It is important to have a general understanding of how any of your websites or digital platforms comply with accessibility standards. While full accessibility audits can be time-consuming and require specialist skills, there are a number of checks that can be performed using free tools and limited technical skills.
This resource is designed to help you run a ‘first pass’ at website accessibility based on the requirements of WCAG2.1 Level AA and ETSI EN 301 549 accessibility standards. It does not cover all the accessibility success criteria for these standards, but it enables you to undertake some checks with minimal accessibility auditing tools and experience.
We recommend that you record your results on a risk scale, where
Low risk = this would indicate a likely pass as you are confident that your checks you have performed show no issues and that this would be case across the whole site
Medium risk = this would indicate that further investigations are required to establish as:
- you are not sure that the results you have found are representative of the while site
- you are not sure of the accuracy of your checks
- the issues you’ve found would cause barriers for some users, but they would not stop them using the site
High risk = this would indicate that you believe the site would fail this accessibility check
Each test includes a link to the W3C WAI guidance for undertaking a similar accessibility check. The tests are presented here in the order they would be found in the WCAG 2.1 Level AA guidelines. The checklist at the end of the document provides a summary of the checks in an order that is useful to use when checking a few pages of a website.
The following 18 checks cover parts of 30 success criteria within WCAG 2.1. Level as well as additional requirements on support documents required for the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018. Our Word document version of the Quick checks includes tables for logging your results.
Text alternatives are available for images
- Does each decorative image have a null alt text or aria-hidden?
- Is the alt text on other images meaningful?
Additional resources for testing for image text.
Audio or video should have text alternatives. This may include captions or transcript or text description of the key points and can be operated without a mouse.
Additional resources for multimedia testing.
Do videos have:
- Audio descriptions
The heading structure creates logical and effective navigation. Some disabled people rely on a clear and consistent heading structure to help navigate long pages using assistive technologies.
- Is the heading structure logical and meaningful?
It is also useful to check that page retains a consistent structure and is understandable when Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is turned off. If content disappears or is in the wrong order when CSS is turned off this will indicate potential issues.
Additional resources for testing for headings.
Forms field labels
Form fields should be associated with their labelled. A quick check on simple form fields is to click on a form field name in a desktop browser. The input field will receive focus if the label is associated it. For more complicated form fields and hidden labels use the WAVE checker.
Additional resources for testing forms.
Colour contrast and meaning
Check that colour contrasts are adequate and colour not used for meaning. A colour contrast ratio of 4.5:1 is required for text content, 3:1 for large text or non-text graphical controls. This should be checking using:
Pages should also be checked to see if colour has been used as the only means of conveying information (e.g. for highlighting errors).
Additional resources for testing colour contrast.
Reflow and magnification
Check that page works correctly when zoomed in. This includes:
- Content of the page can be zoomed to 300% using the browser zoom controls (Ctrl +) and retain all content and functionality
- Text can be resized up to 200%.
- Text reflows when magnified up to 400% (except tables).
Additional resources for testing for resize and reflow.
All interactive content should be operable without a mouse. You should be able to reach everything (including drop-down menu options etc) using the Tab key and up/down arrows instead of a mouse. Spacebar and/or Enter keys should be able to activate any buttons, links or controls. It should be possible to enter and exit all components via the keyboard (no keyboard trap) and the order should be logical.
Are there ways that keyboard access can be more efficient / effective? Are users forced to tab through components such as social media feeds or news feeds?
Additional resources for testing for keyboard access.
Focus is visible
When you use the tab key to move through a page you can see where you are on the page. The focus indicator should either have sufficient contrast that it is clearly visible or it should be the browser default focus indicator.
Additional resources for testing for keyboard.
Pause or stop
Any content on a page that moves or auto-plays for more than 5 seconds can be paused, stopped or hidden. This control must be keyboard accessible.
If there are audio play automatically on a webpage for more than 3 seconds, then it should be possible to pause/stop it or to alter the audio volume independently of the device’s audio control (e.g. a mute button).
No content flashes more than 3 times per second.
Additional resources for testing moving content.
Pages have titles that describe their purpose and are unique. Titles are usually displayed in the browser tab. Check that there is a title that adequately and briefly describes the content of the page. Check that the title is different from other pages on the website, and adequately distinguishes the page from other web pages.
Additional resources for testing page titles.
Skip links are available to bypass repeated content if it appears on each page (e.g. navigation menus. Test them by refreshing the page and using the Tab button to navigate. Does a pop-up Skip link message appear before you get to any menus? Does the link move you to the beginning of the main content on the page?
Link text should be meaningful. Look for hyperlinks on a page. Are they unique and meaningful within content (e.g. contact us) or repetitive and unenlightening (e.g. Here or Click here)?
Additional resources on accessible hyperlinks.
There is more than one way of getting to any web page. This could be a site map, menus, search box etc.
Does each part of your web site have the same kind of menu structure?
Or does the user experience different navigation conventions on different parts of the website?
Consistent icons and labelling
Are icons and visual cues for navigation used consistently in a page and across the sites? Ideally icons should have text labels that are displayed on screen. Any icons without text labels need to have a programmatic label that can be accessed by screen readers. This may be shown in the WAVE checker.
When you do something wrong (like put your name in an email field of a form) do you get a helpful error message that helps you correct the mistake?
Check if the error message is associated with the form field so that screen-reader users can know that there is an error on a field. This can be checked by using the WAVE accessibility checker on a form with an error. The message should be associated with the field using an aria-describedby tag.
Is information about the accessibility of the site (e.g. the accessibility statement) easily accessed on every page? Does the accessibility help provide information on:
- Known accessibility issues
- Who to contact if accessibility issues are encountered?
Are any help and support pages accessible and do they provide information on accessibility features and compatibility with assistive technologies?
If your results show many medium or any high risk issues, consider:
- Undertaking an accessibility review using assistive technologies and accessibility code inspection tools to get further information on the issues.
- Getting an objective external accessibility audit in order to establish known accessibility issues and how to address them.
- Getting help with writing an accessibility statement and roadmap.
This document is an attempt to summarise a range of guidance from WCAG, Government Digital Services and Web2Access, so that organisations can begin to understand what barriers disabled users may experience when using their digital estate. The authors have used their experience of common issues and barriers in UK education to help organisations translate and apply technical standards across typical digital systems in education.
While these checks can provide helpful information about the accessibility of a website, it is not intended to replace an accessibility audit and these tests on their own are not sufficient to evaluate whether a website complies with web accessibility standards.