Accessibil-IT: Automating Web Accessibility

Automating Web Accessibility - California Community Colleges Accessibility CenterAutomated accessibility tools are often perceived as a poor substitute for accessibility testing on websites and other online applications. Automated tools are limited in their ability to identify the full range of accessibility barriers that can impact individuals with disabilities, and none perform the necessary evaluations important for assessing the quality of accessibility repairs. Furthermore, automated tools often report false-positive results requiring human intervention to track down issues in the code that may not be actual accessibility barriers.

Yet even with these drawbacks, automated accessibility tools can still provide significant value to those involved with both small- and large-scale websites. Automated accessibility tools that conduct evaluations on a per-page basis can review a web page quickly and identify potential accessibility errors for developers or content authors to address.

The benefit of such an approach is that accessibility errors can be investigated and resolved before implementing more time-consuming evaluation procedures. This can be of particular value when testing the accessibility of a website template before content is added. Using automated tools in this manner can help prioritize those issues a developer or web content author should attend to before conducting more extensive manual accessibility tests.

Scanning & Monitoring Tools

Separate from the per-page review process are automated accessibility tools that extend the scanning capabilities of individual page checking and scale this across hundreds or thousands of pages. Such functionality can be useful when attempting to review an entire website or multiple websites in a restricted time period.

This can be of particular benefit for websites that use a template-based model. If the website template has been reviewed for accessibility issues (and fixed!), then the scanning and monitoring capabilities of automated tools can help web content authors pinpoint where on the website potential accessibility barriers may exist. This can help with the strategic planning of any remediation efforts as well as indicate if there is a potential training issue to address institutionally.

An additional advantage of using automated tools for scanning purposes is to ability to track the accessibility of a website over time. Some accessibility repairs can take longer than others to implement and irregular accessibility testing may not account for ongoing efforts. Tracking the accessibility progress of a website over time can help offer perspective as to what college efforts may be most effective towards improving website accessibility, including changes to the college’s website template, the introduction of new accessibility trainings, or the hiring of additional staff. Automated tools can also help identify if any changes to the website result in a decrease in general accessibility.

Better Together

As much as we would like to hope that automated accessibility evaluation tools can be the solution to our institutional website accessibility issues, they are limited in their capabilities. Automated tools cannot check for every accessibility issue, perform certain accessibility tests, or verify the quality of accessibility solutions. And they definitely do not automatically fix everything.

The advantage of automated accessibility tools lies in being part of a larger accessibility testing process. Coupled with manual testing procedures, automated accessibility tools can aid developers and web content authors in the ongoing monitoring and identification of website accessibility barriers.

Want To Learn More?

Join us on Thursday, March 1, at 1 p.m., to continue the conversation at the California Community Colleges Accessibility Center’s next IT Accessibility Office Hours webinar. This month’s discussion will focus on what automated accessibility tools are available and which tools may be accessed for free from the CCC Accessibility Center. Click here to join the webinar.

Have Questions?

Have an accessibility question? Need a quick accessibility review? The CCC Accessibility Center Help Desk is available for all CCC staff to ask questions and find answers regarding web and IT accessibility topics. We welcome your feedback on this new resource and encourage you to submit questions today!

For more accessibility information visit the CCC Accessibility Center at CCCAccessibility.org or follow us on LinkedIn.


Sean Keegan is Director of the California Community Colleges Accessibility Center