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WAI’s Easy Checks to Start Moving Toward Digital Accessibility

Accessibility is something that we all agree is a worthy endeavor, but the expertise and energy involved to ensure compliance of accessibility standards are beyond most developer and educators’ skill sets. For those not developing in a governmental or larger organization, this responsibility may fall into their job descriptions. There are several options offering free checks on the web, however, many of these are very cursory and gently lead you to their paid services. If you are expected to report on the accessibility of a web-based resource that you are creating, it may be a good idea to use the World Wide Web Consortium or W3C’s Easy Checks resource. Easy Checks is a suitable starting point to determine the degree of digital accessibility compliance of digital works such as websites and online courses.

Web Accessibility Initiative Tools

The World Wide Web Consortium’s WAI or the Web Accessibility Initiative develops standards and support materials to enhance comprehension and implementation of accessibility expectations and practices across the globe. All educational stakeholders, from funders to teachers, should consider WAI offerings. These resources include:
Easy Checks, the first review of accessibility to provide a general idea of the scope of accessibility on a digital resource
Web Accessibility Evaluation Tools List, provides the strengths and weaknesses of other web accessibility evaluations tools
Website Accessibility Conformance Evaluation Methodology WACAG – EM, is an approach that can determine how closely a web resource maps to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)
WACAG – EM Report tool, is a mechanism for advanced practitioners to follow the WCAG evaluation methodology while constructing or evaluating a digital resource

Easy Checks

Easy Checks is meant to be a first review of web accessibility for a website, so be advised that it is not a complete evaluation of accessibility. If a legal evaluation is required, Easy Checks can start off an accessibility assessment that may identify areas that may require attention. This information can be used to allow experts to set targets for their accessibility evaluation. These checks can be completed using any contemporary web browser. More specifically, Easy Checks is a set of step-by-step instructions to guide one through an initial accessibility evaluation. Easy Checks also provides additional supports including:

  • suggested alternate tools such as the WebDev Toolbar and IE Web Accessibility Toolbar
  • links to WCAG background and resources
  • practicing with Before-After Demo to preview accessibility expectations
  • background of accessibility terminology
  • keyboard tips for Windows & Mac
Easy Checks Steps

Easy Checks steps guide developers/evaluators through these basic accessibility steps to generate an snapshot of a website’s accessibility state. I would agree with anyone out there that comments, how can it be called it Easy Checks with all of these steps? It does take time, so this job should be included in the project plan and budget. This is a list of most of the checks included on the Easy Checks resource page.

  • ensure that all page’s titles can be read by a screen reader
  • check that page titles adequately and efficiently describe the content of their pages
  • confirm that each page title is unique
  • ensure that every image has and ALT tag with appropriate alternative text
  • check that each page has at least one heading
  • ensure that all text that appear as like a heading are marked up as headings
  • make sure that the heading hierarchy is meaningful based on levels such as pages start with an “h1” and progress ordinarily upwards, without skipping levels
  • ensure that pages should also have a minimum contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 for normal-size text
  • ensure that all text content on the website is text and not in image form so text can zoom to different sizes
  • check for text elisions of text from table cells, or no-wrap issues
  • ensure that text, tables, buttons, videos and images do not overlap
  • ensure that all buttons, form fields, and other controls are visible and usable
  • confirm that horizontal scrolling is not required to read blocks of text
  • check for visual and keyboard focus to determine what is active at the present moment for viewers
  • check that all page elements can be reached via the Tab key
  • check that all elements can be left with the Tab key to avoid a “keyboard trap”
  • confirm that the tab order is a logical reading order
  • ensure that the focus is clearly visible on the screen
  • enure that the keyboard s completely functional on the website
  • check that after you tab into a drop-down list, you can use the arrow keys to move through all the options without triggering an action
  • check that when images are links, they have clear visual focus and can be activated using the keyboard
  • check that any fields that are required/mandatory are clearly indicated
  • check that the indicator (such as asterisks is included in the marked up field label for text boxes and drop-down lists, or legend for radio buttons and check boxes
  • check that any instructions for completing the form are before they are needed
  • check that required formats, such as dates (year-month-date in the format 0000-00-00), are included in the marked up label
  • check that clear and specific guidance is provided to help people understand and fix an error
  • check that the correct format is clearly explained
  • check that form errors are easily findable through clear error messages
  • check that the fields without errors are still populated with the data entered
  • check if there is any moving, blinking, or scrolling information that starts automatically and lasts more than five seconds
  • check if there is any auto-updated information
  • check that no content flashes or blinks more than three times in one second
  • ensure that audio does not start automatically when a web page opens
  • ensure that audio controls are visible including volume play, stop and pause
  • check that the information makes sense when read in the order it is displayed
Final thoughts

After reading this list, I think most would opt for an automated accessibility evaluation tool. Be prepared for the follow up, whether in funds or in labour when a deeper dive is required for an accessibility audit. There is no easy way to conduct a digital accessibility audit outside of contracting an accessibility service provider to complete an extensive and legal audit.


WAI Easy checks evaluation, https://www.w3.org/WAI/test-evaluate
Easy Checks A First Review, https://www.w3.org/WAI/test-evaluate/preliminary
World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), https://www.w3.org

John Allan

John Allan

John is a Canadian who writes about learning object development and online facilitation from a teacher's perspective.

2 thoughts on “WAI’s Easy Checks to Start Moving Toward Digital Accessibility

  • Stuart, I agree. It is always good to have information related to a project’s accessibility compliance when discussing a project. And, it is free!

  • Great post John.
    I see the Easy Checks has expanded somewhat over the past 18 months or so (the last time I used it) so that’s a good thing.
    As you say, this can be thought of as a first step.
    But I would also say it’s a GREAT way to approach this subject for people / organisations who do not NEED to comply, but want to do something voluntarily that will have a benefit 🙂


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