A WCAG 2.1 AA accessibility audit, is the name of the process used to test websites against the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). WCAG 2.1 is the defacto accessibility guidelines used by governments throughout the world. Note, that the WCAG 2.2 guidelines have been released but, as of the date of this article, it has not yet been adopted by governments, therefore most auditors still use WCAG 2.1 AA for accessibility checks.

A WCAG 2.1 AA accessibility audit is your roadmap to a more inclusive website

An audit checks for any barriers you have on your site that are preventing disabled people from accessing your content. Think of it as a roadmap that guides you through the process of making your website more inclusive, more accessible and friendlier to both visitors and search engines such as Google (yes, a more accessible website increases your SEO score). An accessible website also provides you with insurance against damage to your brand – as you are less open to complaints from disabled people or organisations representing disabled people. It also means potentially more visitors as your site becomes accessible to disabled people.

Accessibility tools and techniques for testing accessibility

A variety of tools and techniques are used to carry out an audit, including automated testing software and manual evaluations. Often, as with my own audits, disabled people are part of the auditing team. Having disabled people on the test team is valuable because it reveals how accessible your site is in practice, not just in theory.

Can disabled people navigate your website?

An accessibility audit checks that your website can be navigated by disabled people, many of whom will be using specialist accessibility tools such as screen readers and screen magnifiers. For example, a blind person is likely to be using a screen reader. Note, that a keyboard is the default way to use a screen reader, therefore, your site needs to be keyboard accessible. This is something that is checked during an accessibility audit.

How a blind person gets an overview of page content

A blind person, obviously can’t see your page, so it’s more difficult for them to get a quick overview of your content. To help with this issue, screen readers can read out all of the headings on a page and/or read out all of the links. This allows the user to jump to the part of the page or click to the page that they are interested in. For you, it means you have to ensure your headings and links still make sense when read ‘out of context’.

Alternative text for non-text content

A blind person also needs information about any non-text content on your pages. For example, a photograph or an illustration. An accessibility audit checks to see if your non-text content has alternative text, i.e., are there text descriptions of the photos on your page and text descriptions of your illustrations?

A WCAG 2.1 AA accessibility audit checks for adequate contrast

An audit also checks to see if the contrast between your text and background colour is high enough for people will visual impairment or people who are colour blind. and checks if all of your non-text content (i.e., images, photos, videos) has text alternatives.

All of these, and much more, are crucial elements for ensuring that everyone can access your content, regardless of their abilities.

A WCAG 2.1 AA accessibility report is produced

An accessibility report documents and summarises the accessibility audit findings. The report notes the issues found and provides information on how to fix them. A WCAG 2.1 AA accessibility report provides, among other things: a table of checkpoints, showing whether the website passes or fails each checkpoint; an explanation of why it fails; and an executive summary. The executive summary lists those issues that are your ‘easy wins’ and those that should be fixed as a priority, i.e., because they create the most serious barriers to your content.

In a nutshell, an accessibility audit is about shining a light on areas where your website could be more inclusive, providing you with the knowledge you need to make it happen. This ensures that your website is welcoming and accessible to all of your visitors.

Get in touch

Get in touch to discuss whether commissioning an accessibility audit is the right move for your organisation.

Related Content

  • Website Accessibility Auditing Service – for WCAG 2.1, WCAG 2.2 Compliance
    Richard Morton is a member of our website accessibility audit team "A large proportion of my work over the last six years has been web accessibility auditing, using the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1 & WCAG 2.2).I do manual testing, using the standard browsers, and light tools like the AIS ...
  • About Web Designer and Accessible Website Design Specialist Jim Byrne
    A passion for equality and accessibility Decades before he became an accessible website design specialist, Jim started his working life as a computer programmer in 1979 using 'miniframe' computers that had LP (a long player record) sized 'not very floppy disks'. The disks needed to be screwed into a large cabinet ...
  • Website accessibility Services
    Amflify Change We contacted Jim and his team to audit our old website in preparation for a brand refresh and website redesign, and to do an accessibility audit after the redesign process. From the beginning of our collaboration, Jim was thorough and clear with his findings and provided additional support and ...

Take my Web Accessibility Online Training Course - WCAG 2.1 Compliance

Learn to design and manage WCAG compliant, accessible websites with my online course

You will learn both the techniques of accessible website design and an entire ‘framework for thinking about the subject’. It will equip you with the skills to understand, identify and fix issues any accessibility issues you come across. Watch the free videos to get a taste of what is on the course. Video image from Web Accessibility Online Training Course - WCAG 2.1 Compliance
Go this way for an WCAG 2.1 AA accessibility audit

Working with non-profits, charities, voluntary and public sector organisations and social enterprises for over 20 years. Jim set up one of the worlds first website accessibility web agencies in the mid 1990s.