Accessibility - it's a big deal, but how do you get a quick overview of the subject? Well try here for starters, as Trenton Moss from the UK based webcredible consultancy outlines ten helpful tests for checking the accessibility of your website.
Ten Quick Tests to Check your Website for Accessibility
The DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) says that websites must be made accessible to blind and disabled people. So how can you check that your website actually has good accessibility? There are a number of basic tests you can make to address some of the main accessibility issues. The following list includes guidelines that provide a good start in increasing accessibility to disabled people:
1. Check informational images for alternative text
In Internet Explorer place the cursor over an informational image, for example, the organisation logo. Does a yellow box appear with a brief, accurate description of the image? For users whose browsers don't support images, this alternative text is what they'll see (or hear) in place of the image.
2. Check decorative images for alternative text
Place the cursor over a decorative image that doesn't have any function other than to look nice. Does a yellow box appear with a description of the image? It shouldn't. This image serves no purpose so there's no reason for users whose browsers don't support images to know that it's here.
Be careful though as this isn't a foolproof test. If a yellow box doesn't appear, this could mean one of two things:
- The alternative text of the image is assigned a null value (alt=""), which means that it will be ignored by browsers that don't support images. This is the ideal scenario.
- The alternative text of the image is simply not set at all, which means that users whose browsers do not support images will be alerted to its existence but will be unable to find out what purpose it carries - something which is very frustrating! This is certainly not the desired outcome.
3. 'Listen' to video or audio content with the volume turned off
If you turn your speakers off, you're clearly unable to listen to, or follow, any audio content. This situation is faced by a deaf person on a daily basis. Ensure your website supplies subtitles or written transcripts so that this type of content is accessible to hearing impaired users.
4. Check that forms are accessible
Usually there's prompt text next to each item in a form. For example, a contact form might have the prompt text 'name', 'e-mail' and 'comments', each one next to a box where site users will enter their details.
When you click on the prompt text, does a flashing cursor appear in the box next to that text? If not, your forms aren't accessible.
5. Ensure that text can be resized
Can the text size on your website be adjusted? If not, then your website isn't accessible to web users with poor visibility. To check in Internet Explorer go to 'View > Text size > Largest'. Alternatively, scroll with the wheel of your mouse whilst holding down the control key.