Web-based web site accessibility evaluation tools are a handy resource for anyone who wants to ensure that the site they are developing meets established accessibility standards. Since web site accessibility is a subset of web site usability, one needs to ensure that the site is accessible as part of the aspects that ultimately make it usable too. The importance of accessibility within usability is the reason why I am writing this post.
A simple Google Search for “Accessibility Tools” yields a number of lists and collections of tools. I could have very easily copied one or two such lists and voila, I have a new post. But, I wanted to add a personal touch to this post by writing about the tools I use in my daily job. I was surprised by the number of broken links in the lists I visited – most of them linking to obsolete Accessibility Tools such as Bobby – some with links to the old 1995 web site!
Thus, in this post, one will find tools that:
- Evaluate your web site against accessibility guidelines. These may include the W3C’s WCAG 1.0 and 2.0, Section 508, the Stanca Act (Italian Accessibility Law), BITV (web accessibility test of the German BIK project), RGAA (French Accessibility Law) or a combination of them. Some tools also have their own accessibility guidelines.
- Are operated by simply giving them your URL. Some of them also allow you to upload your HTML file or pasting your HTML code.
- Are all web-based, meaning that you will not need to download or install anything to use them.
- Are not web browser plugins. Indeed, I have encountered a number of posts that mention the Firefox Accessibility Extension and the Web Accessibility Toolbar (for IE and Opera) so there was no use in listing them again here.
- Do not take into consideration how web sites are viewed on mobile devices. For this purpose I would recommend using W3C MobileOK Checker and mobiReady.
Before We Begin – A Warning
It is very important to keep in mind that to date, no web site evaluation tool has been developed that can completely replace a human being. This is because with present technology it is difficult to emulate human attributes such as common sense. In this regard, these tools should be used with caution, and the results that they produce should be interpreted in context with the web site you are evaluating. Moreover, since accessibility is a subset of usability, these tools should only be used to evaluate accessibility and not usability since, at best, they can only show you where your site is not accessible.
1. Accessibility Valet
Accessibility Valet is a tool that allows you to check Web pages against either Section 508 or W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) accessibility compliance. One URL at a time may be checked with this online tool in free mode, or unlimited use with paid subscription. All the HTML reporting options display your markup in a normalized form, highlighting valid, deprecated and bogus markup, as well as elements which are misplaced. Any accessibility warnings are shown in a generated report.
2. AChecker – Accessibility Checker
Accessibility Checker is an open source accessibility evaluation tool that was developed in 2009 by the Inclusive Design Research Centre (formerly known as the Adaptive Technology Resource Centre) of the University of Toronto. Using this tool, the user can submit a web page via its URL or by uploading its HTML file and can subsequently select which guidelines to evaluate it against, namely the HTML Validator, BITV, Section 508 , Stanca Act, WCAG 1.0 and WCAG 2.0.
3. Cynthia Says
The Cynthia Says portal is a Web content accessibility validation solution. It is designed to identify errors in your content related to Section 508 standards and/or WCAG compliance. This free tool, meant for educational purposes, is an online test which only validates one page at a time. is a web content accessibility validation tool that identifies errors in your design that are related to Section 508 standards and the WCAG guidelines.
Developed by the University of the Basque Country in Spain, EvalAccess is one of the few tools that lets you evaluate an entire website for WCAG 1.0 compliance. It displays the results in an easy-to-read report, whilst describing each error detected. Whilst it may not be the most user friendly access tool, it can be sufficient to help most designers and developers clean up their sites.
5. FAE – Functional Accessibility Evaluator
The FAE evaluates a web page for its accessibility by referencing the ITAA Web Accessibility Standards which are based on the WCAG 1.0 and Section 508 guidelines. The results of the evaluation are broken into 5 categories: Navigation and Orientation, Text Equivalents, Scripting, Styling and HTML Standards. The judging of the overall performance in each category is a percentage, divided between Pass, Warn and Fail – thus enabling you to focus on the specific areas with most problems.
6. MAGENTA – Multi-Analysis of Guidelines by an ENhanced Tool for Accessibility
MAGENTA is a web-based accessibility tool developed by the Human Interface in Information Systems (HIIS) Laboratory within the Human Computer Interaction Group. In addition to the WCAG 1.0 guidelines it evaluates the accessibility of web sites according to their conformance to guidelines for the visually impaired and guidelines included in the Stanca Act.
7. OCAWA – Operational Control and Analysis for Web Accessibility
Developed by Urbilog and Orange, OCAWA references the WCAG 1.0 and France’s accessibility law, the RGAA. Users can submit the URL of the web site or else upload an HTML file and the tool displays an accessibility audit report with links to the discovered violations.
8. TAW – Test de Accesibilidad Web
TAW references WCAG 1.0, 2.0 and its own set of own heuristics for mobile accessibility. Developed by the CTIC Centro Tecnólogico, TAW clearly marks the accessibility violations that it discovers by providing an annotated version of the web site as well as recommendations on how to resolve them. It is available online and as a desktop application as well as a Firefox add-on.
9. WAVE – Web Accessibility Versatile Evaluator
WAVE is a tool developed by WebAIM that is available both online and as a Firefox add-on. It reports accessibility violations by annotating a copy of the page that was evaluated and at the same time, providing recommendations on how to repair them. Rather than providing a complex technical report, WAVE shows the original Web page with embedded icons and indicators that reveal the accessibility information within your page.
10. Web Accessibility Checker
Developed by the University of Stanford’s Online Accessibility Program (SOAP), Web Accessibility Checker is a tool that can analyze individual web pages for their accessibility. Any detected problems are listed by the tool in a report that it outputs at the end of the evaluation. The user can choose to evaluate against multiple guidelines which include WCAG 1.0 and 2.0, Section 508, BITV and the Stanca Act.
Comparison of the above tools
|Web Site Submission Methods||Accessibility Guidelines Referenced|
|Web Acc Checker||B,S|
|Legend: W = W3C HTML Validator, B = BITV, S = Stanca Act, I = ITAA Web Accessibility Standards|
|V = Own Heuristics for Visually Impaired, R = RGAA, M = Own Mobile Heuristics|