These 10 quick accessibility tests can help you understand how easy or difficult it is for people with disabilities to perceive, operate and understand content on your website or mobile app. The tests are helpful for anyone wishing to get an idea of a product's support for accessibility, including project managers, content editors, procurement managers, and many others.
The tests can be done in a few minutes without testing tools or specialised knowledge. While they do not replace the need for a more comprehensive accessibility assessment they can indicate how easy or difficult a product is to use for people with disabilities. For more information about what is involved in an accessibility assessment read accessibility conformance review.
These tests cover three of the four Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 principles: perceivable, operable and understandable. These are discussed in more detail in our WCAG primer.
You can view the tests below as well as in a playlist on YouTube.
Testing if content is perceivable
Accessible products include two key characteristics: conveying information in alternative formats and adapting to people's preferences. This ensures essential information can be perceived by all, including people who cannot see or hear content, or need to modify its visual presentation.
Test 1: captions
If your content contains videos whose audio track conveys information, captions must be available for people unable to hear or understand the audio track. This includes:
- People with hearing disabilities
- People whose first language is not the one used in the videos and want to also read what they hear
- People who don't have a headset and are in a noisy environment
- People in a quiet place who do not wish to disturb others
Identify where there are videos, then check the following:
- Captions (closed or open) are available when the audio track conveys information
- Captions are accurate, for example they match the audio track
- Captions are synchronised with the audio track
An inclusive approach to video production describes approaches to video production that allows you to create accessible videos efficiently.
Test 2: content resizing
People with vision disabilities and older people may need to increase or decrease the text size to read it comfortably. They can do so using the browser zoom functionality or their device accessibility settings. Text must then resize and reflow to fit the screen width, so people are not forced to scroll content horizontally to view it.
Zoom content up to 400% on desktop (for websites) or enlarge the font size in your mobile device settings (for apps), then check the following:
- All text resizes accordingly
- All content remains visible and readable, for example no text overlaps or is truncated
- All content can be viewed without having to scroll horizontally (on websites)
Test 3: colour customisation
Many people cannot read text unless it is in a specific colour and against a particular background. For example, people with visual or reading disabilities, such as colour blindness or dyslexia, benefit from customising text and background colour. You want to ensure that your content adjusts as expected to any colour scheme that people may choose to use.
Select a different colour scheme in the device settings, then check the following:
- All text adapts to the selected colour scheme
- All text is still visible
Test 4: visual presentation of links
Links offer people an easy way to navigate content and find the information they want. When links are identified using colour alone, some people may struggle to notice them, for example:
- People unable to perceive some or all colours
- People using an app in a very sunny or bright place
- People using an app in a dim environment
Using an additional visual cue, such as an underline, can help all sighted people find them.
Identify where there are Links, then check the following:
- They are identified via an underline or other visual cue
Test 5: text legibility
The fonts, styles and alignment can have a huge impact on the readability of text for some people. While there are no set rules around text fonts and alignment, simple and commonly used fonts and left-aligned text are easier to read. Styles such as bold, italic and all capitals can decrease text legibility, especially if used for long blocks of content.
Identify headings, paragraphs, lists, labels and other text, then check the following:
- Simple and common fonts are used
- Text is left-aligned
- Bold, italics and capitalised text is used sparingly
Testing if content is operable
Not everybody can or wants to use websites with a mouse or mobile apps with gestures. Many prefer, or need, to use alternative input methods. These include keyboards, mouth sticks, eye tracking, speech recognition, and much more. With so many different input devices available, checking support for everything may seem daunting. Luckily, the way most input devices interact with digital content is relatively similar. By ensuring content works well with a keyboard, you can be reasonably confident they will offer good support for other input devices.
Test 6: keyboard support
Check that it's possible to navigate content using the keyboard alone. This means you can reach and activate all actionable elements such as buttons, links and controls. The order in which those actionable items are reached must also be logical, or people may become disoriented. If testing on mobile, you can connect a bluetooth keyboard to ket keyboard support.
Other issues experienced by keyboard users are the lack of a visible indication of their current location on the screen and the inability to interact with components using standard navigation and activation keys.
(Credit: WAI Perspectives: Keyboard Compatibility)
Using a keyboard navigate content and check the following:
- All buttons, links, form fields can be accessed using the Tab key
- All buttons, links, form fields can be activated using the Enter or Spacebar key
- All buttons, links, form fields have a visible focus state
- The content order is logical
Browsing with a keyboard discusses how keyboard users experience the web.
Test 7: skip links
People using keyboards, sip and puff devices, joysticks, head pointers and similar input devices navigate pages sequentially: from the first item at the top to the last one at the bottom. Sometimes this results in people having to press a key or button many times before reaching the content they want. This is why skip links, which allow people to skip entire content sections, are helpful, especially on pages with large navigation menus. Skip links should be the first items on every page and always visible or become visible when they receive focus. "Skip to main content" is the most commonly used editorial.
Identify is skip links are available on your website, then check the following:
- The skip link is available at the top of the page in the keyboard tab order
- The skip link can be activated using the Enter key
- Focus moves to the right section of content
Testing if content is understandable
Ensuring information is easy to understand is essential for everyone, particularly for people with situational, temporary or permanent cognitive disabilities. For example, someone with a learning disability may struggle to understand sentences, or someone with a migraine may find concentrating difficult. Content designed and written following accessibility best practices is easier to comprehend for everybody.
Test 8: content structure
A logical content structure is one of the ways you can improve its readability and understandability. Long blocks of content with no structure are more challenging to understand than brief sections preceded by a descriptive heading. Information presented in bulleted or numbered lists is also generally easier to comprehend. Finally, prioritising content and calls to action at the beginning of each page, screen, or section helps people notice them.
Identify different page/screen content and layouts, then check the following:
- Content is broken down into brief sections, each preceded by a descriptive heading
- Bulleted and numbered lists are used when appropriate
- Key information and calls to actions are prioritised in the content order
Test 9: link text
People should not have to activate links to know what content they load. All links should be descriptive enough for people to understand their purpose, for example, "read all UK news" and "how to register" are clear. Vague links such as "click here" or "read more" are not and should be avoided. Avoid using a URL as link text; they are difficult to read and process for everybody. For links that load content other than web pages such as PDF, including the content format is good practice. For example, "Annual report 20-21 (PDF)" rather than "Annual report 20-21".
Identify links within your content, then check the following:
- Links provide you with enough information to know what content they load confidently
- Generic link text such as "read more", "click here" or similar is not used
- A URL is not used as link text
- Links that load PDF or other documents include the file format
Test 10: page titles
Page titles, displayed on the browser tab when pages loads, are key for many people. It is the first piece of information screen reader users hear when navigating to a new page and the only information visible when multiple tabs are open in the browser. It reassures people they have landed on the right page and reminds people with memory loss what page they are on. Ensure all pages in your website have a unique and descriptive title. A descriptive title should also be in the header of mobile app screens.
Identify page titles, then check the following:
- Web page titles describe the unique content of each page
- Screens in mobile apps have a unique and descriptive title
- Titles start with the page or screen name, for example, "News - TetraLogical" instead of "TetraLogical - News"
Performing these 10 quick accessibility checks helps you to identify key accessibility issues with your content. Anyone can use them as part of an initial product review to raise awareness around the needs of people with disabilities and help build a business case for accessibility.
For more information about how people with disabilities use the web, explore our browsing with assistive technologies videos and blog posts.
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