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April 15, 2019

ADA Plugins vs. Live Audits

Author: Valerie Baker

ADA audits are an essential part of making your website ADA compliant. If you are not familiar with ADA compliance, it is the process of making your website accessible for those with disabilities, including those who with visual impairments who use screen readers, those using assisted keyboards, and more.

If your website is not compliant, you are at risk for a lawsuit based on the American Disabilities Act, and there is a set of guidelines call the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) that lay out all the steps developers need to implement to make a website compliant.

Having an ADA compliant website will help you protect your company from lawsuits, as well as make your website more user-friendly for everyone, improve SEO, and make your services accessible to the 20% of Americans who have a disability.

What Are ADA Audits?

The WCAG has 4 categories with an extensive list of elements to consider underneath each of them. This is where the importance of ADA audits comes in. An audit can assess the current state of your website and provide an in-depth analysis of how it aligns with WCAG standards, identify specific areas needing remediation and how to correct them.

ADA audits typically take place for those making an existing website compliant, as a first step in identifying what updates your website will need. However, regular audits are also recommended for websites that were designed to be compliant, as an ongoing process to make sure your website is still up to the latest standards.

There are a few ways an ADA audit can be done: using ADA plugins or through live audits.

ADA Plugins

If you’re performing an ADA audit on your site, you’re most likely going to start by using an ADA plugin. ADA plugins are a software tool that will scan through each page of your site, and the code to identify areas for improvement. It will do things like:

  • Scan images on your site for alt text
  • Check color contrast of texts
  • Identify any issues in the HTML code that creates an accessibility issue
  • Display accessibility tags and attributes

There are several different plugins and software tools available varying from simple ones to more comprehensive. Most of them provide suggestions for exactly what you need to do to update the code and some of them even automatically update code for you.

Live Audits

Live audits are the most comprehensive kind of ADA audits. In a live audit, a human being goes through your entire website and tests the accessibility of it. This includes making sure it is accessible with a screen reader, navigable with a keyboard, page focus, headings, text contrast, and more. This video from an accessibility expert at Google gives a brief overview of how a human accessibility audit works.

Audits can be completed by a developer like him that specializes in accessibility and can range from a brief overview to check for errors to a comprehensive audit that covers every element of WCAG.

So, Which One is Better for You?

ADA plugins can be a good way to identify easy technical issues and quick areas in improvement on your site. That being said, studies have shown that these plugins and scanning tools typically only catch around 30% of what is covered over current ADA standards, so they are by no means comprehensive. We recommend if you’re going to scan the site with an ADA plugin, to do so at the beginning of the process of making a website compliant, to see the small changes you can make while a more extensive audit is still being done. To make sure your site is truly compliant, you should definitely have a live audit done to fully test the usability of the site and make sure any areas the plugins missed are identified.

As far as ongoing audits and testing, the frequency of them depends on the size of your site and how often you update it. If you have a website with many pages that content is regularly getting added to, you should do a live audit regularly. If your site is smaller and doesn’t get updated as often, you might not need a live audit as often.

For more information about how to make your website ADA compliant, how to get an audit, contact us at Atilus where we specialize in ADA web compliance.

Valerie Baker

Valerie is the Senior Account Manager & Project Manager here at Atilus.

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