What is a Website Accessibility Audit?
You have come to this page because either you want to have an accessibility audit for your website or you want to find out more about what is involved.
We hope the information here will help you make an informed decision about what is right for you.
What a website accessibility audit is not
There is a misconception that paying for an expensive accessibility audit will generate an Accessibility Statement that sits on your website like a badge of shame. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In an ideal world, when you have invested in a website, you would hope (and expect) that it would be built to a certain level of specification, fulfilling or even exceeding the minimum requirements laid down by statutory bodies such as the UK Government. Unfortunately, the likelihood is that your website would fall short of even these limited standards but there may be little that can now be done. The website was commissioned in good faith and was no doubt built by a well-intentioned agency who thought they were doing what was needed. Just like in the real world, once a building has been built, there it is and there is not much that can be done to resolve any accessibility issues, especially if they are fundamental ones.
This is where the audit comes in. The audit should rigorously go through your website, detailing all the issues that should be addressed. If the audit has been carried out by someone with little or no knowledge of accessible website design techniques, it may, in effect, give the website a stamp of approval for passing what is seen as the minimum requirements. The website owner would be in blissful ignorance of any deep-rooted and systemic failures in the code. This, in turn, lays the website owner, the website designer and the website auditor all open to litigation if the website is found to be inaccessible to visitors with a certain accessibility need and they were not forewarned about the issues via the Accessibility Statement.
What a website accessibility audit is
An accessibility audit of your website should tell you everything (and I mean everything) that could prove to be an issue to someone with a specific accessibility requirement. This information can then be conveyed to the web design team and a plan can then be developed to agree on the order of priority that the issues will be resolved. If resolving an issue is not practicable due to cost or other reasons then that is of course allowable, as long as it is documented.
A full audit of a website may run to many pages, often in excess of 100 and it will highlight many imperfections if it is done thoroughly. This can be seen as a good thing and ideally, this audit should be made available to any visitor to the website, if they request it. The need for complete transparency overrules any discomfort the website owner may feel in making this audit available. No one could be reasonably expected to fix all the errors or issues with a website's accessibility but if they are not aware of them, they are being denied the opportunity to at least make a start.
What is involved
A typical audit would consist of the following stages:
- Report of home page metrics and general navigational issues
- Detailed appraisal (automated and manual) of Home Page
- Detailed appraisal (automated and manual) of additional pages (specifically requested or in consultation with the client as to which were the most appropriate)
- Live Testing of specific pages with Members of our Team of Disabled Testers
- Production of Final Report
- Production of Accessibility Statement
Access to the website code is not necessary as the full appraisal is a front-end operation. A website accessibility audit is not concerned with the code that generates the pages on a website, it is only concerned with the generated pages themselves. The guidelines for best practices in accessible website design are universal and freely available. If the agency proves to be unable to implement the changes required, we would be able to assist them and have done so before, on occasion.
At the end of the process, the client will have had a rigorous assessment of the accessibility of their website and, perhaps a roadmap to resolving some or all of the issues. The subsequent Accessibility Statement will sit on their website and perform its dual role of informing visitors with accessible needs of what to expect, whilst protecting the owners of the website itself (and the developers) from litigation.
Beware - not all website accessibility audits are equal!
One can judge the quality of a website accessibility audit by its level of detail. After familiarisation with the current Government guidance, it is fairly easy to ascertain whether the audit has been carried out by someone with any significant knowledge of accessible website design or not. It is possible for a website to appear to have successfully passed an audit and have an Accessibility Statement whilst actually continuing to be completely inaccessible to visitors with an accessibility need. The fact that this lays the owner of the website more open to litigation than a website without an Accessibility Statement in the first place, appears to not have been universally recognised. Unfortunately, ignorance is not a valid excuse, just like a breach in Healthy and Safety legislation would not be acceptable either.