The Top 5 (FREE) Tools For Reviewing Your Website's Accessibility

Spacecraft UX Designer Jack Niland offers up 5 free (EASY-TO-USE) tools for accessing your website's performance this Global Accessibility Awareness Day.

Two individuals look at a screen together. In the top left corner are the GAAD logo and GAAD hashtag: #GAAD. The text reads: "Top 5 (free) tools to review your site's accessibility"

In honour of Global Accesibility Awareness Day (today!) we've listed the top 5 free tools for reviewing your website's accessibility and identifying opportunities for improvement.  

With new WCAG 2.1 guidelines coming into play, and the UK Government contemplating enforcing the European Accessibility Legislation, it’s a really important time to ensure your website is up to scratch, so get testing!

Tools covered:

  1. The Siteimprove Accessibility Checker

  2. The WebAIM (Web Accessibility In Mind) Colour Contrast Checker

  3. The NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access) Screen Reader

  4. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) ‘alt Decision Tree’

  5. The Hemingway Editor

READ: Going mousless: My experience

READ: Audible Accessibility: My experience using a SCREEN READER 

1) The Siteimprove Accessibility Checker

This simple browser add-on allows you to check any webpage for accessibility errors and is completely free.

When you run the app, it will check your site against all accessibility guidelines and feedback any errors. The tool gives you a breakdown of what the issues are, why they need fixing and what you can do.

It’s important to note that automated tools cannot pick up everything and manual testing is still needed!

The Siteimprove Accessibility Checker found here

2) The WebAIM (Web Accessibility In Mind) Colour Contrast Checker

WebAIM is a non-profit organisation based at the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University. Its free Colour Contrast Checker lets you see whether your site has enough contrast between colours.

It’s important that users with low vision are able to read and perceive elements on your site - contrast plays a big part!

This tool lets you determine just how readable your site is. This is more important than ever as WCAG 2.1 requires you to check the contrast level for User Interface (UI) elements like buttons and graphical elements.

As the tool explains “WCAG 2 level AA requires a contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 for normal text and 3:1 for large text, and a contrast ratio of at least 3:1 for graphics and user interface components (such as form input borders). Level AAA requires a contrast ratio of at least 7:1 for normal text and 4.5:1 for large text.”

The WebAIM (Web Accessibility In Mind) Colour Contrast Checker found here

3) The NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access) Screen Reader

There is no better way of understanding accessibility than by putting yourself in the position of those using your site.

The not-for-profit organisation NV Access offers a free screen reader. Screen readers are used by those with visual impairments and provide information about text, icons, menus, etc. A recent assistive technology survey by .Gov found that 29% of respondents use them.

There is a huge amount of people that may not be able to access your site if it’s not screen reader compatible. By learning to use one and testing your site using it, you will be able to uncover and fix any usability or screen reader errors.

The NVDA Screen Reader is free to download for Windows users, with the option of making a donation.

Mac users have access to an inbuilt screen reader VoiceOver, which can be accessed using the shortcut: cmd+f5.  

The NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access) Screen Reader found here

4) The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) ‘alt Decision Tree’

A decision tree models decisions and possible consequences. In this case, W3C provides a very simple model that makes it easy to see whether your ‘alt’ text is up to scratch.

Alt text (also called alt tags and alt descriptions) refers to the description of images which are read aloud to screen reader users. Without alt text, people who use screen readers can lose the context of a web page and be left without the same experience as everyone else. This decision tree can help you write your alt text and ensure it is accurate, equivalent, succinct and relevant.

W3C’s decision tree details how alt text should be used in various situations. Checking to see whether your website adheres to these guidelines is an important part of determining the sites overall accessibility levels.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) ‘alt Decision Tree’ found here

5) The Hemingway Editor

Readability or ‘reading age’ is an important part of accessible content. Did you know the average adult reading age in the UK is nine? But writing for a reading age doesn’t mean dumbing down your content. Reading age is about the speed of comprehension, how fast people are able to understand your content.

The Hemmingway app is a great tool for this, paste some content in to see how it works. We recommend aiming for grade four, which is a reading age of nine!

The Hemingway Editor found here

FIND OUT MORE: Accessibility Training and Information

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