How do I start testing my website for accessibility?

July 15, 2015

I am excited and eager to test the accessibility of my website! In particular, I want to make sure it works with a screen reader. How should I start testing my website?

It's great that you are so interested in testing your site for accessibility! There are some very easy things you can do on your own before you come to a Web Access clinic.

One of the first things the Web Access team recommends that you do is to test the keyboard experience. As we discussed in "What Does Keyboard-Only Mean?", many people cannot use a mouse and need to move through websites using just a keyboard.

Try navigating your website using just your keyboard, and make sure that you can move through your content quickly and easily and activate your menus and links correctly. You should always be able to tell where your focus is, and you should be able to tab through the different elements of your site in the order you expect. You should also make sure that if you have any special control types such as dropdown menus that the behavior works as expected.

I attended a Web Access clinic recently, and there was a lot of discussion about ARIA, so I added some ARIA to my website. I want to make sure that the ARIA functionality is working correctly. Can I test my site using a free screen reader such as NVDA while I wait to meet with the Web Access team?

While there are free screen readers to download and install, learning to use a screen reader takes a lot of time and effort. Unless you use one all the time, trying to learn a screen reader is not the best use of your time, as they have several hundred keyboard commands available.

Instead, try focusing on keyboard-only testing! Keyboard operability is a good proxy for lots of other types of accessibility. Additionally, you can use self-assessment tools such as the Juicy Studios toolbar, which helps identify ARIA roles. When you would like to test more advanced functionality, then feel free to request a clinic so the Web Access team can help you out!