So today I thought it’d be fun to go through my process for doing a simple accessibility audit a lot of times I have teammates or even like third party partners who reach out and they say hey. You know. I’ve got this site that I built, I’m not deeply familiar with accessibility, so can you give it just a once-over, and let me know if there’s any sort of like major gotchas I should be looking out for so I wanted to cover my process today.
This is not, you know, an exhaustive review or anything, but this is generally the stuff that you can do to find some obvious high level issues. So, if all the way over here to my laptop, usually the first thing that I do on any website, I’m going to use webbing as an example here, webbing is an awesome site for web accessibility. Usually one of the first things I do one on any web site is: I want to ensure that I can navigate using the tab key on my keyboard and that there are discernible focus styles, as I move around the page, so in the case of webbing, if I start tabbing through here, you’ll, actually see the first thing that it does the very first time I hit tab.
I get this thing called a skip link up here in the top left hand, corner skip links are super useful. You know on sites where you might have heavy navigation. You want to let the user skip immediately down to the main content, so webaim implements the skip link. Some other sites, like github, have skip links. If you actually go to github and hit tab, you might notice, it says, like you know, jump to your repositories or whatever so skip link is kind of a cool thing to look out for, but then, as I’m tabbing around the page, I want to make sure That I see a focus ring on different elements on the page now web aim actually does a cool thing here, where they animate their focus ring.
So you can even see it moving across the screen, which is pretty cool. They highlight their focus States. This is, you know, just about the best link, a tab focus behavior. I think I’ve ever seen really, but I just tab through the site, and I make sure that you know I can reach everything that is interactive using the tab key on my keyboard right. So that’s step one tab through your experience, so the other thing that I like to look out for is, as I’m tabbing around the page.
I want to make sure that there’s no off-screen content that can accidentally be focused so follow me over here. I’ve got this. This material design, Lite sort of like template site that the the team has created and notice that it has this sort of like sidebar over here and, as I’m focus moves into that sidebar right now. Let’s say I shrink the page a little bit right. So it’s totally possible that someone could have their browser this size on their desktop and let’s try it and tap through this now.
So I tab through this write. My focus is over here on the top left or sorry top right in that search field. Now it’s on that button. Now, as I’m pressing tab, though we don’t see the focus indicator, it’s as if it has disappeared and we keep tapping, we keep chatting and eventually it’s going to show back up. Ah did you see it down here at this? Like read more button, so what was going on there? Well, if we expand again, we can see that actually, what was happening was focus was sort of hidden in these off-screen fields was over here in our side nav, and so I see this on a lot of websites, and this can trip up.
You know anybody who’s using a keyboard to navigate and I can come trip up mobile screen readers because you have something off screen, but it’s still in the tab, water, it’s still focusable, so a screen reader might travel into those off screen elements. You know you might have dialogues off screen, you might have side nav off screen and you don’t actually want the user to be clicking on those during that current state.
So that’s another thing that I look out for. I want to make sure that people are disabling off, screen, interactive content, making sure it’s removed from the tab order. The next thing that I look for is I want to make sure that I can do kind of like a simple navigation of the page using a screen reader, so for this demo, I’m going to use the shop app by the polymer team. This is a pretty cool site that I work with that team, a lot to try and make sure that this was a good, accessible experience.
So, in the previous few episodes we covered how to use NVDA, we covered how to use voiceover on a Mac. I really recommend all web developers familiarize themselves with the basics of at least one screen reader just so they can quickly move through a page kind of like what we were doing with the tab key – and this is just sort of like a sanity check to make Sure the screen reader can actually like land on controls and they’re, announcing things that they should.
So let me turn on voiceover and all kind of like move through this page quickly, to show you what I mean by that all right. So I’m just going to use the vo Keys to kind of like quickly move through some interactive stuff visit, link, home link, shopping, cart, zero items, link where link ladies outerwear link men’s t-shirt. I might you know, try and move down to like Lane section. I want to land on an image right.
I want to make sure that that image has alt text. That’s really important a lot of websites, especially like e-commerce sites and things like that, you’ll move through and because they haven’t provided alt text for any of the images it’ll oftentimes just read like the file name for an image. So that’s another thing that I often look out for as and as I’m going through, this phase, you know, did the the person building the site use proper, alt attributes.
So up down right, left right things like that, so go down to extra-large, hit inner right. Okay! That’s something that I look for right. Any custom control is working as I would expect with the keyboard. The other thing I know about this site is when I add something to the cart. It’s going to sort of add like a little sort of a like modal pop-up type thing that’ll show up on screen, and so I want to make sure that the screen reader user is notified of that, possibly by moving their focus into that item.
So let’s do that item added to the cart added to cart for items interact without it took our view. Cart, don’t close dialogue voiceover off, so you can see that when the item was added to the cart, the screen reader focus was directed into that thing. That just slid out on screen, so I know the way the polymer team is doing this, if I recall, is they’ve got something in there with the tabindex of negative 1 and they’re, focusing that element just to direct our focus.
