The information presented within this guide is aimed at website owners seeking to learn the ropes of web accessibility. Technical elements are described in layman’s terms, and, as a rule, all topics pertaining to the legalities of web accessibility are presented in as simplified a manner as possible. This guide has no legal bearing, and cannot be relied on in the case of litigation.
The digital landscape is always evolving, and with each passing year, the importance of web accessibility becomes more evident. The web is a crucial hub for communication, entertainment, education, and commerce, and it's vitally important to ensure that it is accessible to all users, including those with disabilities
Approximately a quarter of adult Americans live with some form of disability. Too often, this group faces unnecessary barriers when trying to access and navigate the web. It is a moral imperative to eliminate these digital barriers, and we all need to do our part to help create more equitable online environments.
Fortunately, there are a number of powerful tools you can use to ensure that your website and web-based applications can be accessed by members of the disability community. Some of these tools perform more specific tasks, such as helping you find the right color contrast between text and its background. Other tools offer more comprehensive solutions and can be relied on to perform more advanced changes to ensure optimal accessibility.
In this blog, we're going to introduce you to some of the top web accessibility tools available in 2023. We will guide you through their features, show you how they work, and explain how they can help make your website more accessible.
What is a web accessibility tool?
Web accessibility tools play a crucial role in facilitating access to websites and web-based applications for individuals with disabilities.
The more comprehensive of these tools work by integrating specific technical and design elements into a website's structure, ensuring it is compatible with assistive technologies such as screen reader tools. They do so by adjusting (or remediating) a website on a code level.
Other web accessibility tools focus on assessment and evaluation. These tools examine a website's level of accessibility by testing its conformance to established web accessibility guidelines, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
What you need to know about WCAG
By and large, web accessibility tools aim to help website owners conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), WCAG is considered the most important global web accessibility standard.
Whether your website is accessible will be determined by its level of conformance to WCAG.
There are a number of WCAG iterations and each consists of three levels of conformance: Level A, AA, and AAA.
Here's a brief explanation of the differences between them:
- Level A is the minimum level of conformance and covers the most basic accessibility requirements
- Level AA expands on the requirements of Level A and includes additional guidelines for improved accessibility. Level AA is the standard referenced in most web accessibility laws, including Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Many U.S. courts reference WCAG 2.0 and 2.1 Level AA as the standard websites should conform to under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- Level AAA is the highest level of conformance and includes the most stringent accessibility requirements
How do you conform to WCAG?
Conforming to WCAG entails addressing a number of elements within your website, including, but not limited to:
- Ensuring compatibility with screen reader technology (e.g., NVDA and JAWS)
- Allowing for keyboard navigation
- Tweaking your color contrast to make all elements clearly visible
- Adding audio transcription to videos
- Adding alt text to meaningful images
- Eliminating time limits on web pages
- Making sure all titles and navigation are clearly labeled
How can web accessibility tools help you?
They help simplify the web accessibility testing process
Web accessibility tools can play a pivotal role in simplifying and automating the process of web accessibility testing. With the complexity of modern websites and the wide array of potential accessibility issues that can occur, manual testing can be a time-consuming and labor-intensive process.
Web accessibility tools can automate a significant part of this testing process. These tools can quickly scan a website's code, identify potential accessibility issues, and even suggest potential fixes. They can quickly review dynamic content, forms, and hidden elements appearing within a given web page, and provide a comprehensive analysis of their state of accessibility.
They help make the necessary changes within a website to ensure it is accessible
Certain web accessibility solutions don't just spot problems—they help fix them. Once they've identified them, these solutions offer additional, complementary tools that remediate much of the accessibility issues existing within your website’s code. This lessens your dependence on manual intervention, saving you time and money.
They help you comply with with relevant web accessibility laws
There are a number of laws that protect the disability community from being discriminated against when engaging with websites and web-based applications.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), most businesses’ websites need to be made accessible. To comply with the law, it is widely accepted that websites need to conform to WCAG 2.0 Level AA, at bare minimum. Other laws point specifically to WCAG 2.0 Level AA as the standard websites must conform to in order to achieve compliance. These include Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which applies to government agencies, federally-funded organizations, and service providers to such organizations, and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) which applies to most Ontario-registered businesses.
The right tools can help business and website owners assess their websites’ level of conformance with WCAG, and then perform many of the steps that will help bridge the accessibility issues found during the audit.
What are the best web accessibility tools in 2023?
accessiBe is a great fit if you’re looking for an all-in-one solution for web accessibility that requires very little manual management.
