Our Time-Tested Testing Tools for 508 Accessibility

 

Accessibility is more than just a modern standard of web development; it is a way to make sure all users can access the information on your site in a sensible, beautiful way. Unfortunately, there is no one magic solution for making a website or app accessible. There will always be the need to adjust colors and fonts, add alternative text, or make some small change to make an accessible website.

Keyboard with fake keys for different accessibility callouts.

The tools I’ve listed here will not give you the answer. They might not even tell you the issue you need to address for full accessibility, but they will help you find the problems and fix them yourself. Use your best judgment when considering accessibility changes and only make the changes that make the most sense for your website, your business, and your audience. Now, let’s get to the list:

  1. Nu Html Checker

    Always start with this HTML validator. I have seen developers struggle with a basic accessibility issue just to find out that it was simply bad markup. Quite often, accessibility issues will magically disappear after the markup is fixed.

  2. Asqatasun Contrast Finder

    This is hands down my favorite tool to share with others. Everyone loves it and gets excited when they learn about it. Why? This tool takes that special, perfect color you love and cannot live without—but that doesn’t have enough contrast to meet accessibility standards—and it suggests extremely similar colors that do have enough contrast.

  3. Wave Browser Extension

    Need to review a single webpage fast? This tool is the quickest and easiest way to do an almost-comprehensive accessibility audit. This is not a deep or perfect audit, but it is really a great way to catch the low-hanging fruit.

    The wave browser extension tool being used on bixal.com
    The Wave Browser Extension tool being used on Bixal's website.
  4. Accessibility Developer Tools

    If you need to get a little deeper into the code, Chrome’s Accessibility Developer Tools give you new features, including the ability to run an audit on any page or inspect individual elements for accessibility. This tool also gets into more of the nitty-gritty of the ARIA standards.

  5. Web Developer Toolbar Browser Extension

    This tool isn’t specifically for accessibility, but it provides some really good ways to find out what might be missing on your site. You can view a document outline of your site to see where you are missing headers or view what images are missing alternative text.

    Header text being shown above all images on the Work section of the Bixal website.
    Alternative attributes being displayed using the Web Developer Toolbar Browser Extension in the Work section of the Bixal website.
  6. JavaScript Bookmarklets for Accessibility Testing

    These simple bookmarklets allow you to make your own customized accessibility toolbar. Choose the ones that you find helpful, add them to your favorites bar, and away you go!

  7. tota11y

    This bookmarklet includes the standard heading and alternative image text issues callouts, but that is not why it’s on this list. What makes this tool different? It has a “Screen Reader Wand” that lets you visually see the text a screen reader would read aloud. It’s still in an experimental stage, so keep that in mind.

  8. HTML_CodeSniffer

    What sets this bookmarklet apart is that it not only lets you pick which standards you want to apply to the website, but it also walks you through each error on the page, making it extremely easy to understand where the error is and what it means.

    HTML CodeSniffer being used to check the About page on Bixal's website.
    HTML CodeSniffer being used to check the About page on Bixal's website.
  9. Accessibility Checklist

    This is a bit different from the rest of the items on the list because it’s a checklist. What distinguishes this checklist from others is its clean design and navigability, filtering capabilities, and simple suggestions on how to ensure that your site follows accessibility guidelines.

  10. PowerMapper Web Site Accessibility Testing Tool

    This is the only paid item on the list, but it does more than just scan your current webpage. It audits your entire site for accessibility and includes additional features, such as HTML validation and a broken links checker. The downside is that if you get some of the more advanced tools, this option can get quite pricey. You can check out an example audit here.

I love the idea of automated accessibility testing. There are a lot of tools out there for this, but I have not yet had a chance to use any of them, so I cannot recommend any. I wanted to share them anyway, because they sound interesting to me, and maybe they are exactly what you are looking for. Let me know if they work well for you!

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) maintains a list of accessibility tools, just in case you want to test even more testing tools.