Accessibility Audits

Your constantly-updated definition of Accessibility Audits and collection of videos and articles
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What are Accessibility Audits?

Accessibility audits are critical evaluations that assess how well digital products—like websites or mobile apps—accommodate the needs of individuals with disabilities, to ensure compliance with official standards. Designers aim to align their brands with regulatory requirements and so support accessibility initiatives, to provide welcoming user experiences for users of all ability levels. 

See why accessibility is one of the most vital considerations in design: 

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Why are Accessibility Audits Important in UX Design?

Accessibility should be a major concern—and aim—for all brands. This is especially so in an era with high national and international standards regarding the ease with which users with disabilities should be able to access products and services. Accessibility audits are essential for brands to adhere to laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 508. A brand that fails to comply can encounter serious legal risks. Resulting actions such as lawsuits and significant fines ensure the value of a good accessibility audit report. These audits are therefore critical for legal safety and public image. 

In user experience (UX) design, the goal of an accessibility audit is to make digital products usable for everyone, including those with disabilities. This practice is not only a legal obligation in many jurisdictions. It’s also a strategic move for businesses who aim to engage a broader audience. One in six individuals worldwide experiences significant disabilities. Also, 75% of Americans with disabilities use the internet daily. Therefore, the need for accessible digital spaces is undeniable.  

Accessibility audits in UX design are a fundamental aspect for designers to create inclusive digital products. Whether users access them with assistive technology or not, products should be usable and enjoyable for everyone, regardless of their abilities or circumstances. When brands run audits to check for good accessibility, they practice ethical design and show they aim higher than good usability. 

A Venn diagram showing accessibility and usability with UX in the intersection.

UX is where these two domains meet.

© Interaction Design Foundation, CC BY-SA 4.0

What are Key Elements of Accessibility in UX Design?

Accessibility audits examine numerous elements to ensure that digital products are not only usable but also enjoyable for all users. These elements include: 

1. Color and Contrast

Designers should ensure that text and background have sufficient contrast for users with visual impairments to see them. 

A chart featuring four sets of color combinations, two not recommended and two recommended.

© Interaction Design Foundation, CC BY-SA 4.0

2. Keyboard Navigation and Focus Order

It’s important to provide a logical and intuitive sequence for keyboard navigation. This is crucial for users who cannot use a mouse. 

An image showing keyboard shortcuts on Asana.

Web-based project management platform Asana lets teams track and manage work items. Asana has a rich set of keyboard shortcuts that reduce mouse usage and minimize repetitive actions.

© Asana, Fair Use

3. Screen Reader Compatibility

Designers should ensure that content is accessible through screen readers. Visually impaired users use screen readers to hear rather than see the content. 

4. Alternative Media and Captions

It’s essential to include alternative text for images and captions for videos. These accessible features help users with hearing or visual impairments. 

5. Responsive and Scalable Design

Designers should ensure websites and applications adjust to various device sizes and orientations. That way, they can accommodate users with limited mobility who may use different devices. 

Watch as CEO of Experience Dynamics, Frank Spillers explain responsive design: 

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Standards and Guidelines

Design and development teams have guidelines to follow to create digital experiences without accessibility problems. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) come from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). These are the international benchmarks for web accessibility. WCAG guidelines have three levels of conformance: A, AA and AAA, with AA as the recommendation for most organizations. 

To conduct a website accessibility audit or use a WCAG accessibility audit checklist is a vital step to identify issues that could hinder the user experience for a sizable demographic. The ultimate goal is to apply the WCAG standards to create a more inclusive digital space in any case—so all users can benefit. 

Frank Spillers explains valuable additional points to consider regarding accessibility: 

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Types of Accessibility Audits

Accessibility audits come in three categories:  

  1. Automated audits use tools to identify issues. 

  1. Manual audits require human evaluators to assess compliance.  

  1. Hybrid audits combine these methods to provide a thorough evaluation. 

Compliance and Beyond

Compliance with standards such as the ADA and WCAG is a primary driver. However, the scope of accessibility audits extends beyond legal requirements such as ADA compliance or WCAG 2.2. These audits aim to remove barriers that make navigation, reading and interaction difficult for users with disabilities. They therefore enhance the overall user experience. Also, they show that brands who take accessibility seriously understand that every user’s experience is a priority

An illustration showing the text Accessible Designs for Everyone with images depicting various types of disability.

