Which Type of Website Accessibility Check is Right for You?


Under the provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) act, businesses must provide accommodations to make their services available to people with disabilities. This applies to websites as well, making it important to perform a website accessibility check to ensure your site is in compliance with the law.

Besides benefiting your site by making it easier for individuals with disabilities to navigate and consume content, designing your site to comply with the ADA provides a prudent way to reduce the risk of an accessibility-based lawsuit. Additionally, the standards most commonly used to judge website accessibility, WCAG 2.0 guidelines, are widely considered to be effective for improving overall website usability and design. 

This means using WCAG 2.0 can make your site more attractive to all its users, too – not only those with disabilities.

Illustration Which Type of Website Accessibility Check is Right for You?What Do I Look for in a Thorough Website Accessibility Check?

There a variety of disabilities websites must accommodate to qualify as accessible. These include:

  • Vision disability: This covers complete blindness, color blindness, visual impediments such as flashing effect sensitivity, and any other type of diminished vision.
  • Physical disability: People who fall under this category may not be capable of using the mouse or keyboard effectively and/or may have motor skills problems that make hand movements difficult.
  • Hearing disability: This category includes auditory conditions such as deafness as well as hearing impairments on any level.
  • Literacy disability: Difficulty reading written words.
  • Cognitive disability: Trouble learning, processing or understanding content. 

Individuals with disabilities can utilize a variety of assistive technologies to assist them in navigating websites and using software apps, all of which should be compatible with the design of your site. Among these are:

  • Speech Recognition Software: An app of this type works by converting spoken words into text which can be read by those with hearing disabilities.
  • Specialized keyboard: These keyboards are designed to enable people to type if they have trouble with motor control.
  • Screen Magnification Software: Software of this type is utilized to increase the size of the focus area on the monitor, making it easier to read for those with vision impairment.
  • Screen Reader Software: These apps verbalize the words displayed on the screen so those with visual disabilities can hear them.

When gauging your website’s level of accessibility to those with disabilities, there are a variety of questions you can ask. 

  • Are the site’s tabs logically placed to facilitate smooth navigation?
  • Do applications offer keyboard equivalents for each mouse operation and window?
  • Are all labels accurately described in an application?
  • Are shortcut keys available for the menus on the site?
  • Are images and icons appropriately designed to ensure visibility for all users?
  • Can the user adjust video or audio controls?
  • Can the user override the default text display fonts?
  • Does the contrast ratio make it difficult to see important text?
  • Are alt tags provided with each image?

Now that we have covered the reasons and methods behind accessibility, the next question to ask is: What type of testing best fits my situation? User1st provides a variety of website accessibility checks, assessments and advisory programs to help determine the best path to accessibility. Among them are the Health Check, Assessment, Audit and Strategic Consulting. 

User1st Health Check

  • Allows you to generally gauge the accessibility of a digital asset.
  • Provides exclusively automated scan results via report.
  • Test up to 15 templates.
  • Usually available for a conservative, one-time price. For example, at User1st we provide a full Health Check report for flexible pricing under $1K.

Where Health Checks Can Fall Short

A health check can provide you with a detailed analysis of your site’s overall accessibility status. However, these checks can fall short in some areas, especially when it comes to the actual performance of assistive technology when used on your site. Often, the only way to verify that your site is fully usable by people with disabilities is to conduct manual testing.

This can be done by user testing with and without assistive technology. The key is to perform an actual test of a website’s functionality not only from the perspective of a user with disabilities, but as a human that understands the logic and context behind how information is presented. To make your site as accessible as possible, tests should employ the major assistive technologies described above.

Do You Need an Audit, or is a Full Assessment Sufficient? screenshot of User1st accessibility tester

It’s important to understand that an audit functions as a legal document, meaning that there isn’t a need for such an in-depth report unless it has been legally required of your company. Because this audit is legally solicited, the terms of it and the tools used will be specifically legally mandated as well. Rather than cataloging every individual error that appears on a digital asset as occurs in an audit, most organizations will only need an assessment that tests enough random pages and templates to create a demonstrative sample size and description of errors. However, both tests are more in-depth than a health check because they include that crucial manual testing component. 

The two types of reports can be compared using the quick facts below:

User1st Assessment

  1. Allows you to know the accessibility of a digital asset.
  2. Provides automated accessibility scan results via report.
  3. Includes partial manual review with assistive technology.
  4. Assessments are partial (i.e. sampling and random).
  5. The intent of assessments is to educate and orient.
  6. Assessments use varying criteria and tools.
  7. Assessments have varying scope, depending on the needs of the organization, meaning it can review: the entire site, most trafficked pages, prioritized transaction pages, etc. 

User1st Audit

  1. Allows you to know the accessibility of all elements of a digital asset.
  2. Provides automated accessibility scan results via report.
  3. Includes full manual review with assistive technology.
  4. Audits are complete within the scope of the audit definition (e.g. one entire function, one entire site, etc.).
  5. While the logical scope of an audit is determined by the customer, the technical scope is always determined by the auditor. For example, you decide to open an LLC and scope part of your work to a corporate entity. The IRS decides how to audit said entity for tax purposes. 
  6. The intent of an audit is to PROVE accessibility to a regulator or court.

Now that you’re an expert on the varying degrees of testing available, you’re ready to choose which one is the best fit for your organization. If you’re unsure, find the statements that most accurately describe your situation below:

User1st Health Checks

  • Rather than perform a full assessment initially, you want to see how your site does with a health check first, especially if your site gets few visitors and is not a major revenue producer. 
  • You have recently performed an audit or assessment on your site and want to do a quick status check.

User1st Assessments

  • You want a comprehensive report of your site’s accessibility, especially if your site gets a fair amount of traffic or generates a fair amount of revenue and would therefore be a potential target for lawsuits if it didn’t comply with the ADA.

User1st Audits

  • You have been sued due to claims that your site is not accessible to people with disabilities.
  • A business partner or other entity has requested an audit to verify that your site is accessible to people with disabilities.  

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Written by Raegan Bartlo