Basic accessibility checks

WCAG 2.1 covers a lot of criteria and a lot of scenarios. Because it is a full standard, it has to cover every eventuality. To be able to say your service is fully compliant, you will need to check everything. There is no getting around it.

However, when testing we find most WCAG failures fall under the same 15 to 20 criteria. So, we’ve made a checklist of our top 10 things to test. We think this should cover a lot of the serious accessibility barriers people face and should tell you quite quickly how accessible your website or digital service is.

To make this checklist, we combined the common failures found by 8 different accessibility auditors along with the findings from the Accessibility monitoring of public sector websites and mobile apps 2020-2021 corporate report.

We grouped the tests into a logical order based on how easy the tests are to execute, and how much effort they will take to fix.

Warning The intent of this basic checklist is to cover the most common WCAG failures. Completing this checklist will not guarantee your service is fully compliant with WCAG 2.1.

1. Automated tools

WCAG criteria:

4.1.1 Parsing

Various others

Checklist:

HTML is valid

ARC Toolkit used

Axe Devtools used

Wave used

2. Responsive design

Checklist:

All information available in portrait and landscape

Font size scales without breaking the layout when zooming

No horizontal scrolling on banned elements at 320px

Font size will scale up to “very large” and still be clear

3. Keyboard accessibility

Checklist:

All interactions work using a keyboard

Focus is never trapped

Page has is a working skip link

Focus order is logical

Focus is always visible

Focus is contained within modals and pop-ups

Focus does not submit forms or activate links

4. Headings and labels

Checklist:

No heading levels have been skipped

Tables are captioned, headed and marked up correctly

Page has a H1, but not more than one

Headings and labels are clear and descriptive

All form fields have a label

5. Page title

WCAG criteria:

2.4.2 Page Titled

Checklist:

Page title describes the current page

Page title describes the current website or service

Checklist:

The purpose of each link and button is clear

No broken or internal-only links

Navigation menus on more than one page are in the same order

Buttons on more than one page are labelled consistently

Button icons have a text alternative

Buttons and links use the correct tags or roles

7. Colour contrast

Checklist:

Colour alone is not used to convey information

Text larger than 18pt (24px) has a ratio of 3:1 or more

Text larger than 14pt (19px) and bold has a ratio of 3:1 or more

Text smaller than 18pt (24px) and not bold has a ratio of 4.5:1

Non-text elements have a contrast ratio of 3:1

Focus styles have a contrast ratio of 3:1

8. Images

Checklist:

Alt text for important images is clear and accurate

Decorative images are hidden from screen readers

No images of text are being used

9. Announcements and alerts

Checklist:

Any field which causes a validation error is easy to identify

Validation errors are explained so its easy to understand how to fix it

Validation errors are announced to screen readers

Expanded or collapsed sections are announced to screen readers

Notification messages are announced to screen readers

Pop-ups are announced to screen readers

10. Session timeouts

Checklist:

There is a way to extend session timeouts without losing data