Accessible design includes users with many disabilities, and abilities.

© Interaction Design Foundation, CC BY-SA 4.0

What are the Benefits of Accessibility Audits?

When brands apply accessibility audits, they can: 

1. Help All Users

When a brand improves the accessibility of its digital assets, it enhances the user experience for all visitors, not just those with disabilities. For example, closed captions benefit users who are hard of hearing but also users who are in loud environments and users who don’t have English as their first language. Therefore, accessibility audits service users across the board, in any case. 

2. Comply with Legal Obligations and Mitigate Risk

Accessibility audits are essential for brands to adhere to legal standards. These audits significantly lower the risk of costly litigation. When brands ensure they comply, they not only avoid legal repercussions. They also protect their public image and financial stability. 

3. Enhance User Experience and Brand Reputation

To conduct regular accessibility audits improves the overall user experience. Audits make digital platforms more navigable and enjoyable for people with disabilities. This inclusivity boosts the brand’s reputation as it demonstrates a commitment to all users, regardless of their abilities. Enhanced user experience leads to increased customer loyalty. It also potentially expands the customer base as it makes the brand more appealing to a diverse audience. 

4. Expand Market Opportunities

Accessibility audits open up new market opportunities. They make digital content accessible to the estimated one billion people worldwide with disabilities. This expansion is not only a strategic business advantage. It also aligns with ethical business practices, and promotes inclusivity and equal access for all users. Brands that prioritize accessibility can tap into an otherwise underserved segment. Therefore, they can increase their market reach and competitive edge. 

5. Boost SEO and Online Visibility

Search engines favor accessible websites. They tend to rank sites higher if they comply with accessibility standards. This is because accessible sites are likely to have better structured content that is easier for search engines to crawl and index. When brands improve accessibility, they can enjoy better SEO outcomes. It can drive more traffic to their sites and increase online visibility. 

Frank Spillers explains how accessible designs boost SEO and more: 

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6. Enable Strategic Insights and Continuous Improvement

Accessibility audits provide detailed insights into a website's performance and user interaction patterns. This is particularly so for users with disabilities. These insights are crucial for continuous improvement. They can guide future development to better meet the needs of all users. Regular audits ensure that websites remain up-to-date with the latest accessibility standards and technologies. They foster innovation and ongoing enhancement of the user experience. 

7. Save Money and Team Effort

Last but not least, accessibility audits can catch accessibility problems early on enough in the UX design process for a brand to avoid costs later, including potential legal repercussions. Therefore, the efforts put into accessibility audits cost less than the efforts to fix things after building accessibility audit checklists and finding numerous issues to address. 

An illustration showing 4 types of disability (Touch, See, Hear, Speak) in 3 categories (Permanent, Temporary and Situational)

To design for accessibility helps all users, including those with temporary or more long-lasting disabilities.

© Microsoft’s inclusive design toolkit, Fair Use

Examples of Accessibility Audit Tools and Services

Designers and stakeholders have a wealth of options. In no particular order, here are some helpful tools to help test for accessibility and services that conduct accessibility audits: 

1. WebAIM's WAVE Tool

WebAIM's WAVE is a highly regarded browser extension. It pinpoints accessibility issues on web pages. It provides visual feedback about the accessibility of web content by highlighting potential problems directly on the page itself. This makes it easier for developers to understand and rectify issues. 

A screenshot of the WAVE tool in use.

© WebAIM, Fair Use

2. Axe DevTools

Axe DevTools comes integrated directly into a browser's developer tools. It offers a robust accessibility testing toolkit. This tool helps developers identify and fix accessibility issues quickly. It helps ensure that digital content adheres to established accessibility standards. 

A screenshot featuring Axe DevTools.

© Axe DevTools, Fair Use

3. Color Contrast Analyzers

Tools like Contrast Checker and Stark are essential to assess color contrast ratios. Color contrast is a crucial consideration for readability, especially for users with visual impairments. These analyzers help make sure that text stands out against background colors and complies with accessibility guidelines.

