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What to look for in an accessibility audit

A woman holding her fingers round her eyes to imitate glasses on her face

If you’re totally new to web accessibility (which you shouldn’t be, we’ve been talking about it for years!), an audit is a fantastic first step in seeing where the land lies as it is, today.

An audit features both manual and automated testing, completed by experts. They will use technology to help them. An in-depth audit is a close review of accessibility and cannot be done by automated testing alone.

We’re going to explain what an audit is and what a good one looks like. Then if you’re ready, we’re going to ask you contact us so we can work on your audit together.

Accessibility should be your priority

Your organisation should care about accessibility.

There are many reasons why including legal compliance and risk. Ignoring accessibility can leave you in the firing line for receiving a huge fine if you’re a public sector body.

How we use the internet has changed. Today, your customers expect eCommerce and interact with it every day.

Why should you meet these expectations? Well, an inclusive website or web application means you’re inviting the most amount of people possible to use it and interact with your business. Are you going to say that’s not something you want?

Types of Accessibility Audits

There isn’t one kind of audit. You should know the differences to know what you need. If you’re exclusively focused on compliance, a risk audit might be for you. This tests the more severe barriers that could lead to litigation or cause a compliance failure.

Let’s check out what we can help you with:

  • Level-of-effort (LOE) Audit: This report tells you the level and potential cost of addressing your accessibility issues. It’ll give you an idea of how many pages need looking at and how many issues there are on those pages.
  • Risk Audit: This will highlight any critical or severe issues your users will face. It won’t tell you how to fix them.
  • Detailed Audit: This uses the latest WCAG standards. It uses both manual and automated testing and will go into the level of detail you choose. This report will come with recommendations to address the issues found.
  • Screen Reader Acceptance Testing: Here, our team will test the difficulty of completing a given task and provide a rating. This will look at the user flow for assistive technology, browser or given version of OS.
  • Validation Audit: This is done on a web page or web application. It can be done on a PDF or mobile app, though fixing the issue is complicated.
  • Usability Testing: It’s important to know that accessibility doesn’t automatically equal usability. This particular test will highlight what is usable for people with a disability.
  • Design Audits: This refers to UX and UI wireframes and comprehensive designs for developers to work accessibility requirements into the site.

If you’ve read this and you’re not sure which kind would be best suited to you, let’s have a chat and we can walk through your requirements.

The Scope of an Accessibility Audit

Accessibility applies to digital assets and interfaces. Mostly, the focus is on the internet, like a website or webpage. A digital asset can also refer to audio, video, desktop software or a native mobile app (and physical items, but that’s a different area altogether).

If it exists digitally, it can be audited for accessibility. It’s easy to start with a website because that’s what the majority of your customers will use. Remember when you’re scoping an audit that it should include the interfaces your tester will look at.

Consider the browsers the audit will focus on and include the assistive technologies. Getting value from your audit doesn’t mean testing all assistive technologies on all browsers. Think about how to best catch the majority of your issues by considering what your users use.

You’ll also have to consider which pages and screens you want to test. If you’re heading into your first audit you might be tempted to test everything. The best Return on Investment on a first-time audit will be to highlight the key entrance points of your site, the main paths, the pages receiving the most traffic and the most critical user flows. You’ll get an idea of the major accessibility issues you need to address on your core elements. Fixing these as a priority will increase usability.

WCAG Standards — What are they?

To start an accessibility audit, it’s important you know about the standards being used for testing.

The most widely-used standard for this is called Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG, currently at version 2.1). It’s a definitive set of guidelines needed to create accessible web content. It’s

WCAG outline levels of conformance. The most recent levels are A, AA and AAA (no, we’re not yelling). Essentially this is basic, intermediate and advanced (aaadvanced).

As you’ve gathered, level A is the least demanding level. It will help with barriers for those with blindness, deafness or motor disabilities.

AA will highlight barriers for those with cognitive or low vision needs, while complying with A.

If you’re not legally bound to comply with WCAG, it’s worthwhile bringing your site’s standards in line with compliance of at least WCAG 2.1 A and AA anyway.

Logistics

If accessibility is brand spanking new to your organisation, you need an expert to help. There are established methodologies for providing you with a measure of accessibility. As we’ve said, this means manual and automated testing. Whichever standard you’re using to test against, the former is always needed for full compliance.

Any good accessibility partner (like us) will work with a proven methodology for accuracy, consistency and comprehensivity.

When you’re deciding who to work with, there are two questions you should ask to gain confidence in your partner:

  • What qualifications do you have?
  • What experience do you have?

Because, at least in the UK, WCAG compliance has become a legal requirement, many agencies have seen this as a business opportunity to meet the influx of demand for accessibility services. Work with a company who can prove themselves.

We thought it would be a good idea to undergo an accessibility audit on our own website and you can download that here.

What does a good accessibility audit look like?

Delivery

If your partner fully understands your goals, they will know how to deliver. We have a culture of collaboration at Code Enigma, so we create a team that’s made up of us and you. We take the time to understand your business goals so we can work the accessibility project into the overall actions you’re taking to achieve them.

Format

A good report won’t be hard to read. It’ll give you a summary of the issues found, the impact it’s having on what users and, most importantly, how to fix those things (ideally to become WCAG compliant).

We like to pose the audit in a way that illustrates user perspective. We’ll undergo user testing to make sure everything we do is user-centric.

We provide a report that clearly tells you:

  • Our testing methodology
  • Clear statistics regarding your issues
  • How this is impacting your users
  • Specific comments on the number of issues and where they are
  • What to do about it

This report makes the next steps of implementing them a lot easier. You’ll soon reach your compliance goals.

Final Thoughts

A hand holding the thumb and little finger out in a telephone gesture

An audit is your first step on the accessibility journey. And, to be cheesy for a moment, you must remember that it is a journey and not a destination because accessibility never stops.

You won’t be expected to know what accessibility changes you need to make. A good partner will collaborate with you and you’ll work that out together. If you think Code Enigma might be a good fit for you, let’s talk.

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Code Enigma is a community of creative souls and the technically brilliant, dedicated to building a better world wide web.

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Maygen Jacques

Maygen Jacques

Marketing Manager for web design, development and hosting agency, @CodeEnigma. Hold my drink, I’ll be right back…

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