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7 Questions to Ask During ADA Compliance Testing

Designer doing ADA compliant website test

Asking the right questions during compliance testing for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) helps guide your organization through the process. People with disabilities make up one of the world’s largest minorities.¹ This group can’t use countless websites because they aren’t built for accessibility.

According to the National Business & Disability Council at The Viscardi Center in Albertson, New York, at least 90 percent of U.S. government and e-commerce websites have barriers that prevent people with disabilities from using them.²

However, this doesn’t have to be the case. Barrier-free websites are fully achievable with the right expertise. Barriers are problematic for two reasons:

  1. The companies behind inaccessible websites are violating the ADA and Section 508 by failing to make sure people with disabilities can use their products and services.
  2. These companies are pushing a significant group of potential customers towards competitors.

According to Pew Research, more than three-quarters of Americans with disabilities are using the Internet.³

At best, barriers make a web page difficult to use. At worst, barriers make a web page impossible to use.

Screen readers 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. You couldn’t blame these consumers for leaving the website.

An ADA-compliant website has removed barriers. It meets specific technical requirements and follows the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The WCAG 2.0 guidelines show organizations how to reach ADA website accessibility compliance. When compliant, a site is accessible to a wide range of people with various kinds of disabilities.

The average business owner likely isn’t exceedingly familiar with ADA technical requirements. However, there are barrier testing tools and web accessibility evaluation tools out there that claim to check if your website is ADA-compliant.

There are hundreds of web accessibility testing tools to pick from. You certainly can’t run them all, so how do you choose the right one? Here are seven questions to help you make the right choice.

1. Is it recommended by an independent firm?

A company that makes money from a particular website testing tool is going to promote it over other options. Look for independent experts or firms that have listed their top choices and best-reviewed evaluation tools. Look for sources 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 in the industry? Is it from a company nobody’s ever heard of that seems only interested in your credit card number? There are many reliable free and premium web accessibility testing tools from established groups and individuals looking to make the web a better place. However, reputation can go a long way when choosing tools.

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

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) maintains a list of Web Accessibility Evaluations Tools.4 The list includes well over 100 different kinds of website audit tools. W3C’s list is a great starting point. The tools are searchable by:

  • Type of tool.
  • Accessibility guidelines (WCAG 2.0 or WCAG 2.1) it tests.
  • Device type (desktop computers ormobile devices).
  • File formats like PDF documents.
  • Checking scope (page or site).
  • Etc.

4. What standards or guidelines does it use?

There are all kinds of accessibility guidelines 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 2.0, which are the most universally accepted when it comes to online accessibility.

If someone files an accessibility complaint against your organization for failing to reach WCAG 2.0 standards, the U.S. Department of Justice can enforce legal penalties.

5. Does it test for various levels of WCAG conformance?

WCAG 2.0 describes three levels of accessibility: A, AA, and AAA. Level AA is usually the target level. The website test you choose should make distinctions between these three levels.

6. Does it check for multiple types of barriers?

Some audit tools look for several accessibility problems while others focus on just one. If you want to know whether your website is ADA compliant, testing just one or two features won’t be much help. These tools are also intended to be used alongside manual testing.

7. What kind of report does it produce?

All ADA-compliant website tests will generate a report when you run them, but some reports will be more useful to you than others. Your organization can look at many aspects of reporting like:

  • 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?
  • Does it test the experience for multiple operating systems?
  • Does it test on multiple web browsers?
  • Can you understand the report, or is it filled with too much jargon?

Automated tests have limitations. It is widely accepted within the industry that automated testing only captures 25-to-30 percent of issues. Tools that look for multiple barriers are not exhaustive. Tests can return false positives and false negatives. Many barriers require manual testing via human judgment.

The right ADA-compliant website tests can give you a sense of how accessible your website is for customers with disabilities, and what kinds of barriers exist.

To be confident your website complies 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. Why wonder whether you’re violating the law, when you can take concrete steps to make sure that you’re not?

An Innovative Solution

eSSENTIAL Accessibility has developed a comprehensive accessibility solution to help organizations follow the WCAG to 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 by requesting a demo today.


  1. 2017 Disability Statistics Annual Report Disability Compendium, 2017
  2. The Business Case for Accessible Websites National Business & Disability Council at The Viscardi Center, 2018
  3. 7 Facts About Americans with Disabilities Pew Research, 2017
  4. Web Accessibility Evaluation Tools List W3C Web Accessibility Initiative, 2019

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