So that’s another thing that I read out for making sure if, if something is being dynamically added to the page, that focus is directed to it. So that’s a quick pass that we can do with the with screen reader. The next thing that I do is I try and check the page structure, so I wan na make sure that the page is using appropriate headings and that there are appropriate, landmark roles or landmark elements on the page, because those help with screen reader navigation as well.
So, let’s look at something like Wikipedia which does a really good job of this. So I’ll turn my screen reader voiceover on Google and what I often do is I just opened the the rotor inside of voiceover in NVDA. There’s the. I think it’s called the web elements thing. I think we showed it off in the last episode. Basically, it’ll give you kind of an outline of the page in voiceover. You can open it by using a ctrl, alt or a control option you and just hitting, left and right to menu all right.
So we can see all the headings on the page. We can see that they’re doing a really good job of using. You know. H1. H2, h3, going all the way through the hierarchy of headings they’re, not just mixing and matching H tags based on like the size that they are, which I see a lot of developers do, which can generate kind of like a broken document outline for the screen reader. I want to make sure that when they’re using heading tags they’re using it to basically build the skeleton of the page, so you know we can right move through this content in a sort of a logical way.
So if I wanted to jump down to this, the section I can easily do so. The other thing that I look for again is is landmark elements. So, let’s, let’s go back and look at webbing, so webbing does a really good job of using landmark elements on their site. So again I open my web Roder. I look for landmarks and here we can see that there’s things like banner navigation search main. So if I wanted to bypass all the navigation and get right to the main content, I can do that right.
So that’s another thing I look for you know there are sites out there, which really don’t include many landmark elements at all and again, that’s sort of an efficiency feature that you can very easily add in use, use main tags, use, nav tag or use like you Know, role attributes to create those landmarks, somebody users who use screen readers can, you know, just navigate around a lot faster fashion, so that covers a focus that covers basics of screen, readers that covers headings and landmarks.
The next thing I check for is color and contrast. I want to make sure that you know if someone who might have a low vision impairment, it’s going to be able to discern the text on the page. So again, you know looking at a site like material design lite. This is a really attractive website, but there are areas where I think some of the texts could be a little low contrast and maybe a little difficult to read.
So there’s a really great Chrome extension that you can install on the Chrome Web Store. We can look for axe extension, so acts like a like a chopping axe right, so this is by DQ systems, and basically this is a simple extension that you can add to Chrome, which will sort of run an audit against the page and flag. A number of accessibility issues, but one of those is color and contrast. So on this site I can just open my dev tools after I’ve installed that audit.
You can see it’s right here in my dev tools panel, there’s this big analyze button. So I click on that and it goes through. It looks at the page and can tell me right here that there are some elements which need better contrast. So I click on that and it’ll actually give me kind of like a path to reach that element in CSS. I can actually even click on it and it’ll highlight that element in the dev tools for me.
So, in this case, for instance, this might be a little hard to see, but maybe I’ll try and boost the page. But you can tell that uh that these footer links down here right where it says right under this github logo, wears like web starter kit and help. These are low contrast texts that the audit has highlighted for me. So that’s something that we can read out for. There’s another extension: the let’s see the the chrome, accessibility, dev tools extension here we go so we’ll include a link to this as well.
It does very similar stuff to the axe extension, but one of the nice things that this extension does is when you highlight something that is low. Contrast it’ll actually give you a color suggestion, so it could be like you know. Maybe if you make the links, you know this different hex value you’ll be able to meet the what tag minimum. So, let’s see if we actually highlight these guys right here and then our dev tools, I’m going to go to where it says, accessibility, properties and see right here, lists this warning for contrast, ratio and I can actually click these color values.
And it’s very subtle, because this one’s actually like almost perfect – it’s not quite clicking these little sreades will actually change the text. Value on sites and it’ll apply an inline style for you, and that way you can see. You know what a better alternative color would be. The last thing that I try to do after I’ve done all of this is I try to recommend that you know whoever is building this site, integrate some excessive regression testing into their build process.
Again, if we go to github and we look up acts core, so this is the library that powers that axe extension, but you can also use this library as part of your build process right. So, as you’re running your automated tests, you can have a sample page. You can have axe core, look at that page and flag in accessibility audits, and you know those could then call your tests to fail. At which point you know you got to go back and you got to fix those issues.
Okay, so we we’ve covered a lot, but this is basically how I do my accessibility audits, it’s by no means exhaustive, but on many of the websites out there. This is how you’ll catch some of the major issues that folks need to work on. That can take their experience from totally broken to. You know at least sort of like a decent baseline experience for folks. If you have any questions, as always, you can leave them for me down in the comments.
Otherwise, you can contact me on a social network of your choosing, as always thank you so much for reading so yep hey. If you enjoyed this episode of alley cat, you can always catch more over in our playlist or click. The little subscribe button and you’ll get an email notification whenever we launch new stuff on the blog, as always, thanks for reading