See AudioEye in action

Watch Demo

Back to blog

A Comprehensive Guide to WCAG Testing

Posted May 15, 2024


Posted May 15, 2024

Stylized web browser with various popups behind a man holding a laptop.
Stylized web browser with various popups behind a man holding a laptop.

Ready to see AudioEye in action?

Watch Demo

WCAG testing involves running accessibility tests on your digital content to determine its accessibility to individuals with disabilities. Learn more about WCAG testing and how it benefits your business.

One in six people globally lives with a disability. As the world becomes increasingly digital, it’s difficult for many users with disabilities to access, let alone use, digital content. To ensure the disabled community has equal access to digital content, organizations worldwide are increasing efforts around digital accessibility.

Businesses can only build and maintain accessible websites through accessibility testing. This process involves testing both new and existing digital content against the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). WCAG testing can feel overwhelming, especially if your company hasn’t considered accessibility much. 

Here’s the good news: WCAG testing is doable. And it’s not as complex as you might think. In this article, we’ll explain how to approach WCAG testing, best practices, and the benefits accessibility testing has on your digital content.

What is WCAG?

Before we discuss WCAG testing, a quick discussion on WCAG. WCAG is considered to be the go-to standard for digital accessibility. The guidelines include a number of success criteria divided into four principles:

  • Perceivable: All information should be perceivable by individuals with disabilities; nothing should be invisible to any user’s senses.
  • Operable: Users should be able to easily use or interact with digital content regardless of their ability.
  • Understandable: Digital content should be clear and easily comprehended by users of varying abilities. 
  • Robust: Content should be compatible with various assistive technologies, including screen readers. 

Each success criterion is further categorized into three levels:

  • Level A: This is considered to be the bare minimum for accessibility and impacts the broadest array of user populations. Level A has the lowest impact on your site or application’s presentation and business logic, but the experience may not be completely accessible.
  • Level AA: This is considered the standard for accessibility and expands on the criteria included in Level A. Digital content that fulfills all Level AA success criteria generally provide an accessible experience for most users. Adhering to this level of accessibility may impose changs to a system or site’s presentation logic or business logic.
  • Level AAA: This is the maximum level of accessibility and includes all the success criteria for Level A and Level AA. 

Your accessibility goals will determine which accessibility conformance level you want to meet. Most organizations should strive to include all WCAG success criteria in WCAG 2.1 Level AA. Digital content that meets these criteria meets most accessibility requirements and provides an accessible experience for individuals with disabilities.

What is WCAG Testing?

WCAG testing is the process of running accessibility tests on your existing digital content (i.e. web pages, mobile apps, PDFs, etc.) against WCAG success criteria. Most testing tools will provide you with a broad overview of how accessible your existing content is. 

Every accessibility tool tests for different WCAG success criteria — some test for only a handful of guidelines, while others test for dozens. For example, AudioEye’s Web Accessibility Checker performs more than 400 accessibility tests (more than any other provider) on your digital content and identifies how many WCAG violations exist. The scan looks for common accessibility errors like missing alt text, incorrect heading structure, poor color contrast, etc. 

WCAG testing can help you make digital content more accessible to those with disabilities. This includes those with:

  • Visual disabilities: Individuals who are blind, have low vision, or are colorblind.
  • Hearing disabilities: Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • Physical or cognitive disabilities: Individuals with limited mobility who use a mouse, touchscreen, or keyboard to navigate digital content or those with limited cognitive abilities.
An empty form on a landing page, with an accessibility symbol in the lower left corner.

Why is WCAG Testing Important?

The world is becoming increasingly digital, with the internet being the primary way we communicate, socialize, shop, and find information. To ensure equal access for all, it’s critical that these platforms be accessible to individuals with disabilities. WCAG testing is a critical step in enhancing website accessibility.

First, a WCAG audit enables you to comply with legal requirements and standards, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. By conducting WCAG testing, you’ll better understand how accessible your existing content is and where improvements need to be made. This helps you take more proactive steps to fix accessibility issues before they impact users and result in legal action.

Second, WCAG testing improves the overall user experience for everyone — not just those with disabilities. For example, many accessibility features such as clear navigation and keyboard navigation compatibility make content easier for users to understand, navigate, and interact with. More simply, by following WCAG guidelines, you can improve the overall usability and satisfaction of your digital content (i.e. websites, mobile apps, etc.). This ultimately results in more engagement and loyalty among your users.

Finally, WCAG testing shows your commitment to accessibility and inclusivity. You’re showing dedication to providing equal opportunities and respect for all individuals, fostering a more inclusive, equitable society.

How to Conduct WCAG Testing

WCAG testing can be done in several ways, though most rely on automation, manual testing, or a combination of both. It’s important to note that thorough WCAG testing—the kind that makes the most difference for users with disabilities—uses both automated and manual testing. 

Regardless of the approach, WCAG testing aims to identify accessibility barriers and ensure digital content follows WCAG principles. Below are a few ways to conduct WCAG testing yourself:

  • Keyboard-only navigation tests: Some users with disabilities rely solely on keyboard commands and shortcuts to navigate digital content. Keyboard testing ensures this experience is easy and free of barriers. You can conduct keyboard navigation tests using the tab button to navigate digital content. It should be clear where you are on the page, and you should be able to click on various web elements. If you cannot do so, your digital content isn’t keyboard navigation-friendly.
  • Screen reader testing: Screen reader testing determines whether or not your digital content is accessible to screen reader users. If your content is incompatible with screen readers, you’re creating several challenges for users — particularly those with visual impairments. You can test how screen reader-friendly your digital content is by installing a screen reader on your browser. From here, navigate through your digital content, paying attention to how easy it is to navigate web pages, complete forms, click on buttons, etc.
  • No sound testing: If you have audio content (i.e. videos, sound clips, podcasts, etc.), it needs to be accessible to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. This means you need to provide alternative methods to sound such as transcripts, closed captions, and alt text. To test how accessible your audio content is, simply turn the sound off. Are you able to understand the content? Are the captions clear and descriptive? 
  • Zoom testing: Individuals with low vision may want to magnify digital content to make it more legible or less strenuous to read. According to WCAG success criterion 1.4.4 Resize Text, users should be able to zoom in on content by 200% without losing content or functionality. This simple zoom test can tell you a lot about the overall accessibility of your content and provide you with a good starting point for increasing accessibility.

Here’s the bottom line: DIY WCAG testing (i.e., the use of free tools or simple accessibility checkers) is a great way to get started making your digital content more accessible. However, it’s not a substitute for a proper approach to WCAG testing. You need support from human testers — those with real experience in digital accessibility. 

These individuals will thoroughly test and experiment with your digital content to identify more complex accessibility issues. They’ll also provide recommendations for remediation, further increasing accessibility.

AudioEye: Your Must-Have for WCAG Testing

Your organization has a legal and ethical responsibility to provide digital content that is as accessible and inclusive as possible. Following WCAG success criteria is a great place to increase accessibility, but it’s time to do more.

That’s where AudioEye comes in. Using both automated and human testing, AudioEye enables you to find and fix WCAG violations and remediate them. We’ll even provide ongoing monitoring and support to help you stay on top of changing WCAG standards

Ready to take the first step towards more inclusive digital content? Click below to get a free scan of your digital content.

Ready to see AudioEye in action?

Watch Demo

Ready to test your website for accessibility?

Scan your website now.

Share post


Keep Reading