A website accessibility checklist is a fairly straightforward method for checking whether or not your site is free of barriers for people with disabilities. It’s not the only way to improve your online accessibility, but it’s an appealing approach because it’s easy to understand and use. Typically, a checklist covers many of the most common problems and how to resolve them.
Removing the digital barriers from a website is critical in order for visitors with disabilities to be able to fully use the site – and consequently spend more time there. Research led by the U.K.’s Business Disability Forum showed that 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 Thus you may not even be aware of the business you’ve just lost.
There’s no convincing reason not to ensure that a website is accessible. 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. In fact, accessible websites are easier to navigate, are more intuitive for all users, and are better optimized for search engines.
There are various website accessibility checklists available. Besides listing the issues to look for and how to fix them, 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 – usually, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 published by the World Wide Web Consortium.
What Might Be Included on the Checklist
A thorough checklist will address many different types of digital barriers, ensuring that accessibility is considered for people who are blind, have low vision, are deaf, have difficulty using their hands, use assistive technology and/or have a seizure disorder, among others. These categories include:
- Alternative text (alt text) for images. A person who can’t see may be using a screen reader to interpret what’s on the page. The alt text is necessary for the non-text elements on the page.
- Text resizing. A person with low vision may need to enlarge the page. The text must still display properly when it’s enlarged.
- Keyboard navigation. A person who doesn’t have the hand dexterity to use a mouse may be using arrow keys or assistive technology (e.g. a sip-and-puff device or voice-controlled navigation). The website should be operable this way.
- Page titles. Individual pages should have titles, and these should be brief yet sufficiently descriptive. This enables a person using a screen reader to know what page they’re on as soon as they land there.
- Flashing and blinking. For some people with epilepsy, seizures can be triggered by flickering lights. 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.
- Color contrast. Some people with vision disabilities can only read text if there’s enough contrast (dark/bright) with the background color.
A checklist may also cover features of the page’s structure – checking, for instance, that subsections of a page have clear headings to make them easier to navigate, or that the information on the page will be read in proper order by a screen reader.
A good checklist should harmonize with WCAG 2.0, as it contains the most comprehensive and universal technical requirements for online accessibility.
The Pros and Cons of a Checklist
There are several reasons why website accessibility checklists can be useful:
- For the most part, they’re generally quick and easy to use.
- They are informative. Checklists can help you learn about some of the essential components of an accessible website, especially if these concepts are new to you.
- They give you a 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.
- They may include helpful resources. Often, there are links to additional evaluation tools that can provide more guidance than a basic checklist.
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.
- Because it may not be thorough, a checklist could give you a false sense that your website contains no barriers.
- 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, rather than rely on a checklist. It 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 the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and achieve and maintain compliance with standards and regulations. This includes integrating web compliance evaluation services with assistive technology to deliver a transformative experience for people with disabilities. Learn more about eSSENTIAL ACCESSIBILITY’s innovative solution.
- Click-Away Pound Survey 2016 – Final Report Click-Away, 2017.