A screenshot of the Stark Accessibility Checker in use.

© Stark, Fair Use

4. UserWay's Audit Services

UserWay provides comprehensive accessibility services, including audits that VPAT certified auditors conduct. Their services cover compliance with major standards such as Section 508, WCAG and the ADA. They also offer remediation consulting to help businesses improve their digital platforms. 

A screenshot from the UserWay website.

© UserWay, Fair Use

5. AccessiBe's Web Audits

AccessiBe offers detailed web audits and remediation reports, ensuring compliance with standards like the AODA. Their services are designed to make websites fully accessible, and enhance usability for all users. 

A screenshot from AccessiBe's website.

© AccessiBe, Fair Use

6. Equally AI's Tailored Audits

Equally AI provides accessibility audits at a set price per website template. They focus on various WCAG criteria including levels A, AA and AAA. They also offer customer service in multiple languages and cater to a diverse client base. 

A screenshot from Equally AI's website.

© Equally AI, Fair Use

7. Allyant's Comprehensive Services

Allyant offers their Digital Accessibility Auditing and VPAT Service, ensuring thorough evaluations of digital products. Their focus on including people with disabilities in their audits enhances the accuracy and relevance of their assessments. 

A screenshot from Allyant's website.

© Allyant, Fair Use

8. Free Accessibility Testing Tools

Several free tools are available for businesses and individuals to conduct preliminary accessibility checks: 

  • Siteimprove Accessibility Checker 

  • WAVE Accessibility Evaluation Tool 

  • Accessibility Insights for Web

  • Contrast Checker 

  • Photosensitive Epilepsy Analysis Tool (PEAT) 

  • Contrast Ratio 

  • Nu HTML Checker 

  • HeadingsMap 

  • PDF Accessibility Checker 

These tools provide an accessible entry point for brands to start improving their digital content. Therefore, they can build their own form of accessibility audit training. 

When brands leverage auditing tools and the services of accessibility audit companies, they can significantly improve their digital accessibility. When they do that, they can meet both compliance requirements and ethical standards to provide a better user experience for all. 

A screenshot representing various barriers and issues regarding website accessibility.

Audits can flag a wide range of issues, guiding brands to make appropriate adjustments.

© RazorSpire, Fair Use

When is the Best Time to Conduct an Accessibility Audit?

Brands should conduct these audits at various stages of a project or company's lifecycle. Here are some key times to consider: 

1. During the Initial Planning Phase

To conduct an audit so early helps ensure that teams can integrate accessibility considerations into the project from the outset. This can help to avoid costly retrofits at later stages. 

2. Before Launch or Implementation

Before the launch of a new website, application or product, it's crucial to conduct an accessibility audit to identify and rectify any potential accessibility barriers. 

3. After Significant Updates or Changes

Whenever designers make significant updates or changes to a digital platform, it’s vital to ensure that the updates have not introduced any new accessibility barriers. 

4. Regularly and Ongoing

Accessibility is an ongoing commitment. Regularly scheduled accessibility audits can help ensure that a digital platform remains inclusive and compliant with accessibility standards over time. 

An illustration charting Accessibility Conformance, User Impact and Top Issues.

An example of an Accessibility Audit Report.

© Glenda Sims, Fair Use

What are Best Practices and Tips for Successful Accessibility Audits?

Here are some best practices for brands to not only comply with legal requirements but also enhance market presence, user satisfaction and operational insights: 

1. Define Clear Audit Scope

Start by defining the scope of the audit. Select a representative sample of pages and features to review. This helps to manage the audit process more effectively. It also ensures design and development teams don’t overlook critical areas of the website. 

2. Use Standardized Tools and Checklists

Use tools like the WAVE tool or browser options to assess usability when stylesheets are disabled. Also, use a web accessibility checklist to systematically address elements like navigation, media and overall page structure. 

3. Focus on Comprehensive Content Review

Ensure that all content types are accessible. These include images, videos and forms. Check for proper text descriptions and audio captions. Also check that interactive elements are fully functional and accessible. 

4. Document Issues and Remediations

Keep a detailed log of identified issues using a spreadsheet or similar tool. Record the location of the issue on the site, the nature of the problem and suggested remediation strategies. This documentation is vital to track progress and ensure accountability. 