Top tools and features include:
- accessScan: A free, automated tool that examines your website’s level of accessibility. Once you submit your website’s URL, accessScan will quickly examine its level of conformance with WCAG 2.1 Level AA. You will be assigned a score (compliant, semi-compliant, or non-compliant), along with a report detailing specific elements’ level of accessibility. The report (which you will be able to download as a PDF) will also include instructions on how to address and remediate accessibility issues found during the test. You can click here to use accessScan and find out if your website is accessible
- accessWidget: An AI-powered, comprehensive web accessibility solution, accessWidget enacts two applications that work in tandem to remediate a website.
The first is an accessibility interface that allows people with disabilities to adjust UI and design elements to fit their specific needs. These include adjusting font sizes, changing color contrasts, halting animations, and enabling text-only modes. The second is an AI-powered process that handles more complex web accessibility tasks, such as optimization for screen readers and keyboard navigation. You can click here to read more about accessWidget and how it can help you become fully-accessible
- accessFlow: For those interested in incorporating accessibility into their development pipeline, accessFlow provides an all-in-one platform to achieve and maintain native accessibility through source code remediation.
Pricing for accessWidget
- Standard: $490 per year. Best for websites with under 1000 web pages
- Advanced: $1490 per year. Best for websites under 10,000 pages, or for premium extra add-ons
- Advanced Plus: $3490 per year. Best for websites under 100,000 pages, or for premium extra add-ons
- Enterprise: Unlimited plan that includes all premium and enterprise extra add-ons
Axe is an accessibility checker used primarily by web developers. As such, Axe links each accessibility violation to the relevant on-site source code. Links to remediation guides are provided for each violation.
Axe is free. However, to save test results or use additional developer tools, you will need to subscribe to a paid account. Pricing is available upon request.
3. Accessibility Checker
Accessibility Checker is a web-based testing tool that evaluates a web page's level of conformance with WCAG standards. Upon completing the scan, Accessibility Checker generates a detailed report highlighting the accessibility issues existing within the web page. To help remediate these accessibility issues, Accessibility Checker will recommend more powerful tools, like accessiBe, that can resolve these issues.
You can use Accessibility Checker for free on up to five web pages a day.
For businesses with larger websites, packages are available starting at $99 per month.
aDesigner simulates what people with vision impairments experience when engaging with your website and web-based applications. This can help you understand whether your website properly accommodates this group of users, and will enable you to flag potential issues that will hinder their ability to properly interact with it.
aDesigner is a free downloadable platform.
WAVE can be used to test your website’s level of accessibility without leaving your browser. The tool examines your web page’s level of conformance to WCAG 2.1 and flags accessibility issues that appear on-page.
WAVE is available as an extension for Google Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge browsers.
WAVE offers a basic free plan.
Paid plans are available to those who would like to test more than one page at a time.
6. Web Accessibility Extension
The Web Accessibility Extension is an automated web accessibility testing and reporting tool. You can use this extension to scan web pages and determine their level of conformance to WCAG 2.1 Level AA.
You can use the extension for free for 30 days, after which you will need to purchase a paid subscription plan. These start at $79 per month.
7. IBM Equal Access Accessibility Checker
The IBM Equal Access Accessibility Checker is an open-source tool designed for web developers looking to test websites for accessibility. The tool conducts comprehensive audits of web pages, while checking for conformance with WCAG guidelines. Once the audit is complete, the tool then presents a dropdown list of detected violations. Additionally, it generates a compliance "percentage" that offers a quick and informative snapshot of the website's adherence to WCAG standards.
IBM’s UX Accessibility Checker is free.
8. Total Validator
Total Validator is a basic testing tool that can be used to test websites for WCAG conformance, as well as for HTML/CSS validation, link checking, and spell-checking reports. The tool is simple, yet effective, providing a clear view of fundamental infrastructure issues on a website. Total Validator is best-suited for developers who are searching for a tool that audits a variety of code elements, and not just those pertaining to accessibility.
Total Validator's basic license is $12 per year and allows you to validate one page at a time.
Users who require unlimited analysis can opt for a pro package at $49/year.
With an abundance of powerful tools available today, ensuring a website is fully accessible to members of the disability community is now within reach for all website and business owners. Along with tools that tackle specific, standalone elements of web accessibility, like color contrast checkers, color blindness simulators, and automated web accessibility testers, you can also rely on more comprehensive solutions, like accessiBe. The latter will help remediate accessibility issues existing within your website, ensuring your website can be fully-accessed and enjoyed by all.