Why is it important that disabled people audit your website?
This may seem to be a completely obvious question but, sadly, not everyone who carries out a website accessibility audit uses disabled people to test the website as part of the process.
A story from the 1980s
It reminds me of a story I was told about British Rail, many years ago. They had built a new type of railway carriage that, for the first time, was wide enough for a wheelchair user to get through. They had taken the width of a standard NHS Wheelchair and used that when designing the width of the door. Apparently, there was a press conference when this carriage was shown off to the world. To demonstrate, they had invited a man who was 15 stone to demonstrate to everyone how accessible this carriage now was.
The problem with this was that they had only measured the width of the chair with no one sitting in it. When the man was actually sitting in it, his weight pushed the wheels out slightly and he couldn’t get into the carriage at all! Oops. If such an incident happened now, of course, it would be on YouTube but back then mobile phones were only just coming out!
What disabled people bring to a website audit
So, let us go back to a website audit. It does not matter how much you think you know about accessible website design (and I include myself in this), unless you actually have a disability that affects how you use websites, you can never know what it is actually like and the problems that people may encounter.
That is why my fab team of website accessibility testers: Mede, Iona and Sara, are involved in my audits. They share their screens with me, so I experience, to some degree, what it is like for them and the challenges they have.
I have audited websites that have passed most automated tests with flying colours but literally could not be used at all by Mede using her screen-reader or by Iona using dictation software.
Automated checks are fine and necessary and if you have been involved in accessible website design for any period of time, you learn some insights and can often spot issues very quickly, but that will not fully cover all the potential issues.
Here is a question you need to ask a potential supplier
If you are going to get an accessibility audit of your website, ask potential auditors if they use disabled people and if they will include videos of their experiences as part of the package. If the answer is no, then I would suggest your audit will be incomplete and you might want to think of using someone else.
Get in touch!
If you are interested in a free initial review of the accessibility of your website, why not book yourself in for a consultation?
Please follow this link to do so:
Please follow this link to watch my TEDx Talk that I did recently, on website accessibility. It contains everything you need to know to get started!
Access by Design. Accessible Websites, Beautifully Designed.
Outstanding Website Accessibility Audits
Award-winning web design, Chichester