5. Test Across Multiple Devices and Browsers

Perform accessibility tests using various devices like mobiles and tablets, and across different browsers. This ensures that the website is accessible regardless of the device or browser that the visitor may use. 

Watch as Frank Spillers explains 10 principles to consider for web accessibility and mobile design: 

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6. Prioritize Keyboard and Screen Reader Accessibility

Ensure that users can navigate the entire site using just a keyboard and that it’s compatible with screen reader technology. This is crucial for users who rely on these technologies to access web content. 

7. Establish a Regular Audit Schedule

Conduct accessibility audits at least once every 6-12 months. It’s especially important if a brand continuously adds new content to a site. This regularity ensures that accessibility remains a priority and that new or updated content complies with accessibility standards. 

8. Involve Real User Experiences

It’s crucial to involve users with disabilities in the usability testing process. Their first-hand feedback helps identify potential obstacles that developers and designers who don’t face these challenges might miss. This practice not only enhances the functionality of the product. It also ensures it resonates well with users from all walks of life. The experiences of people with disabilities can provide the most accurate data to inform necessary changes for brands.   

UX Strategist and Consultant, William Hudson explains important points about usability testing: 

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9. Implement Experts in User Testing

Engage accessibility experts as well as users with disabilities in the testing process. Experts can provide insights based on industry standards. 

William Hudson explains important points about expert evaluation in this video: 

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10. Use Both Automated and Manual Testing

Automated tools can quickly identify many accessibility issues. However, manual testing is essential to uncover more nuanced problems that automated tools might miss. A combination of both methods provides a comprehensive overview of accessibility issues.Also, the audit process typically involves a blend of automated tools and expert evaluation. This combination can ensure brands thoroughly cover accessibility standards and practical usability for people with disabilities. 

11. Take Timely and Effective Post-Audit Actions

After an audit, it’s important to develop an accessibility strategy, assign responsibilities and prioritize issues for correction. Brands should address and remedy any issues that a comprehensive audit flags.

An illustration showing the correct way to mark Alt text for SEO with: right hand holding a glass of red wine.

For example, a simple correction to Alt text can help SEO as well.

© Interaction Design Foundation, CC BY-SA 4.0

12. Continuously Integrate Audits in the Design Process

It’s vital to integrate accessibility audits early and continuously during website deployment, redesign or migrations. It minimizes labor-intensive efforts and prevents post-launch issues. Also, it ensures accessibility is a cornerstone of a brand’s design process rather than an afterthought. 

Overall, brands should embrace accessibility audits rather than use them just to avoid penalties. These audits are a cornerstone of UX design. They serve as a beacon to guide brands to optimize the experiences they deliver to all users. Designers who have the foresight to cover all aspects of accessibility before an audit prove their value. They help showcase their brands as great accessibility audit examples and champions of true user experience design. 

The journey towards digital inclusivity doesn't end with a single web accessibility audit. Nor does it call for a brand to scramble frantically to keep up with what it should already be doing and push their web developers to make quick fixes. The pursuit of accessibility requires a continuous commitment to improvement and adaptation to emerging standards and technologies. Accessibility audits can help brands acknowledge the diversity of the global community and ensure equal access for every user. 

An illustration charting how digital content and solutions should be Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust.

Digital content and solutions should have fundamental qualities—important to bear in mind throughout the design process.

© The AgileEngine Team, Fair Use

Learn More about Accessibility Audits

Take our Accessibility: How to Design for All course. 

Watch our Master Class Introduction to Digital Accessibility with Elana Chapman, Accessibility Research Manager at Fable. 

Read our piece, Accessibility: Usability for all

Read our piece, Learn to Create Accessible Websites with the Principles of Universal Design

Consult How to Run a Web Accessibility Audit by William Coad for further insights. 

Go to The importance of Accessibility in UX design: Creating inclusive digital experiences by The AgileEngine Team  for further important information. 

See How To Conduct A Web Accessibility Audit? by Raghavendra Satish Peri for more details. 

Questions about Accessibility Audits

What are the main components of an accessibility audit?

