Website accessibility checklists provide a straightforward method for checking if your site is free of barriers for people with disabilities. While there are many effective methods to improve your organization’s online accessibility, a website accessibility checklist has great appeal because it is easy to understand and use. The checklist covers the most common website accessibility problems and guides your organization towards resolution.
Digital barrier removal is critical for visitors with disabilities to fully access your site. According to the U.K.’s Business Disability Forum, when potential customers with disabilities encounter problems such as forms they can’t fill out, or images they can’t decipher, they usually leave the site without giving any feedback to the business owner.¹ It’s very difficult for your organization to find out about barriers when the people affected either can’t or won’t inform you about the problems. You may not even be aware of the business you’ve just lost.
According to the CDC, more than 50 million people in America are living with disabilities.² That number is even larger when your organization serves an international audience, so there’s little reason not to ensure that your website is accessible. It simply does not make business sense to leave out such a large share of the population. Those unfamiliar with digital accessibility sometimes assume that it’s expensive or complicated to implement, that it’s unattractive, or that it detracts from the online experience: none of these assumptions are true. Accessible websites are easier to navigate, are more intuitive for all users, and are better optimized for search engines.
Choosing the right website accessibility checklist for your organization is an important decision. Besides listing common issues and fixes, checklists may also explain why these issues are problematic for people with disabilities. They may even link to more extensive technical information as a reference including the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 and WCAG 2.1 update.
What Might Be Included in a Checklist
A thorough checklist will address many types of digital barriers. Those barriers include accessibility complications for people who are blind, have low vision, are deaf, have difficulty using their hands, use assistive technology, have a seizure disorder, and more.
These categories include:
- Alternative Text for Images: A person with blindness or a major vision problem may be using a screen reader to interpret what’s on the page. Without accurately descriptive alt-text for non-text elements on the page, the person may have a difficult time understanding the page.
- Text Resizing: Resizable text helps people with low vision make a page’s text larger, so they have an easier time reading it. This can be a design challenge because the text must still display properly when it’s enlarged. Images with embedded or overlay text can be difficult to work with.
- Keyboard Navigation: A person who doesn’t have the hand dexterity to use a mouse may be using arrow keys or an assistive technology (like a sip-and-puff device or voice-controlled navigation). The website should be operable this way.
- Page Titles: Individual pages should have unique titles that are brief and sufficiently descriptive. This enables a person using a screen reader to know what page they’re on as soon as they land there. Better page titles also improve SEO performance.
- Flashing and Blinking Content Elements: Flickering lights can trigger seizures for people with epilepsy. Web content that flashes or blinks should do so at a slow enough rate to avoid this risk.
- Video and Audio Content: People who can’t hear won’t know what’s being said in a video unless it’s captioned or a text transcript is available. People who can’t see won’t have access to the visual information in a video unless there’s audio or text description available. Video and audio accessibility features also assist people using your content who can’t watch or listen to multimedia content at the moment when using your site.
- Color Contrast: Some people with vision disabilities can only read the text if there’s enough contrast between the text and the background color.
Checklists may also delve into page structure concepts like using heading tags for navigation purposes and checking if screen readers go through the content in the proper order.
A good checklist should harmonize with WCAG 2.0 and WCAG 2.1, as it contains the most comprehensive and universal technical requirements for online accessibility.
The Pros and Cons of a Checklist
Your organization has a lot to gain by using a checklist for the following reasons:
- For the most part, checklists are quick and easy to use. The concept is easy to understand and easy to complete.
- Checklists are informative. Checklists can help you learn about the essential components of an accessible website, especially if these concepts are new to you. This can help establish an accessibility culture at your organization.
- Checklists cover the general idea of your current level of web accessibility. By using the checklist, you should quickly have a sense of how much work is to be done to bring your website into compliance with accessibility standards.
- Checklists may lead to helpful resources. Checklists frequently include links to additional evaluation tools that can provide more guidance.
However, web accessibility checklists also have disadvantages:
- Checklists aren’t usually exhaustive. They don’t cover every issue, so you won’t learn everything there is to know about website accessibility from a checklist. A checklist is a great starting point; however, it doesn’t guarantee Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 508 compliance.
- A checklist could give you a false sense that your website contains no barriers. There’s no way for a checklist to cover every possible barrier, especially those that are unique to your organization’s content.
- There are usually no step-by-step instructions for completely removing all barriers from your site, nor are there automatic features that can achieve this for you.
If there are accessibility problems with your site, you may need to consult an expert who can address them properly. Working with an expert consultant may be the only way to ensure your website is fully usable by visitors who have disabilities.
An Innovative Solution
eSSENTIAL Accessibility has developed a comprehensive accessibility solution to help organizations follow WCAG and achieve and maintain compliance with accessibility standards and regulations. If you haven’t already, your organization can begin the barrier removal process by leveraging our interactive WCAG 2.1 checklist available for download today.