Can I Use Automated Tools To Audit My Website For WCAG Compliance?

You know it’s important to make your website ADA compliant. Or maybe you found out about it the hard way; you’re facing a lawsuit for ADA non-compliance. If you’ve researched the topic and know you need WCAG website remediation, odds are you came across automated auditing tools. They seem to offer a quick and inexpensive solution to your problem.

Are these tools the answer? Keep reading to find out more about what automated tools can and can’t do to make your website ADA compliant.

How Automated Audit Tools Work

Automated auditing tools work by scanning every page of your website to check for non-ADA compliance issues. Some of the most common elements they review include:

Alternative, or alt text – This is text that describes images on your website to vision-impaired users.

Color contrast – The text and background on every page of your website should have the proper contrast, making it accessible to users with poor vision and those who are colorblind. The WCAG provides specific guidelines as to what those color contrast ratios should be.

Keyboard accessibility – This is arguably one of the most important elements of website accessibility. It allows users with motor disabilities to navigate a website without the use of a mouse. They can use the keyboard or adaptive hardware instead. 

Logical reading order – A screen reader reads back the contents of a page or document in logical order. This allows vision-impaired users to read a page from left to right, top to bottom like a sighted user would.

No focus changes – Stops elements on a page from changing if the user focuses on it. It should only change if the user acts, such as when hitting the enter button. This also applies to any input forms on a page. The form should not be submitted when the user is done filling out every field, only when they hit the submit button at the end.

What Issues Arise When You Try to Use Automated Tools instead of a Manual Audit?

Using the most common elements outlined above, here are some issues that arise when you rely exclusively on automated tools to try and make your website ADA compliant:

Alternative, or alt text – Often, these tools cannot see background images, which might be meaningful to the overall description of an image. Also, the descriptions they provide may be too basic and not even be in a complete sentence. Sometimes they are wrong because they can’t research and identify an image on a page like a human could. They’ll also miss errors, such as images that have been labeled as decorative when they’re not. The tool can’t check for that.

Color contrast – ADA compliance tools have problems with background images and they can’t use specific techniques to calculate color contrast ratios either.

Keyboard accessibility – For those who use visual focus to navigate a website, an automated tool may not be able to accurately calculate the amount of visual focus needed.

Logical reading order – Depending on the page layout, an automated compliance tool might not be able to figure out the correct reading order on a page, thus confusing certain visitors to your website.

No focus changes – Because these tools can’t always calculate correct levels of visual focus for navigating a page, certain users may not be able to access links or fill out forms correctly either.

How Accurate are Automated WCAG Audit Tools?

Unfortunately, you can’t rely exclusively on automated WCAG audit tools. Their rate of accuracy is very low. It’s estimated that they miss about 70-75% of all ADA compliance problems.  

Because of this, the WCAG warns that this technology should not be used on its own to test a website’s accessibility.  

Can Automated Audit Tools Test for All WCAG 2.0 guidelines?

No, they cannot. They are by no means comprehensive. They can’t test for all WCAG 2.0 Level A and AA guidelines, the standard for ADA compliance. 

Note that ADA compliance is all or nothing. Every element of your website is required to adhere to Level A and AA guidelines. The only passing grade is 100%. Just one issue means your website is not ADA compliant.

Should I Even Bother to Use Automated Audit Tools?

You can, but make sure you don’t rely on them solely. Automated audit tools may not be very accurate on their own, but they can be useful in conjunction with a manual WCAG website audit.

These tools can help identify accessibility problems during every step of the process and help the person performing the manual audit. But they can’t replace that person, nor can they check for every problem.

Conclusion

When it comes to ADA compliance, automated audit tools are no substitute for a manual audit of your website. In the end, not only will you have peace of mind knowing your website is compliant, you’ll improve your SEO ranking and open your business or organization to a whole new range of users.