The main components of an accessibility audit focus on evaluating how accessible a digital product is to all users, including those with disabilities. Here’s a breakdown of these components: 

  1. Compliance review: This step includes to check the product against established accessibility standards like the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Designers review if the product meets the required success criteria at various levels (A, AA, or AAA). 

  1. User interface and navigation assessment: This part of the audit assesses the ease of navigating the product and accessing its content. It checks for logical flow, clear labeling, and the presence of accessible controls. 

  1. Color and contrast analysis: Auditors examine the visual presentation, ensuring that text contrasts sufficiently against background colors to aid users with visual impairments. 

  1. Content evaluation: This includes to review the clarity and readability of the content, check for the use of simple language and ensure that all media (like images and videos) have text alternatives. 

  1. Assistive technology compatibility: The audit tests compatibility with various assistive technologies like screen readers, keyboard-only navigation and speech recognition software to ensure the product can be used by everyone. 

  1. Feedback and user testing: To gather feedback from users with disabilities and involve them in testing can provide practical insights into the accessibility of the product. 

Take our Accessibility: How to Design for All course. 

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Who should conduct an accessibility audit?

Accessibility audits are crucial to ensuring digital products are usable for everyone, including people with disabilities. Ideally, multiple parties with distinct skills should conduct these audits:  

  1. Accessibility specialists: These are professionals who have in-depth knowledge of accessibility standards like the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). They understand the technical requirements and how to implement them. 

  1. Designers and developers: The team that built the product should be involved to understand accessibility issues and make necessary adjustments. Their involvement ensures that the technical and creative aspects of the product meet accessibility standards.  

  1. Users with disabilities: Include actual users with various disabilities in the audit process. It’s essential. They can provide firsthand feedback on the usability of the product from their unique perspectives.  

  1. Third-party consultants: Sometimes, it helps to hire external consultants who specialize in accessibility. They can offer an unbiased review of the product and suggest improvements based on best practices and industry standards. To involve a diverse group ensures a thorough audit, leading to a more accessible product. 

This collaborative approach not only enhances product usability but also promotes inclusivity throughout the design and development process. 

Understand more about accessibility in our piece, Understand the Social Needs for Accessibility in UX Design

How frequently should you conduct accessibility audits?

You should conduct accessibility audits regularly to ensure your digital products remain accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. Here's a general guideline for the frequency:  

  1. At major milestones: Conduct an audit whenever you release a new version of a product or after significant updates. These are critical times to check that new features or changes meet accessibility standards.  

  1. Annually: Even if your product undergoes minor updates, a yearly audit helps catch any issues that might have been missed or introduced over time. This regular check maintains compliance with evolving accessibility standards like the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).  

  1. After you receive user feedback: If users report accessibility issues, it’s crucial to perform an audit as soon as possible. This not only fixes the issues but also demonstrates your commitment to accessibility.  

  1. When regulations change: If legal requirements around accessibility change, conduct an audit to ensure your product complies with the new regulations. This can prevent legal issues and enhance user experience.  

Regular audits are part of a proactive approach to accessibility, ensuring that all users can efficiently use your products. 

Understand more aspects of accessibility in our Topic Definition about it. 

Take our Accessibility: How to Design for All course. 

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What tools do professionals use during an accessibility audit?

During an accessibility audit, professionals use a variety of tools to ensure digital products meet the needs of all users, including those with disabilities. Here are some key tools commonly employed: 

  1. Screen readers: Tools like JAWS, NVDA or VoiceOver help auditors understand how people who are blind or have low vision interact with a product. Auditors use these to check whether all elements on the page are accessible. 

  1. Color contrast analyzers: These tools measure the contrast between text and background colors. High contrast is essential for users with visual impairments. WebAIM’s Contrast Checker is a popular choice. 

  1. Accessibility inspection toolbars: Browser extensions such as the Axe Accessibility Toolbar or WAVE provide a quick way to identify common accessibility issues within web pages. 

  1. Keyboard accessibility tests: Professionals use their keyboard (no mouse) to navigate the product. This testing ensures that users who cannot use a mouse can access all features. 

  1. Automated testing tools: Programs like Axe or Lighthouse automate the detection of potential accessibility issues across web pages, providing a broad overview of areas that might need closer examination. 

