An automated website accessibility checker is fast and easy. But will it immediately give you ADA web compliance? Likely not.
Will it show you your biggest areas of accessibility opportunity and get the ball rolling? Absolutely.
An ADA compliance checker is not a substitute for a careful manual ADA or WCAG audit of your website. You should not rely on an ADA compliance website checker to remove any and all risk of ADA legal action against your business.
What you can rely on website accessibility checkers for are two things:
- Showing you some of the quickest, most impactful accessibility wins you can make
- Being a useful supplemental tool for speeding up some parts of a manual ADA web accessibility audit
What is digital accessibility? Digital and web accessibility are, ultimately, experiences, not equations. The only real path to how to make a website ADA compliant is through a thorough and professional manual audit. And those auditors often use automated website accessibility checkers to speed parts of that process up.
But make no mistake. Relying solely on a free ADA compliance checker is not advised if your goal is to adhere to WCAG 2.1 standards and become ADA compliant. They’re useful tools, but they’re not the answer on their own.
That disclaimer out of the way, here are the five web accessibility checkers we like most.
WCAG Compliance Checker or ADA Compliance Website Checker?
First, should you use a WCAG compliance checker or an ADA compliance checker? Let’s unpack the difference.
The ADA is a law, and ADA compliance refers to adhering to the letter of the law. But the ADA doesn’t provide specific technical guidelines. It merely states that people with disabilities should have the same access to places of public accommodation that everyone else does. Websites are considered places of public accommodation. Being in compliance with ADA web accessibility standards is simply doing everything you reasonably can to provide a website that’s accessible to everyone.
How do businesses get there? ADA legal actions routinely reference and recommend following the WCAG 2.1 AA guidelines. It’s a set of technical standards laid out by a third party organization (the W3C) to achieve web accessibility. The vast majority of website accessibility statements that reference specific guidelines reference the WCAG.
So a WCAG compliance checker is an ADA compliance checker assuming that the checker checks against the WCAG 2.1 AA guidelines.
And likewise, an ADA compliance website checker usually is a WCAG compliance checker. Because most ADA compliance is achieved through adherence to WCAG guidelines.
WAVE, powered by WebAIM, is the most robust and reliable free web accessibility checker out there. Once you input a URL, you’ll be presented with embedded accessibility icons and indicators. You’ll also see an interactive sidebar that provides an accessibility summary, details, and information about structure and contrast. All of this is done to WCAG 2.1 standards.
The great thing about WAVE is how educational it is. Any ADA compliance website checker is most effectively used by someone familiar with web accessibility. But WAVE can still be used by those unfamiliar with it. That’s because the analysis is broken down in a color-coded, user-friendly way.
- Red icons indicate accessibility errors that must be fixed.
- Yellow icons represent potential accessibility hindrances that should be looked at in the context of your specific site and user base.
- Green icons indicate accessibility feature opportunities that will improve accessibility.
The goal is to get rid of the red icons and manually assess the remaining ones. To make that easier, WAVE provides as much information about the icons and the underlying causes of the icons as possible. Again, only a human can check if a website is ADA compliant based on the context of that specific website’s use. WAVE identifies the errors and areas of opportunity.
WAVE has both Chrome and Firefox extensions along with enterprise-level accessibility evaluation tools.
SortSite bills itself as the one-click web accessibility checker used by a handful of federal agencies and Fortune 100 companies. Every SortSite check is run against over 100 WCAG 2.0 A, AA, and AAA guidelines along with 47 Section 508 federal accessibility checkpoints. You can read more about Section 508 in our What Is 508 Remediation? post.
It’s worth noting here that 75% of federal ADA cases reference WCAG 2.1 AA as the ADA-compliant standard. Version 2.1 builds on 2.0 with additional accessibility criteria. You can use SortSite to get most of the way there, but you’ll still need to account for the additional 2.1 criteria if you want iron-clad ADA compliance.
