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How a Web Accessibility Audit Can Close the A11y Gap

  • Published on: May 3, 2024
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  • Updated on: May 6, 2024
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  • Reading Time: 7 mins
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Digital accessibility entails fostering inclusivity, and it is now fair to say that accessibility has reached an important turning point in our society. Although a very small chunk of the web is accessible to all, the enforcement of accessibility laws is ramping up steadily. Companies are still looking for ways to cut hefty costs related to legal penalties and are finding ways to comply with these accessibility standards. How do they do this? Look for nothing beyond WCAG compliance.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG refers to the international standards for making websites and digital content accessible to all, including people with disabilities. However, 98% of US websites still do not adhere to WCAG standards. Hence, to verify this, a thorough web accessibility audit is conducted to ensure the website’s compliance with WCAG. Complying with WCAG can help users with features such as alternative text for images, proper color contrast, keyboard shortcuts, and navigation support, and closed captions for videos. This way, website owners can remove barriers and foster equitable online experiences for all users.

Web accessibility audit report also helps product leaders, including ed-tech companies and publishers, understand key accessibility issues, evaluate the website’s conformance to WCAG success criteria, and a prioritized list of the actionable items to improve accessibility. Based on a website’s technological requirements, WCAG comes in different levels, with varying degrees of accessibility standards.

Concentrated diverse multiracial colleagues sit at a desk in an office, looking at a laptop screen and discussing a web accessibility audit.


Understanding WCAG 2.1 AA Level

WCAG 2.1 is the most recent version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which ensures international guidelines for making websites accessible to people with disabilities. It consists of three conformance levels – A, AA, and AAA.

WCAG 2.1 Level A, represents the bare minimum requirements for web accessibility and is the minimum level of conformance. This level ensures that there are no components on the website that would make it completely inaccessible to users with disabilities.

WCAG 2.1 Level AA, represents the mid-range conformance level and is widely considered as the most desirable and legally applicable standard. Adhering to the criteria of this level ensures that the website is understandable and easy to use for the majority of users, regardless of their disabilities.

WCAG 2.1 Level AAA, is the highest and the most thorough level of conformance which aims to make the website accessible to as many users as possible. However, all websites might not be able to achieve full-level AAA compliance as some content may not satisfy the strict AAA requirements.


Web Accessibility Audit Checklist to Ensure Product Compliance

WCAG 2.1 AA level web accessibility audit is all about removing barriers from a website and enhancing ease of navigation for people with disabilities. A web accessibility audit checklist provides a simplified explanation of the WCAG guidelines and its important accessibility requirements followed by organizations, website owners, developers, and product managers.

  • Keyboard Navigation and Accessibility – This ensures that the website is completely accessible only through a keyboard, without requiring a mouse.
  • Multimedia Accessibility – This guarantees providing captions and transcripts for all audio and video content, to help and support users with visual or hearing impairment.
  • Text Size and Contrast – Ensures that the color contrast and text size meet WCAG compliance to assist users with visual impairment.
  • Image Alt Text – This ensures adding meaningful alternative text descriptions for videos, images, and other non-text contents.
  • Link Text – This avoids using general terminologies like “click here” in a hyperlinked text and makes sure the link clearly describes its destination and purpose.
  • Form Accessibility – This checklist provides clear instructions, labels, and error messages from all form fields to help users with cognitive or motor impairments.
  • Data Tables – This ensures structuring data tables with appropriate headers and cell-to-header connections for screen readers.
  • ARIA Attributes – ARIA or Accessible Rich Internet Applications attributes, enhance the accessibility of dynamic content by making it more interactive and is specially designed for those who rely on assistive technology to browse the web.
  • HTML Validation – This ensures that the HTML code of the website is valid and semantic to offer proper rendering by assistive technologies.
  • Accessibility Testing – Accessibility testing is crucial as it helps developers identify accessibility issues and address them accordingly.


Common Issues and Challenges Faced in WCAG Audits

While developing a highly accessible website, developers and website owners encounter several challenges that need to be addressed.

1. Improper text contrasts

WCAG requires a certain text background contrast ratio to make text readable for users with visual impairment. This problem can be detected easily using automated tools like the Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool (WAVE), however, human judgment is frequently required for thorough evaluation. Since nuanced assessments such as text size, and reduced contrast ratios cannot be fully automated, manual review by an accessibility expert is essential to ensure compliance.

