Accessibility Audits: What they are, the benefits and steps

Graphic of a person holds up a magnifying glass against a computer screen displaying pie charts and graphsAccessibility plays a crucial role in ensuring that disabled users can access and interact with websites and applications without any barriers. To achieve this goal, accessibility audits are a valuable tool that evaluates the compliance of your digital product with established accessibility standards.

In this blog post, we will explore:

So, what is an accessibility audit?

Accessibility audits involve a comprehensive evaluation of a website, application, or digital product to identify barriers and assess its conformance with accessibility guidelines and standards. 

Audits can be assisted by automated tools, such as accessibility checkers and validators, or undertaken by experts who are knowledgeable in accessibility principles and standards, including the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). For a comprehensive audit (and resulting report), the process should involve both automated and manual assessments.

Benefits of accessibility auditsGraphic of a document displaying the word 'legal' with a checkmark beside it

So why should you consider doing an accessibility audit? Firstly, accessibility audits help organisations ensure they conform to accessibility laws and regulations - the UK Equality Act 2010 and the European Accessibility Act 2020. By identifying accessibility gaps early on, organisations can proactively address them and minimise the risk of legal consequences.

But, most importantly, by conducting accessibility audits you can improve user experiences for all individuals on any device. By identifying and addressing digital barriers, organisations can provide seamless navigation, interaction, and content consumption - opening their ‘digital doors’ to all users.

Watch the video below to learn how four out of the five airline apps that our accessibility and usability consultant tested, did not allow blind customers to book a flight using a screen reader.

By also considering the diverse needs of disabled users, you can create accessible digital products that can tap into a significant market segment and enhance your brand's visibility and relevance.

It is also well-established that accessibility and search engine optimisation (SEO) go hand in hand. Many accessibility practices, such as providing descriptive alternative text for images and using semantic HTML, also contribute to better search engine visibility. Conducting accessibility audits can uncover opportunities to optimise your digital assets for search engines while ensuring compliance with accessibility standards. Learn how accessibility improves SEO in our discussion with AXA and SkyScanner.

How to conduct an accessibility audit

An accessibility audit typically involves the following steps:Graphic of a computer screen displaying a website while a person types on a laptop

Pre-audit Preparation - Understand the applicable accessibility standards, gather relevant information about the digital asset, and establish an audit scope and timeline.

Automated Scans - Employ automated accessibility testing tools to help identify certain common issues such as colour contrast, missing alternative text, improper heading structure, or inaccessible forms.

Manual Evaluation - Accessibility experts analyse the digital asset for more nuanced accessibility issues that automated tools aren’t able to evaluate. They assess aspects such as keyboard navigation, JavaScript and multimedia accessibility, and overall usability through the eyes of diverse users.

Reporting and Recommendations - The audit findings are compiled into a comprehensive report, highlighting identified issues, severity levels, and suggested remediation strategies.

Remediation and Iterative Improvements - Based on the audit report, organisations prioritise and address the accessibility issues. Iterative improvements ensure continuous refinement of digital assets to align with evolving accessibility standards.

Accessibility audits are a vital component of inclusive design practices, helping organisations identify and rectify barriers that stop disabled users from accessing and utilising digital assets. 
By ensuring compliance with accessibility standards, organisations can enhance the user experience, expand their reach and create an inclusive digital experience for all users.

Ready to conduct an accessibility audit?

Last year, AbilityNet conducted 1,371 Accessibility Audits for over 700 organisations, identifying 17,672 accessibility issues and offering advice on how to fix them.

Learn about our accessibility audit service