Accessibility testing with WAVE

Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool (WAVE) tool (
Your website can have good aesthetics. It can have good accessibility. Achieving both can be really hard work...

The  Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool (WAVE) tool  is a fantastic resource. It's a successor to the original Bobby software that was closed down in 2008.

You can't deny any of the findings. According to the strict definitions of web markup and the accessibility requirements for visually and physically impaired users, everything it finds is valid.

However, being able to do something with those findings is more of a challenge.

Testing our Portfolio

We put a string of our own and client sites through the WAVE tool to see what it would find.

You only have to go to the website and enter the web address to check into the search box, wait while it crawls the page, then sit back in horrified (or smug) silence depending on the results.

You can do this page by page if you want. It is probably most useful to run it against the home page and maybe a couple of interior pages of different types. The graphical markup of the results window is linked to a summary, detail and reference report in the side bar.

It's fair to say results were... mixed.

Platforms, themes and plain ole' user error

User error is the easiest to deal with. One of the first errors it found on a personal site was a missing alt tag on a featured image.

There's a lot of easy fixes in response to sloppy content markup by the random error generating engine behind the keyboard - that's you and me. It's a worthwhile exercise in tightening up standards for content markup to fix things that shouldn't have been broken anyways.

After that you have to consider what you can technically fix within whatever your hosting platform allows you to 'fix.'

The Fun Starts Here

After that, things get a little more tricky. The WAVE report produces markup errors, contrast errors and alerts of several kinds, as well as cataloguing structural elements on the page.

Depending on how a site is built and hosted, you may be entirely powerless to do anything about it. Walk this way...

Part Two is going to look at the WAVE results for our portfolio of sites. This is going to get ugly. RC