How a Website Accessibility Checker can Help Make Your Website More Inclusive

Digital accessibility is fast becoming the norm, particularly at both public and private universities. Around 20% of all college undergraduates reported having a disability as of 2015-16, and that percentage is bound to rise with the increased awareness of disability rights, especially among those with mental or cognitive impairments. Students, faculty, and researchers are starting to demand more inclusive online spaces, and online accessibility begins with an honest, detailed assessment of university websites. 

This article will discuss the basics of accessibility checking, the role of a website accessibility checker in ensuring online inclusivity, and different accessibility issues that an accessibility checker can discover and resolve.

What is website accessibility checking?

While your web developers might leave no stone unturned in ensuring accessibility, most websites are not readily accessible to users with disabilities the moment they go live. There are some potential accessibility issues that reveal themselves only when a person with disabilities tries to use your website, and some might not even be obvious until months from website launch. It’s quite clear that pre-live testing has its limitations, and that the only reliable way of finding a significant number of accessibility violations is through testing once a website is already live and running on different devices and screen sizes.

However, this poses a host of other problems. First, searching for potential violations based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) success criteria takes time and can possibly require that the website be taken offline while the check is ongoing. Second, even the best-trained eyes can miss major violations, especially at the code level. Fortunately, accessibility checking is a process that lends itself well to automation. This is where a website accessibility checker proves to be useful.

Benefits of using a website accessibility checker

Like mentioned above, deploying a website accessibility checker streamlines the accessibility checking process. Imagine having to sift through thousands of lines of HTML code in a website with hundreds of pages. A website accessibility checker scans all that code for you, tests them using a variety of scenarios, devices, and screen sizes, and delivers preliminary results in just a matter of minutes. 

Aside from giving you a list of website scanner results, a website accessibility checker provides you with detailed instructions for resolving accessibility violations, along with screenshots of website elements that could trigger violations. It can also tell you which issues should be prioritized. For example, the accessibility report will suggest that you focus on template-level and site-wide accessibility violations that could affect a significant number of web pages and users. This allows you to allocate resources more efficiently. Many website accessibility checkers also integrate seamlessly with project and task management software, allowing you to assign developers to high-impact, high-priority tasks.

What can an accessibility checker discover for you?

Since we’ve already discussed the advantages of a website accessibility checker, let’s explore a few types of accessibility violations that this tool can uncover.

1. Missing alt text

This issue is not readily apparent, but it has an oversized impact on the way users with disabilities experience your website. Images should always be accompanied by a matching alt tag (alt text) that describes the content of the image in a concise, accurate manner. This is particularly important for sales websites where a slight variation in the appearance and description of a product can sway customer preferences.

2. Insufficient color contrast

Readability is one of the most important facets of website accessibility. While the choice of typeface and font size can determine how readable a block of text will be, the color combination used for the text and its background will also affect how readers perceive the content. For example, readers with low vision will have difficulty reading dark gray text on a light gray background, and some users with color blindness will not be able to read red text on a green background. Black text on a white background has a color contrast ratio of 21:1. However, you can use color combinations with a minimum color contrast ratio of 4.5:1.

3. Unorganized text

Much like titles and headings make it easy for book readers to identify sections they find interesting and relevant, heading and subheading tags help search engines index your website and make them visible in search results as answers to questions. This opens up your website to higher traffic. It also helps those who use screen readers and keyboard navigation to browse through your content as these tags serve as section identifiers. 

Automated website accessibility checking for a better user experience

Website accessibility has become non-negotiable, especially for colleges and universities that cater to a diverse population. As the demand for quality education increases, so does the need for accessible websites and other online spaces. A website accessibility checker can help streamline the journey by producing a list of accessibility violations and suggested solutions, thus freeing resources to build learning content and websites with a friendlier, more inclusive user experience.

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