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December 11, 2014 / carlispina

Test Your Website’s Accessibility with WAVE

WAVEAn important step in any web development process is testing the website for accessibility for individuals with disabilities and yet many websites present major problems for visitors who use assistive devices. There are many tools that can help to ensure that a website meets the existing accessibility standards and best practices would integrate several of these tools into your process, but one great option for getting started is the WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool from WebAIM.

WAVE can be used in a couple of different ways. For public websites, you simply enter the URL into the form on the WAVE homepage and press enter. This will take you to a new page with a WAVE report displayed on the left and the original site with icons indicating different elements that WAVE has detected on the right, as seen in the picture below. You can learn more about the issues identified by either clicking on the icons in the right section of the page or by navigating through the sections of the report on the left.

WAVE Example

Either of these approaches will identify problems that need to be corrected within your website and will also help you to find features that will add the accessibility of your site. If you are working with a site that you didn’t originally create, you can also use this tool to quickly identify the structure of the page, which is important for the accessibility of a website. WAVE also includes a tool for determining whether the contrast on the page is sufficient for users with low vision. If you want, you can also remove the styles from the page to identify other issues with the site by clicking on the “No Styles” tab in the WAVE report. You can also see an outline of the structure of the entire page in the last tab on the right menu, which will give you a sense of how assistive devices will move through your website.

The WAVE website works well for public websites, but if you need to test a password protected website, you won’t be able to use this version of the tool. For these instances, or for any time that you want to be able to test a page without navigating to the WAVE homepage, you can install the Chrome Extension or Firefox Toolbar to test accessibility from within your browser window. These tools are perfect for testing websites that aren’t public, but they are also nice options for developers who want to be able to check accessibility quickly and frequently. Using either of these browser-based options produces a similar report with icons identifying different issues and features on the page. Though these reports do not have the summary information to the right of the page as the WAVE website does, they nevertheless include the icons that explain the elements of the report.

All of the WAVE suite of products are great options for testing the accessibility of websites. If you are responsible for creating or editing websites or if you work with individuals who use assistive devices, accessibility testing should be a regular part of your workflow and the WAVE tools make it easy to ensure that you are effectively completing these tests. Once you have run tests, you can also refer to the WebAIM site to find out more about how to address the issues that you have identified and how to bring accessibility issues to the forefront of future web design projects.

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