These tools help professionals identify and fix accessibility barriers, making digital environments usable for everyone. 

Watch as CEO of Experience Dynamics, Frank Spillers explains 10 principles to consider for web accessibility and mobile design: 

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Understand more aspects of accessibility in our Topic Definition about it. 

What common accessibility issues do audits typically uncover?

Accessibility audits typically uncover several common issues that can hinder the usability of digital products for users with disabilities. Here are some of the most frequent problems these audits identify:  

  1. Insufficient text contrast: Auditors often find that the contrast between text and its background is too low, making it difficult for people with visual impairments to read.  

  1. Missing alt text for images: Images without alternative text (alt text) are a common issue. Alt text is crucial as it describes images to users who rely on screen readers.  

  1. Inaccessible navigation: Many audits reveal that websites or apps have navigation that is hard to use or understand, especially for users who navigate exclusively via keyboard or screen readers.  

  1. Lack of keyboard accessibility: Some interactive elements are not operable with a keyboard, which can exclude users who do not use a mouse.  

  1. Poor form labeling: Forms with labels that are unclear or missing entirely are often flagged. Proper labeling is essential for users to understand what information belongs in each form field.  

  1. Media without captions or transcripts: Audits frequently uncover videos and audio tracks that lack captions or transcripts, making them inaccessible to users who are deaf or hard of hearing.  

To identify these issues allows designers to make the necessary changes to improve accessibility and ensure their products serve all users effectively. 

Read our piece, UI Color Palette 2024: Best Practices, Tips, and Tricks for Designers

Watch as Frank Spillers explains how accessibility impacts usability and SEO: 

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Do accessibility requirements vary by country?

Yes, accessibility requirements can vary significantly by country. Different nations have their own laws and regulations governing accessibility, especially for digital products and services. For example:  

  1. United States: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act mandate accessibility for public and government digital services. These laws ensure that websites are accessible to people with disabilities.  

  1. European Union: The European Accessibility Act requires that key digital products and services, like e-commerce websites and mobile apps, be accessible. Member states have specific guidelines to align with these broader EU regulations.  

  1. Canada: The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) sets standards for digital accessibility across Ontario, which influences national standards.  

  1. United Kingdom: The Equality Act 2010 requires that all UK services, including digital, be accessible, which specific guidelines like the UK Government’s accessibility requirements enforce.  

It’s crucial to understand and comply with the specific accessibility laws of each country for businesses that operate internationally, to ensure inclusivity and legal compliance.  

Understand more aspects of accessibility in our Topic Definition about it. 

Take our Accessibility: How to Design for All course. 

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What penalties can occur for failing to meet accessibility standards?

To fail to meet accessibility standards can lead to several penalties, depending on the country and specific regulations. Here are some common consequences businesses might face:  

  1. Legal action: Individuals or groups may sue organizations for not providing accessible digital products. In countries like the United States, these lawsuits can be based on violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Such legal actions can result in costly settlements or court-ordered mandates to make websites accessible.  

  1. Fines: Governments may impose fines on organizations that fail to comply with accessibility laws. For example, in the European Union, under the European Accessibility Act, fines can be significant, depending on the extent of the non-compliance and the size of the company.  

  1. Reputational damage: Beyond legal or financial penalties, to fail to ensure accessibility can harm a company's reputation. Customers and advocacy groups may view the organization as indifferent to the needs of people with disabilities, leading to negative publicity and loss of customer trust. It’s good to take proactive steps to comply with accessibility standards, not only to avoid these penalties but also to enhance user experience and broaden customer reach. 

Understand more about accessibility and the need to design with accessibility in mind from our video: 

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Read our piece, Accessibility: Usability for all

How much time does a typical accessibility audit take?

The duration of a typical accessibility audit depends on several factors, including the complexity of the website or application and the depth of the audit required. Generally, an accessibility audit can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks. For a small website with limited features, an audit might be completed in a week or less. However, for larger, more complex websites or applications with many pages and features, the audit process can extend up to several weeks. This timeline allows auditors to thoroughly review the site against accessibility standards, test with different assistive technologies, and compile detailed reports with recommendations for improvements. 

