Useful accessibility tools

  • Author: Access iQ ®
  • Date: 13 Sep 2012
  • Access: Free

Quick facts

Web accessibility evaluation tools help determine if a webpage complies with web accessibility standards, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

Free tools to help you create a web without limits.

Web accessibility evaluation tools help determine if a webpage complies with web accessibility standards, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

Determining if a webpage or website meets web accessibility standards requires a combination of automatic and manual testing. Evaluation tools can only test against a certain portion of the web accessibility standards. For example, an evaluation tool can check if an image has alternative text, but it cannot check if that text is semantically meaningful or useful — a human reviewer needs to check this. Evaluation tools will generally identify the elements that need to be checked manually.

Remember that the tools can only check about 30 per cent of the elements that need to be checked. There is no replacement for having a specialist evaluate your site and provide you with clear instructions on what you can do to rectify issues.

Free evaluation tools are still catching up with the change from WCAG 1.0 to WCAG 2.0, despite WCAG 2.0 being a recommendation since December 2008. Thus, it is important to check that the tool you use supports the latest web accessibility standard.

Access iQ™ employed the services of a testing specialist who employ users with disabilities to ensure we received a complete understanding of any accessibility barriers. It is quite possible to create a website that complies with a WCAG 2.0 AA level of conformance that still has barriers to access.

Free tools to help you along your way are:

Tool What it does Pros and cons
aChecker aChecker is a free, open source Web accessibility evaluation tool produced by Inclusive Design Research Institute. You can use the public (online) aChecker to check a single webpage, or download aChecker and install it on your own server.

aChecker supports the widest range of web accessibility standards and guidelines compared with all other free web accessibility evaluation tools, namely BITV 1.0, Section 508, WCAG 1.0, WCAG 2.0 and Stanca Act.
Contrast Analyser for Windows and Mac The Colour Contrast Analyser produced by the Paciello Group is a downloadable application. It is also integrated in the Web Accessibility Toolbar (WAT) for IE. The Colour Contrast Analyser has a user-friendly eyedropper tool that you place over the colours you want to test and it automatically picks up the hexadecimal colour reference. Colour Contrast Check Colour Contrast Check is a web-based colour contrast checker. Colour Contrast Check is not as flexible as the Contrast Analyser — requires you to manually input the hexadecimal reference for colours you are testing, but it's still an excellent tool.

The benefit is that the tool is online, and doesn't require download an installation.
TAW TAW is a free web accessibility evaluation tool produced by Fundación CTIC. TAW supports the evaluation of websites against WCAG 1.0 and WCAG 2.0 (beta).

TAW has three different versions: TAW3 WebStart which is the online version of TAW, TAW3 with a click which is a browser plug-in for Mozilla Firefox and TAW3 standalone, a multiplatform software application that complements and extends the functionality of TAW WebStart. TAW WebStart and TAW3 with a click check a webpage at a time.
According to the developers, TAW for WCAG 2.0 is in beta stage because some techniques aren't implemented exactly as described in the recommendation. TAW is relying on users to test the WCAG 2.0 beta version and provide feedback that will enable them to fix any errors and improve the evaluation tool.
WAVE WAVE is a free web accessibility evaluation tool produced by WebAIM that supports the evaluation of websites against WCAG 1.0 and Section 508. WAVE5 which supports WCAG 2.0 is currently in beta. Although this tool only checks against WCAG 1.0 (and the guidelines have been superceded by WCAG 2.0) this tool is still highly useful.
Worldspace FireEyes FireEyes is an add-on to the Firefox Firebug plug-in.

It also works with Safari, and has been tested on Mac OS X 10.5 and 10.6.
FireEyes is a powerful Web accessibility tool produced by Deque Systems. FireEyes supports the evaluation of websites against Section 508, WCAG 1.0, and WCAG 2.0. The tool includes additional integrated features such as colour contrast, custom rules for evaluating dynamic content and WAI-ARIA compliance.


Want to learn more about WCAG 2.0 and web accessibility?

The Professional Certificate in Web Accessibility, a university-accredited online qualification jointly conducted by W3C member Media Access Australia and the University of South Australia, is a fully assessed six-week program that covers both accessibility principles and techniques. The course provides students with all the essentials needed to achieve compliance with international best practice in accessibility. Accessible documents, among many other aspects of WCAG are covered in Access iQ’s complete guides to web accessibility for content authorsweb developers and web designers.