Like WAVE, SortSite provides a summary and more detail on the Issues tab, along with page-by-page issues on the Pages tab.
SortSite, however, is not a free ADA compliance checker … for long, anyway. You can sign up for a 30-day free trial, which may be enough time to use effectively. As long as your website has 10 pages or less. But any long-term use or use for larger sites requires payment.
Google’s tool to check web accessibility is best for the DIYer. Someone who’s familiar with the vocabulary and concepts around web accessibility.
The accessibility features in Chrome DevTools are intended for determining if a page’s:
- Elements are properly marked up to be detected and analyzed by a screen reader
- Text elements have sufficient contrast ratios with any background colors
To access DevTools’ accessibility checker, right click on any web page and select Inspect.
Then navigate to the Lighthouse tab.
Then you can generate a report on that page’s web accessibility.
Google is quick to state what we must emphasize again, “Only a subset of accessibility issues can be automatically detected so manual testing is also encouraged.”
The Lighthouse tool in Chrome’s DevTools surfaces errors and opportunities around navigation, ARIA markup, names, contrast ratios, tables and lists, audio, video, and best practices.
Lighthouse checks against a lot of WCAG 2.1 AA guidelines, but not all of them. To confidently claim 2.1 AA adherence, a manual audit is necessary. But it’s a great free tool for a first pass when working toward ADA web compliance.
AChecker checks single HTML pages, not an entire website’s worth of web pages, at a time. All checks are made against the WCAG 2.0 AA guidelines. Which, again, will get you pretty far toward ADA compliance. But given that 3/4s of federal ADA cases specifically reference the WCAG 2.1 guidelines, you’ll still have some work to do.
Once you input a URL, you’ll see an Accessibility Review:
Here AChecker breaks down your accessibility issues by known problems, likely problems, and potential problems. Navigating each tab shows you itemized lists of the type of problem. And here’s where it really shines. Each problem not only links to documentation explaining it, but also surfaces the flagged code from your website.
And, conveniently, you can export the Accessibility Review as a PDF or CSV document.
The final tool is Web Accessibility by Level Access. It’s an ADA website compliance checker that runs automated audits against the WCAG 2.0 standard. At the risk of being repetitive, your best bet is to adhere to WCAG 2.1 guidelines. But an automated checker that checks against 2.0 gets you most of the way there.
This is a free ADA compliance checker for the first five scans. After that, you gotta sign up. Input the URL to check and you’ll see a web accessibility report like below.
The accessibility report contains a few best practices and instances of the opportunity to implement them. To see the full results, you’ll have to download the report, which expands the list of best practices in a CSV.
Level Access’s checker, to be honest, isn’t the best choice if you’re looking for a free ADA compliance checker. It excels once you’re signed up and off the free trial. But the free version does give you some indication of your website’s accessibility opportunities.
Website Accessibility Checker: The First Step
Web accessibility that rises to the level of ADA compliance isn’t something you can do in a few hours with the help of a free ADA compliance checker. Automated website accessibility checkers will get you 75% of the way there. But an expert human hand combing through your website code is the only way to get across the finish line. That’s the only way to totally remove your legal risk and comply with the law. Part-way-there doesn’t cut it in the eyes of the law.
For bars and restaurants, though, there’s another way. The hospitality industry is disproportionately targeted by ADA website law. And the most visible customer touchpoints in hospitality are menus. Every PDF menu or image of a menu posted online is a PDF accessibility risk. Every time you publish text on your website that isn’t up to WCAG 2.1 AA standards, it’s a legal risk.
That’s where SproutQR’s QR code menu comes in. It’s the industry’s only QR code-based digital menu for bars and restaurants that meets WCAG 2.1 AA standards. That means it’s ADA compliant.
Not only will you remove the risk you assume when you public inaccessible digital menus, you’ll get all the other benefits of QR codes. Book a demo and see why it’s the only move to make right now.