Understand more about accessibility and the need to design with accessibility in mind from our video: 

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Understand more about accessibility in our piece, Understand the Social Needs for Accessibility in UX Design

Is it possible to conduct an accessibility audit remotely?

Yes, it is entirely possible to conduct an accessibility audit remotely. Many of the tools and processes for use in accessibility audits are digital, allowing auditors to evaluate websites and applications from anywhere. Auditors use various software tools to check compliance with accessibility standards, such as screen readers, color contrast analyzers and automated testing programs. Additionally, to communicate with team members and stakeholders can easily happen via email, video calls and other online collaboration platforms. This flexibility means that organizations can engage accessibility experts from around the world, and ensure they get the best insights and recommendations to improve their digital products. 

Read our piece, Accessibility: Usability for all

Watch as Frank Spillers explains another aspect to watch for with design for accessibility: designer’s bias: 

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What are the essential accessibility standards and guidelines (e.g., WCAG)?

The essential accessibility standards and guidelines primarily include the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) developed. WCAG is the most widely recognized set of guidelines and serves as the basis for many international and national laws on accessibility. It outlines how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities. It covers a range of disabilities, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning and neurological disabilities.  

WCAG guidelines are organized under four principles: perceivable, operable, understandable and robust. These guidelines have three levels of compliance: A (the minimum level), AA (the standard level for most websites) and AAA (the highest level). To follow WCAG helps ensure that digital content is accessible to all users, regardless of their abilities. 

Understand more about accessibility and the need to design with accessibility in mind from our video: 

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How do auditors evaluate ARIA roles during an audit?

During an accessibility audit, auditors evaluate ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) roles to ensure that web content and applications are more accessible to people with disabilities. ARIA roles help by providing extra context to assistive technologies, like screen readers, about what each element does or represents on a webpage. 

Auditors typically assess ARIA roles when they: 

  1. Identify ARIA roles: Auditors start by checking that HTML elements on a webpage include appropriate ARIA roles. For example, roles like “button”, “dialog”, “navigation” and “article” tell assistive technology how to interact with or what to expect from these elements. 

  1. Test ARIA implementations: After auditors identify ARIA roles, they use screen readers and other assistive technologies to test if these roles are implemented correctly. They ensure that elements with ARIA roles are functioning as intended, providing the correct feedback to users. 

  1. Validate ARIA properties and states: Auditors also check for proper use of ARIA properties and states which provide dynamic information about elements, such as whether a dropdown is expanded or a checkbox is selected. 

  1. Review consistency: Finally, auditors ensure consistency across the site, and verify that similar elements use the same ARIA roles and attributes, which helps to create a predictable user experience. 

By carefully evaluating ARIA roles, auditors can significantly enhance the usability of web content for users who rely on assistive technologies. They can ensure that web functions are accessible to everyone. 

Watch as Frank Spillers explains additional dimensions of accessibility to consider in design: 

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How do professionals prioritize findings in an accessibility audit?

In an accessibility audit, professionals prioritize findings based on the impact each issue has on the accessibility of the product and the ease of implementing fixes. Here’s how they typically approach this prioritization: 

  1. Severity of impact: Issues that severely affect the ability of users, particularly those with disabilities, to use the product are given the highest priority. For example, if a major navigational component is not accessible via keyboard, it could prevent users who rely on keyboard-only navigation from using the site effectively. 

  1. Frequency of occurrence: If an accessibility issue occurs frequently across a website or application, it receives higher prioritization. This is because fixing such widespread problems can improve the experience for a larger number of users. 

  1. Ease of resolution: Issues that are easier to fix might receive higher prioritization because quick wins can significantly improve accessibility without requiring extensive resources or time. 

  1. Legal compliance: Professionals also consider the legal requirements associated with accessibility. Issues that might lead to non-compliance with laws like the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) receive prioritization to mitigate legal risks. 

By categorizing issues based on these criteria, professionals can create an effective plan to address the most critical problems first, enhancing overall accessibility in a strategic way. 

Understand more aspects of accessibility in our Topic Definition about it

Take our Accessibility: How to Design for All course. 

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How do accessibility audits for mobile applications differ from web?

