ADA WCAG Accessibility Testing & Auditing Tools & Tips
As you're likely aware, its become established that practically all websites are considered "places of public accommodation" and subject to the American Disabilities Act. Its also long stood that any institution receiving any federal funding must ensure their website complies with Sect 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. In practice, the Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG) is the standard against which compliance is currently measured in both cases.
What website accessibility / WCAG auditing tools should you use to comply with ADA or Sect 508?
The first step in how to make your website Sect 508 or ADA compliant, is to conduct a WCAG 2.0 audit. While organizations can use automated WCAG testing tools as an initial test, WCAG testing software will catch less that a quarter of issues. Its very important not to rely on automated testing and auditing tools alone, because the Web Content Accessibility Guide, is just that - its a guide. It is nuanced and interpretive, and requires human assessment.
The recommended best practice includes the following three steps to establish a complete ADA compliance audit. This is best done by a web accessibility consultant. When hiring such a firm or individual, you'll want to first learn of the experience in both WCAG auditing as well as programming. Its essential that this person understands the code. Its also important to see what reporting you get from the audit. Simply getting a list of issues doesn't help you that much. Someone who knows what they're doing will provide actionable reporting that doesn't just point out issues, but also provides remediation guidance that your developer can use. Also, the format of the documentation is important. A Word doc may be nice for your executive team, but its basically useless to your remediation team, who would rather receive the item by item report in a spreadsheet that can then be used in the workflow.
3 steps for a complete web accessibility audit
- Automated Testing
Automated testing tools for ADA or Sect 508 compliance (WCAG 2.0 AA) come in many levels and prices. What's first important is to differentiate between page testers and site auditors. Wave, for instance is a page tester and will not audit your website. Its crucial that one does not rely on automated testing alone, because these tools will only capture roughly 25% of issue types. WCAG is interpretive and nuanced.
- Manual Code Review
Here someone with an understanding of both WCAG 2.0 and website code can catch all that is missed by automated testing. Typically this person will identify the unique pages and templates of a site and only manually audit these. It would be cost prohibitive to manually review every page of a site.
- Assistive Technology Review
For those seeking the most thorough accessibility, the tester uses the actual tools (JAWS, ZOOM test, NVDA, Dragon Natural Speaking, etc) used by those with disabilities to use the website.
Its very important to realize that the standards are interpretive. Manual testing is key.