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Testing web accessibility
Ensuring government services are accessible to everyone
We need to work to make sure government services are and continue to be accessible, open and inclusive web environments for all people in our society. This page provides advice on how you can test the accessibility of services.
Why must I?
The Australian Government, through the Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy (NTS), implemented a policy of web accessibility, requiring all Australian Government websites to conform to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Version 2.0.
The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 requires agencies to ensure that people with disability have the same fundamental rights to access information and services as others in the community. Agencies should give consideration to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Disability Discrimination Act advisory notes to help reduce the risk of a disability discrimination complaint.
The Australian Government has also endorsed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which specifically recognises (under Articles 9 and Article 21) that access to information, communications and services, including the internet, is a human right.
How do I?
To choose the most effective approach for testing accessibility you need to understand of a service’s purpose, structure, formatting, and details of web technologies used.
You should capture and detail:
- objectives and functionalities
- information architecture, including file types and locations
- currency of content (date created, last modified)
- technologies used to deliver dynamic functionality, including third-party providers.
You should also use analytics tools to understand web traffic; particularly page visits, user demographics, and viewing platforms.
You will need to determine whether your agency has the prerequisite skills to undertake the testing in line with the audit methodology, or if it should outsource the testing to web accessibility professionals or organisations. This will also require the identification of appropriate tools, their suitability to fit the agency’s IT infrastructure, and their capacity to deliver the required results.
Testing is not an ad hoc process. Consideration should be given to the ongoing nature of web accessibility in the life cycle of a website, and whether it is more effective to resource this within the agency.
For a quick first check the W3C has provided a set of Easy Checks. This is a resource that allows non-technical people to undertake a basic accessibility review. However, this does not provide a definitive assessment of a site’s accessibility - more robust evaluation is needed to evaluate all issues comprehensively.
Agree audit methodology
You need to make sure the audit methodology will provide an adequate assessment of the service’s web accessibility capability.
The audit should be conducted on a representative sample of pages that best capture the objective and functionality of the site. Begin with a minimum of 10 pages and built up through subsequent audits to a total of at least 50 pages (or up to 10% of the service’s web pages).
The first review should include as a minimum:
- the home page
- navigation pages
- the contact details page
- at least 1 page providing service or assistance on government policy delivered by the agency
- a public notice, warning or advice page
- a page that provides agency information (that is role, function structure, services)
- high traffic pages
- a sample of any interactive pages
- a sample of any transactional processes
- a sample of any multimedia pages.
The initial sample should be audited for compliance against 38 WCAG 2.0 criteria:
- WCAG2 Level A – 25 separate criteria
- WCAG2 Level AA – 13 separate criteria
Evaluation should be conducted in accordance with the 5 WCAG 2.0 conformance requirements. This is best achieved through checking for the use of WCAG techniques. Refer to the W3C’s How to Meet WCAG 2.0 for a list of applicable techniques for each WCAG 2.0 success criteria.
Software can be used to measure conformance on many of the criteria, but not all. The evaluation will still need to include a human component to test each page, as not all criteria are ‘machine-readable’ assessable. W3C provides a Web accessibility evaluation tools list for consideration.
Record the date of the audit and how it was undertaken (that is; in-house, vendor, contractor).
Any page identified as nonconforming should be further audited. You need to determine the capacity to deliver alternative web accessibility arrangements that provide access to the information or service being offered.
The W3C has developed the Website Accessibility Conformance Evaluation Methodology (WCAG-EM) 1.0 as a 5-step process:
- Define the scope
- Explore the website
- Select a sample
- Audit the sample
- Report the finding
The findings from the web accessibility site audit should be captured in a report detailing:
- the date of the audit
- a summary of the site conformance levels - emphasis should be the essential functionality that is required to achieve the site’s objectives
- the pages audited
- who completed the evaluation
- what tools were used to conduct the evaluation
- identified issues that fail conformance, including the
- impact of the issues on the user
- actions required to remediate
- timeframe for remediation
- web accessibility progress, charting a record against previous audits.
The W3C has released the WCAG-EM report tool for assisting with the conformance reporting process.
The report should also support the development and maintenance of an ongoing web accessibility action plan, which delivers:
- a web accessibility risk assessment
- management of potential web inaccessibility through
- interim alternative web accessibility options
- prioritisation for remediation of pages and issues
- timeframe for remediation
- an assessment of required resources for continued and improved web accessibility
- a schedule of web accessibility audits
Last updated: 26 March 2015