All that glitters is not gold… that is why websites need an accessibility audit!
I have just finished a website accessibility audit for a publicly-funded organisation in the UK. Their website had been launched last year and they had been asked to have an accessibility audit done.
This website accessibility audit was a substantial project!
It was an intensive project, my final audit ran to over 180 pages, consisting of over 28,000 words with a few diagrams thrown in. The site had been an amalgamation of 4 existing websites and was over 1,000 pages in total. I had been commissioned to evaluate the site overall and then provide a detailed audit of 20 pages which the clients felt best represented the site as a whole.
What are Website Accessibility Standards?
There are 3 levels of “standards” that a website can be measured against, commonly known as A, AA or AAA. However, such automated checking only accounts for about 20% of what may make a website accessible or not. The other 80% can be ascertained by manual checking and knowing in detail what elements a website needs to have to be truly accessible.
The UK Government has stipulated that all publicly-funded websites should attain the Accessibility Standard AA. We, as a company, have always striven to attain AAA because it makes sense to achieve maximum compliance rather than just the minimum. It was important that my audit was able to separate what needed attention under current Government guidelines from anything else that, whilst highly desirable, was not technically necessary.
The website accessibility audit testing begins well
I ran the pages through my usual set of metrics, so that it was possible to provide a definitive, accurate list of technical issues that should be resolved. What interested me for more, however, was to find out how the website performed to someone with a screen reader or any other accessibility need. That is what the 80% is all about.
The website performed very well against all the automated metrics, with no more than 1 or 2 errors on any of them. I always do these first, as it is usually a good barometer as to the general build quality and accessibility. I fully expected this site to have very few issues.
The manual checking for the website accessibility audit begins
Until I started looking more closely.
I went back to the client.
“You do not have a contact phone number on your home page, or any other page, or an email address, apart from on your contact page. Is there a reason for this? Do you prefer not to be contacted?”
It was a genuine question because some businesses prefer not to be contacted directly, especially those running large information or directory websites. This was not the case here though.
A lot of website accessibility options were not present
There was a big nasty cookie banner at the bottom of the page that would never have been seen by a visitor who used a screen magnifier.
There were no buttons to allow you to change the Text Size or to change the Contrast. There was no Site Map. All these things can be done quite simply and yet the difference they can make to the experience of a visitor is huge.
I had not even started looking at Home Page yet. Still, not to worry, it passed most of the automated checks so obviously there was nothing wrong with it.
The clients were very keen on website accessibility
The clients themselves were lovely, they were not just performing a box-ticking exercise, they really wanted to make sure that the website was as accessible as possible. That is why I really enjoy working with them. The Agency that built the website did, I believe, everything they thought was needed to do to make the website accessible. Unfortunately they lacked the knowledge of what really needs to be done and the website is difficult in places for visitors with accessible requirements. I hope my audit will encourage them into adopting best practice in every website they build from now on, so that all future visitors to their websites will all have an inclusive experience.
If you would like to have a chat about having an Accessibility Audit on your own website, why not book yourself in for a free initial consultation? Please follow the link below: