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7 Questions to Ask When Testing Your Website for ADA Compliance


According to The World Bank, 15% of the world’s population experiences some form of disability. Is your website able to serve this significant portion of the population?

Designer doing ADA compliant website test

Unfortunately, countless websites exist that cannot be read or used by members of the world’s largest minority. According to the National Business & Disability Council at The Viscardi Center in Albertson, New York, at least 90 percent of government and e-commerce websites in the U.S. alone have barriers that prevent people with disabilities from using them.

This is despite the fact that barrier-free websites are fully achievable with the right expertise.

Companies that maintain inaccessible websites are violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to make sure people with disabilities can use their products and services.

According to Pew Research, more than three-quarters of Americans with disabilities are using the Internet. When a person with a disability encounters a website that isn’t accessible, these barriers can have a negative impact on their online experience. For example, if the person is blind, their screen-reading software won’t be able to interpret any images that haven’t had text alternatives added to them. If the person has a physical disability and is using something other than a mouse to control their computer, they won’t be able to switch between fields if they aren’t tabbed properly.

An ADA-compliant website, on the other hand, has these and other barriers removed. It meets specific technical requirements that ensure a website will be accessible to a wide range of people with various kinds of disabilities. However, not all organizations are exceedingly familiar with these technical requirements.

This is why a wide variety of tests exist that claim to check whether or not your website is ADA-compliant. These are automated, as they test for the presence or absence of specific features and typically display the results or automatically generate a report for you.

You certainly can’t run them all, so how do you choose the right one? And how do you know you can rely on it? Here are seven questions to help you make the right choice.

1. Is the ADA website compliant test recommended by an independent firm?

A company that makes money from the sales of a particular website testing tool is going to promote it over other options. Look for independent experts or firms that have listed the evaluation tools they consider to be useful, or have written positive reviews, without something to gain from endorsing particular products.

2. Was it developed by a reliable organization?

Who’s behind the testing software? Has it been developed by a reputable group or consortium in the industry? Or is it from a company nobody’s ever heard of that seems only interested in your credit card number?

3. Is it on the W3C Web Accessibility Evaluation Tools List?

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) maintains a list of Web Accessibility Evaluations Tools. It includes almost 100 different kinds of website audit tools and is often a good place to start. The tools are searchable by type of tool, accessibility guidelines it tests against, etc.

4. What standards or guidelines does it use?

There are all kinds of accessibility guidelines out there, from Section 508 requirements to the Irish National IT Accessibility Guidelines. If you specifically want to test whether your website is ADA compliant, the audit tools you use should be referring to the technical requirements of WCAG, which are the most universally accepted when it comes to online accessibility.

5. Does it test for various levels of WCAG 2.0 conformance? What about WCAG 2.1?

WCAG 2.0 describes three levels of accessibility, from minimum to highest: A, AA and AAA. Level AA is usually the target level, since it’s more serviceable than level A, and not as difficult to achieve as level AAA. The website test you choose should make distinctions between these three levels.

WCAG 2.1 is a newer, updated model of WCAG 2.0, which encompasses WCAG 2.1. It’s ideal for an ADA compliant test to include WCAG 2.1 compliance, but the federal government is still using WCAG 2.0.

6. Does it check for multiple types of barriers?

Some audit tools look for many different kinds of accessibility problems. Others only check for one type of barrier, such as use of color. If you want to know whether your website is ADA compliant, testing just one or two features won’t be much help.

7. What kind of report does it produce?

Every ADA website compliance test will generate a report when you run it, but some reports will be more useful to you than others. How detailed is the report? Do you have the option to choose different kinds of reports, depending on your needs? Does it provide step-by-step, code-level examples of how the accessibility problems can be solved? And can you understand the report, or is it filled with too much jargon?

Limitation to be aware of

Although ADA compliance tests are helpful, it’s important to remember that automated testing has its limitations. It is widely accepted within the accessibility industry that automated testing only captures 25 – 30% of issues. Even a test that looks for multiple kinds of barriers at once is typically not exhaustive. It may also give false positives and false negatives. Plus, there are many additional areas of a website to check that require human judgment – an automated test won’t be applicable for these areas.

The right ADA website compliance test can certainly be useful. They can give you a sense of how accessible your website is for customers with disabilities, and what kinds of barriers might be preventing them from being able to browse or fill out forms, for example. But in order to be confident your website is in full compliance with the ADA, it’s best to have a thorough accessibility evaluation done by experts. They will perform a variety of checks, not just automated testing. They can also provide remediation services and routine audits.

Interested in learning how eSSENTIAL Accessibility can help? Connect with us today to learn we can help you test your website for ADA compliance with our automated testing tool, but layer on functional/manual testing and continuous monitoring and remediation to ensure your digital customer experience is fully accessible and compliant across the board.

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