2. Scaling Conformance Verification

It becomes increasingly difficult to scale conformance verification in WCAG audits because of the complexity of ensuring accessibility across websites and digital platforms. It can be challenging to coordinate efforts across various features and content, particularly in large organizations with different teams. Without a strong strategy, there’s a risk of overlooking accessibility issues and failing to provide inclusivity for users.

3. Over-relying on automatic testing

Although automated accessibility testing can help to identify basic WCAG compliance issues, they have inherent limitations that make them insufficient for comprehensive WCAG audits. Only about 20-30% of WCAG success criteria can be reliably detected by automated tools as most of the guidelines require human interpretation and evaluation that cannot be fully automated. Due to this narrow scope, over-relying on automated testing could mean missing out on substantial accessibility problems.

4. Failure to specify language

The default language of a web page must be programmatically determinable as per the WCAG guidelines for screen readers and other assistive technologies to correctly understand and communicate the content to users. To make sure that the right language attributes are utilised throughout the website, human review is often required as automated testing tools may struggle to accurately detect the language in all cases.

5. Third-Party Content

While website owners have complete control over the website content, they often rely on third-party content, plugins, or widgets that might not meet accessibility standards.  The audit process at times, becomes even more complex due to the variety of third-party elements, including interactive features, videos, and forms, all of which need to be assessed for compliance with WCAG criteria. Not being able to adhere to these guidelines can result in barriers for users with disabilities.

A professional African American woman conducting a Web Accessibility Audit sits at her desktop computer.


Best Practices for Conducting Successful WCAG Audits

1. Choose Appropriate WCAG Levels

Selecting the appropriate WCAG conformance level such as A, AA, or AAA becomes crucial to make sure it aligns to the websites needs and goals and ensures that your web content meets the specified success criteria for accessibility.

2. Usability testing

To better match a website or application with WCAG principles, the ranking and implementation of accessibility enhancements can be directly informed by the insights obtained after conducting usability testing. It also provides a holistic view by combining the results from automated and manual testing to address any further limitations.

3. Utilize WCAG Tools

WCAG tools like WAVE, AChecker, axe, and Lighthouse can check websites against WCAG success criteria and identify accessibility issues for remediation.

4. Ongoing monitoring of the website

Ongoing monitoring is essential to maintain accessibility and WCAG conformance over time as websites grow and change, with the emergence of new technologies, new accessibility issues can arise which might not be detected through a one-time audit. Hence, ongoing monitoring helps organizations uphold WCAG standards and provide an inclusive experience for all.

Web accessibility audit provides a comprehensive overview of how accessible one website is. This fosters creating an environment where users from diverse backgrounds and with different disabilities can fully navigate and utilize the website. While there are numerous challenges to achieving accessibility, adhering to best practices and utilizing appropriate tools can help address these issues effectively. Prioritizing accessibility as per WCAG standards can create digital environments that are welcoming and inclusive for everyone. If you’re looking to promote accessibility and create an inclusive environment for everyone, Magic EdTech might have multiple solutions for you. Visit our website today!



WCAG guidelines are international standards for making websites accessible to people with disabilities. They are important because they ensure that all users, regardless of disabilities, can access and use digital content effectively.

You can determine if your website complies with WCAG standards by conducting a thorough accessibility audit using tools like WAVE, AChecker, axe, or Lighthouse. These tools check websites against WCAG success criteria and identify accessibility issues for remediation.

WCAG guidelines consist of three conformance levels - A, AA, and AAA. Each level represents different degrees of accessibility standards, with Level AA being the most widely adopted and legally applicable standard.

WCAG compliance ensures features such as alternative text for images, proper color contrast, keyboard shortcuts, and navigation support, and closed captions for videos, which enhance accessibility for users with disabilities.

Common challenges during WCAG audits include improper text contrasts, scaling conformance verification, over-reliance on automatic testing, failure to specify language, and addressing third-party content.

Third-party content, such as plugins or widgets, can affect WCAG compliance for a website as it may not meet accessibility standards. The audit process becomes more complex due to the variety of third-party elements that need to be assessed for compliance.

Tools like WAVE, AChecker, axe, and Lighthouse can help check websites against WCAG success criteria and identify accessibility issues for remediation.

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