Frequently Observed Accessibility Issues on Federal Websites
A view on Federal Websites Accessibility
GSA has conducted a high-level scan across a sample of 45 major public-facing federal websites to provide a baseline assessment of accessibility issues. Examine the most common issues observed and learn how to fix them!.
How To Make Your Website More Accessible
Provide Web Accessibility Awareness and Training
It is essential that people involved in a website are aware of the importance of accessibility, from management and funding through design, development and maintenance. In addition, certain roles must possess adequate knowledge, skills, and tools to produce and maintain an accessible website. Everyone should be aware of the federal Standard for website accessibility. The proposed new standard for Section 508 is expected to require conformance to the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA. Learn more about WCAG 2.0 website accessibility conformance.
Conduct Website Testing and Remediation
- Use automated website accessibility scanning tools
- Automated website testing tools can ‘crawl’ through the pages of a website and evaluate certain aspects of accessibility. These tools can be used to provide some indication of the likelihood that the website could pose accessibility problems for users. Automated scanning provides an important first-pass 'screening' that can identify if a website is not accessible or does not comply with accessibility standards by testing for the absence of valid required elements and/or attributes. Automated scanning cannot determine if a website is accessible or conformant with accessibility standards. Many accessibility checks require human judgment and must be evaluated manually using different techniques.
- Conduct manual accessibility tests
- Manual testing requires a tester to play the role of an end user and use most or all features of the application to help ensure accessibility. The tester must be expert in web accessibility and proficient in the use of input device alternatives and other assistive technologies. It is good practice to include persons with disabilities as testers for manual testing.
Build Accessibility into New Website Development and Major Redesign Efforts
- Plan for accessibility up front
- Strategic planning to build accessibility into a website development or redesign project is a key first step. A strategic plan for web accessibility covers many areas beyond actual content development and visual design. A comprehensive plan includes accessibility considerations for required training, tool selection, quality assurance testing. It is important to start early in order to reduce the risk of making early decisions that become expensive to change or remediate later. The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) has published guidance in the document Strategic Planning for Web Accessibility.
- Integrate accessibility throughout the development lifecycle
- Accessibility is best approached as an integral and ongoing activity. Integrate accessibility throughout the project from early planning to final deployment.
- Incorporate both automated and manual accessibility assurance
- Use a combination of automated scanning and manual testing as an integral part of your overall quality assurance process.
Tools, Guidance, and Resources
- Creating Accessible Websites with links to the SSA Accessibility Best Practices Library to assist developers in HTML coding techniques.
- Creating Accessible PDF Documents with links to VA guidance document on using Adobe Acrobat.
- Creating Accessible Flash with links to the VA Creating Accessible Flash Course.
- Defects Review with Developer Staff and Vendor.
- Writing Alternative Text for Images with links to the SSA Guide: Alternate Text For Images.
Other Resources to Help Build Accessible Web Pages:
- Accessibility Guide, current draft: an evolving collection of resources for web accessibility from the 18F group at GSA.
- Developing Section 508 Compliant Web Content, September 2014: on-line tutorial from VA.
- Web Best Practices Guide, June 2008: best practice guidance including accessibility from VA. [pdf]
- Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines, August 2006: comprehensive volume on web usability including accessibility from HHS. [pdf], also available as a searchable database.
- Accessible (508) HTML Forms: standard requirements from HHS.
- Accessible (508) HTML Tables: standard requirements from HHS.
Other Resources to Help Test and Repair Web Pages:
- Automated Testing Tools, September 2016: To help in the manual testing process you can use a number of tools and assistive technologies to make sure your websites are accessible.
- Encouraged Fixes for HTML Files, January 2015: issues, testing, and remediation suggestions from HHS.
- Required Fixes for HTML Files, January 2015: issues, testing, and remediation suggestions from HHS.
- Strongly Encouraged Fixes for HTML Files, January 2015: issues, testing, and remediation suggestions from HHS.
- Testing HTML for Section 508 Compliance, May 2014: on-line tutorial from VA.
- HTML 508 Checklist, August 2014: a set of yes/no questions to evaluate HTML content from HHS.
- Section 508 Checklist for Web-based Internet Information and Applications, September 2014: checklist and best practices for Section 508 from VA. [doc]
- Testing for Web Accessibility Compliance Under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, June 2013: guidance on using screen reader to evaluate web pages from ED.
- Federal CrowdSource Mobile Testing Program: free service provided for federal agencies by federal employees to do compatibility testing on multiple makes and models of devices, operating systems, and mobile browsers.