The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) requires Australian Government agencies to ensure information and services are provided in a non-discriminatory and accessible manner. Accessibility NSW strongly recommends you meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1: Level AA of compliance, visit our responsibilities for more information.
This page provides a basic accessibility testing guide for websites. It is an overview of factors to consider and suggested steps to take but is not intended to be a comprehensive guide guaranteeing compliance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1.
Automated accessibility testing is the first step in the testing process, enabling you to quickly and efficiently identify accessibility issues. Automated testing must be supplemented with manual testing. Complete your automatic testing first as most automated testing tools will flag in-page elements requiring additional manual review, minimising workload. Be sure to visit accessibility basics to get an understanding of what to look for prior to attempting testing.
Step 1: Conduct automated testing
There are several tools available in the market that can automatically check a website's accessibility against WCAG 2.1 guidelines. Some popular tools are Google Lighthouse, Accessibility Insights, Wave, and Experte. Choose an automated testing tool that suits your individual needs. Visit the web accessibility evaluation tools list for a more comprehensive list of tools.
Once you've chosen a tool, open the website you want to test in your browser and run the tool. Please note: each tool is different and will have its own process for running a test.
Once the tool has finished scanning it will generate a report of any accessibility issues it has found. Analyse the report carefully and prioritise the issues based on their severity. You will also need to conduct manual testing after your initial automated test as automated tools cannot identify all potential errors.
Once you have identified the issues, start fixing them based on their priority level. Some issues may require code-level changes and will need to be fixed by a web developer, while others may be fixed by simply adding alt text to images or improving the colour contrast of text.
Once you feel you have fixed the identified issues, run the automated accessibility testing tool again to ensure that all issues have been completely resolved.
After you complete automated testing, we recommend manual testing to cover all your bases.
Conducting manual testing is the next essential step in ensuring that your website is accessible to all users. Follow the steps outlined below and you'll be able to identify and address any accessibility issues that may exist on your website.
Step 2: Conduct manual testing
Select the website that you want to audit. Ensure that the website is functional and has content. It may sound obvious, but check your typography, ensure all text is readable and check that page titles, headings and links are descriptive and make sense.
Next, test the website's accessibility using only the keyboard. Using the ‘tab key’ navigate the website without using a mouse. This ensures users who rely on only keyboard navigation can access all of the site's content. By tabbing through your site, you can ensure all focusable elements such as search bars, form fields, links, buttons etc. are in an understandable reading order and can be actioned without using a mouse.
Check that all images and multimedia content, including audio and video, have appropriate alternative text that describes the content. All videos must have closed captioning or transcripts, and all multimedia content must avoid repetitive flashing.
Ensure that the website has sufficient colour contrast between text and background colours. The contrast should be enough to ensure that the text is legible for all users, including those with visual impairments.
Finally, test the website with assistive technologies such as screen readers and screen magnifiers. This step will help you identify any issues that may be present when using assistive technologies.
It is best practice to test on multiple browsers and devices to ensure continuity of user experience. Ensure content is functional no matter what browser or device you are accessing information on.
As you conduct the audit, document the issues you find along with their severity and potential impact on users and create a report of your findings.
Based on the audit results, create a remediation plan that outlines the steps necessary to address each accessibility issue. Ensure that the plan is comprehensive and includes a timeline for addressing the issues.
For a more detailed instructional guide, visit how to do a manual accessibility review by Google Advice.
Screen reader testing
Conducting accessibility testing using a screen reader is an essential final step for ensuring that your website is accessible, specifically to users with visual impairments.
Step 3: Conduct screen reader testing
There are several screen readers available, such as JAWS, NVDA, VoiceOver, and ChromeVox. Your users will use a screen reader that works for them. Choose the one that suits your needs and familiarity.
Learn the basic keyboard commands of the screen reader, including how to navigate, read the content, and activate links and form controls.
Navigate through the website using the screen reader. Pay attention to how the screen reader interacts with the content. Make sure the website is navigable using the keyboard alone (tabbing), without relying on the mouse or other pointing devices. Test the headings, links, images, forms, and multimedia elements.
Ensure that the content is accessible to screen reader users. For example, verify that the text is readable, and that images and multimedia elements have alternative text descriptions. You want to be able to understand the website audibly.
Document any issues found during the testing process, including the type of issue, its location, and a suggestion for how to fix it.
Work with your web development team to remediate the issues found during testing and retest the website using the screen reader to verify that the issues have been fixed.
Accessibility concerns identified through the testing process should be categorised into priority levels based on user impact. Once categorised, generate a report outlining the identified issues and prioritise their resolution based on their respective priority level.
- Critical: a critical issue that will stop a user from accessing information or finishing a task.
- High: a top-priority issue that has the potential to cause significant problems or major disruptions to user's experience and access to information.
- Medium: an issue that may cause frustration or inconvenience for users.
- Low: an issue that may cause minor inconvenience or irritate users.
To enhance accessibility, use assistive technologies like screen readers or screen magnifiers for end-user experience checks and final testing. This identifies issues that may hinder users with visual impairments. Test with various browsers and assistive technologies, as well as the specific browser or operating system your users use.
- JAWS (desktop)
- NVDA (desktop)
- VoiceOver for Mac (desktop and mobile)
- TalkBack (mobile)
Browser screen readers
Third-party vendors can provide expert consultation in accessibility and have extensive knowledge and experience in conducting testing, saving you time and resources. Some vendors can also provide WCAG compliance certifications ensuring your digital product with accessibility laws and regulations.
It's important to remember that you don't have to go it alone. Don't be afraid to reach out to web developers, designers, other accessibility experts or Accessibility NSW for additional support and guidance. Remember, accessibility is not an easy task, but by working together, we can make the web a more inclusive and accessible place for everyone.