A recent NTEN article provided a list of free online tools to help nonprofit organizations test their websites for accessibility. These tools help to ensure the features and content on a website can be experienced by persons of all abilities. Today I take a closer look at one of the tools listed, WAVE, and review another option not included in the report, AMP.
Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool (WAVE)
As the first tool listed in the NTEN article, WAVE presents itself as a quick, coherent method of evaluating a website. This tool is a website in itself with just a search engine on its homepage. Any website can be entered into this search engine and WAVE will redirect to that site, with a WAVE toolbar evaluating areas of the page.
When I first performed the evaluation for the home page of Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College, the icons and descriptions shown in the WAVE toolbar appeared vague and written in a web developer language that may be difficult for a layperson to understand. For example, the first “error” in the screenshot above shows a small icon of a thought bubble with the text “Document language missing,” but provides no useful information or suggestions on how to resolve the error.
However, included with the small icons is an “information” button that, when opened, provides further detail to the problem. It breaks down the error into easily comprehendable categories that explain what the error means, why it matters, and how to fix it. When I first glanced at the toolbar, I overlooked the “information” button because of its size and proximity to the errors listed. Once discovered, evaluating the Heinz College site was simple. WAVE even provides a link to the section of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines that each problem falls under. Extremely useful!
I admit that my initial reaction to the WAVE tool was confusion, primarily due to the lack of guidance in navigating the various features. However, once all of the icons and buttons are understood, the evaluation is easy to understand and effective.
Accessibility Management Platform (AMP)
Upon searching for additional tools, I came across the Accessibility Management Platform. This web-based platform is very similar to WAVE, but it takes evaluation to the next level. AMP provides “a scalable, turnkey solution for meeting your Section 508, Americans with Disabilities (ADA) and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) compliance needs.” While there is a fee to receive all services provided by AMP, the free community edition offers a significant amount of information (with a work email required for registration). The full service package of AMP for an organization includes audits of IT systems’ accessibility, implementation support, marketing services, training, and policy development Essentially, a team of accessibility experts are assisting organizations with their accessibility needs. The free service, on the other hand, consists of only the web-based application, outlining errors and providing suggestions for website accessibility without staff support. The figure below shows a sample report using the Community Edition.
While generating similar errors and suggestions for revisions as WAVE, AMP provides further details that are extremely beneficial. For example, it separates the violations (errors) by severity (low, medium, and high). It may be impossible to revamp your current website to correct all of the errors, but by identifying the more serious violations, it provides a good starting point.
The dashboard feature is user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing. It also saves any report that you create under your username that can be accessed online at any time.
For first-time users, WAVE is a simple, fast evaluation tool that provides sufficient details regarding website accessibility without requiring many steps. However, organizations might benefit from cross-referencing WAVE with AMP. Combined, these two tools provide a thorough picture of website accessibility, with a solid action plan on how to revise and design your organization’s website for optimum accessibility.