Tools I use when performing accessibility assessment

Below are list of variety of tools I use when doing an accessibility assessment for our web precense. I don’t use all those tools all at once, though. :-) The tool I used the most are WAVE and WebAnywhere for a quick test. WAVE is most useful to inform the web developers if they’re missing anything, and WebAnywhere is most useful to show how a screen reader would operate on the site. For a thorough test, I collaborate with my blind student where I can observe her interactions with the e-resource’s user interface (in a way, doing a mini usability study) and note the “pain points” when she encountered difficulties in understanding the structure of the web pages on any given time, such as interacting with the search box, finding the relevant article from within the search results, finding the way to save and send the article citation to herself, read the article within the page, etc.

WAVE from WebAIM

http://wave.webaim.org
Their web-based tool works fine for websites that won’t need some kind of authentication such as open access e-resources like PubMed, etc. For subscription-based resources, especially if you append a proxy link on the e-resource, download and install their browser extension.

Functional Accessibility Evaluator (FAE) from UIUC

http://fae.cita.uiuc.edu/
This tool uses Illinois’ Web Accessibility requirements as their evaluation procedure, which tend to be more restrictive than other states. But it’s still a good tool. The explanation of the report is quite useful especially for website designer & developer.

Juicy Studio Accessibility Toolbar (Firefox extension)

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/juicy-studio-accessibility-too/
I use this primarily for analysing color contrast. Many “modern” websites user grey font and sometimes with grey background, which makes reading the text is quite difficult for those with visual disability. Useful for checking the ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Application) markups as well.

The three tools above would point out the coding problems, especially in the area of using proper tags, labels, etc. The rest of the tools below are useful to point out some user interaction challenges due to design decisions (information architecture, content structure within a page, etc.)

Keyboard manual operation

This is the simplest test. You just use the TAB and arrow keys on your keyboard to move around the page. Useful to check if the website has a “Skip to Main Content” option, especially if the site consist a lot of navigation links. It can be quite tedious if the site has a lot of links. But then you’d know the pain. ;-)

Fangs Screen Reader Emulator (Firefox extension)

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/fangs-screen-reader-emulator/
This is probably the easiest tool to view how a screen reader might read the content of a website from top to bottom without user’s interaction. You’ll see them as a text rather than a voice over. If you do use this tool, please consider a donation to the developer.

SATOGO

http://www.satogo.com
SATOGO is a web-based screen reader. Pretty straightforward. You need to use IE and Windows OS, and download & install their file first. Create an account if you plan to use this service often.

WebAnywhere

http://webanywhere.cs.washington.edu/
Another web-based tool that would emulate a screen reader. Works pretty well, but cannot be used for resources that requires you to authenticate first (using the proxy link, etc.) or if the e-resource uses your IP address for authorization.

NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access)

http://www.nvaccess.org/
Free screen reader, now it’s quite comparable to JAWS screen reader without the added $$$$. Works on Windows OS only. If you use this tool, please consider donating to the developer.

VoiceOver

For Mac/OSX users, the VoiceOver feature is quite useful. Follow their documentation on how to operate VoiceOver http://www.apple.com/voiceover/info/guide/