages and reports any known, likely or potential barriers that may affect people with disabilities. 2

When accessibility checkers are used, and are followed up by a consultation with an expert, it’s an important step towards ensuring your digital content can be used by the over 60 million Americans with disabilities. There’s no question that this is essential. Civil rights laws have long made it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities. Furthermore, jurisdictions all over the world now specify that digital content must comply with the technical requirements of WCAG 2.0.

Barrier-Free Can Be Beautiful

Organization leaders unfamiliar with digital accessibility may worry that if their content follows WCAG 2.0, it’s inevitably going to be less appealing to people without disabilities. This is a common myth, and it’s absolutely untrue. It’s important to keep in mind that a captivating website has nothing to do with its accessibility features, and everything to do with the inspiration and expertise of its web designers.

As the DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Inter-networking, and Technology) Center at the University of Washington explains in an article, “Both accessible and inaccessible websites can be ugly and boring. And, there are both accessible and inaccessible websites that are attractive and creative in design. Using standards, including accessibility standards, merely creates a foundation on which consistent websites are efficiently created and maintained.”3

Look at it another way: When you run an accessibility checker, it doesn’t care if your website is artistic or visionary. It only tests whether or not someone with a disability will run into barriers while trying to engage with it.

A Wider Audience for Accessibility

Furthermore, what leaders often don’t realize is that following WCAG 2.0 means your content is much more usable by other segments of the population, not only people with disabilities.

Consider that accessible content has more options for using it in different and helpful ways: captions, text alternatives, written transcripts, keyboard navigation, logical tabbing orders between field, resizable text, less distracting clutter, fewer timeouts. These accessibility features are immensely helpful for a very wide range of people. They include:

  • People in mobile environments.
  • People who are not fluent in English.
  • Seniors. People who are older many have age-related decline that can affect their ability to perform tasks.
  • Multi-taskers. Engaging in more than one activity at once has an impact on a user’s cognitive performance.
  • People with temporary injuries. Accessible websites are easier to use when a user is suddenly unable to function at the level they’re accustomed to.
  • New and inexperienced technology users. Today, 88 percent of American adults go online, according to the Pew Research Center. This number has been steadily rising.

Recently, the center studied the behaviors of new Internet users. It reported that a majority of these users needed technical help going online. Furthermore, this group tended to be older in age, and had less education, than more experienced users.4 Websites that follow the technical requirements of WCAG 2.0 will have more success delivering a quality online experience to this demographic.

More Business Benefits

According to the World Wide Web Consortium, the international group behind the development of WCAG 2.0, accessible websites also have other benefits for the bottom line besides a wider audience. They have superior search engine optimization (SEO), compared to websites riddled with barriers – they come up more often in search results. They are also less costly to maintain. 5

Using an accessibility checker to look for barriers on your website or in your document will give you an idea of how well you’re meeting the needs of these target groups. But it shouldn’t stop there. If an automated checker does identify potential accessibility problems with your digital properties, your best next move is to reach out to an expert consultant who can conduct a thorough evaluation. Find out how you can reach out to, and improve the user experience for, a much wider audience.

An Innovative Solution

eSSENTIAL ACCESSIBILITY has developed a comprehensive accessibility solution to help organizations follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and achieve and maintain compliance with standards and regulations. This includes integrating web compliance evaluation and remediation services with assistive technology to deliver a transformative experience for people with disabilities. Learn more about eSSENTIAL ACCESSIBILITY’s innovative solution.

References

  1. Use the Accessibility Checker on Your Windows Desktop to Find Accessibility Issues Microsoft, 2016
  2. Web Accessibility Checker AChecker, 2011
  3. Web Accessibility: Guidelines for Administrators Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology, 2015
  4. First-time Internet Users: Who They Are and What They Do When They Get Online Pew Research, 2017
  5. Accessibility W3C, 2017

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