Accessibility audits for mobile applications differ from those for websites primarily in the platforms, tools and guidelines they focus on. These audits generally vary in: 

  1. Platform-specific guidelines: Mobile audits adhere to platform-specific guidelines such as Apple’s iOS Human Interface Guidelines and Google’s Android Accessibility Guidelines, in addition to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) that often receive broader application to web content. These guidelines address the unique features and interactions of mobile devices. 

  1. Interaction differences: Mobile devices use touch interactions, such as swiping and tapping, which are different from the mouse clicks and keyboard navigation typically used on websites. Auditors check for accessibility in these touch-based interactions to ensure they are usable for everyone, including those with motor disabilities. 

  1. Tool utilization: Tools used in mobile audits can include both software and physical devices. Auditors often use the actual smartphones and tablets to test accessibility features like screen readers (VoiceOver on iOS, TalkBack on Android) and ensure these features work correctly across different devices and screen sizes. 

  1. Testing Environments: Unlike web applications, testing mobile apps often requires setting up different hardware configurations to simulate various operating systems, screen resolutions and user settings. 

These differences highlight the need for a tailored approach in mobile accessibility audits to address the specific challenges and requirements of mobile platforms and user interactions. 

Watch as Frank Spillers explains principles to consider for web accessibility and mobile design: 

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What are highly cited scientific articles about accessibility audits?

Vigo, M., Brown, J., & Conway, V. (2013). Benchmarking web accessibility evaluation tools: measuring the harm of sole reliance on automated tests. In Proceedings of the 10th International Cross-Disciplinary Conference on Web Accessibility (p. 1).   

This conference paper evaluates the effectiveness of various automated web accessibility evaluation tools and emphasizes the limitations of relying solely on such tools for accessibility audits. It underscores the importance of combining automated testing with manual evaluation by accessibility experts. 

Literature on Accessibility Audits

Here’s the entire UX literature on Accessibility Audits by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:

Learn more about Accessibility Audits

Take a deep dive into Accessibility Audits with our course Accessibility: How to Design for All .

Good accessibility is crucial to making your website or app a success. Not only is designing for accessibility required by law in many countries—if you fail to consider accessibility, you are excluding millions of people from using your product. The UN estimates that more than 1 billion people around the world live with some form of disability and as populations age over the coming years, that number is expected to rise rapidly. Add to that the 10 percent of people who suffer from color blindness, and you start to get an idea of why accessibility is so important—not just for moral and legal reasons, but also so that your products can reach their full potential. You need to design for accessibility!

So… what is a proven and pain-free way to well-executed accessibility? If you’ve ever tried to optimize your site or app for accessibility, you’ll know it can be a complex and intimidating task… and it can therefore be very tempting to leave it until last or, worse still, avoid it altogether. By understanding that accessibility is about more than just optimizing your code, you’ll find you can build it into your design process. This will ensure you are taking a disability advocacy approach, and keeping the focus on your users throughout the development process.

This course will help you achieve exactly that—from handling images to getting the most out of ARIA markup, you’ll learn how to approach accessibility from all angles. You’ll gain practical, hands-on skills that’ll enable you to assess and optimize for common accessibility issues, as well as show you how to place an emphasis on the quality of the user experience by avoiding classic mistakes. Whats more, you’ll also come away with the knowledge to conduct effective accessibility testing through working with users with disabilities.

The course includes interviews with an accessibility specialist and blind user, as well as multiple real-world examples of websites and apps where you can demonstrate your skills through analysis and accessibility tests. Not only will this give you a more practical view of accessibility, but you’ll also be able to optimize your websites and mobile apps in an expert manner—avoiding key mistakes that are commonly made when designing for accessibility.

You will be taught by Frank Spillers, CEO of the award-winning UX firm Experience Dynamics, and will be able to leverage his experience from two decades of working with accessibility. Given that, you will be able to learn from, and avoid, the mistakes he’s come across, and apply the best practices he’s developed over time in order to truly make your accessibility efforts shine. Upon completing the course, you will have the skills required to adhere to accessibility guidelines while growing your awareness of accessibility, and ensuring your organization’s maturity grows alongside your own.

All open-source articles on Accessibility Audits

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