Web accessibility guidelines are constantly in flux, making it difficult for site administrators to keep pace. Even if you have a decent grasp on the basics, changes to your theme, plugins, and content can introduce new accessibility issues that you didn’t anticipate. Legal requirements may soon put publishers under the gun for accessibility compliance.
Plugin developer and WordPress Accessibility team member Joe Dolson has just released a tool that will help the average WordPress site administrator to identify and tackle accessibility issues with the help of automated testing. Access Monitor, now available on WordPress.org, is a plugin that runs accessibility tests on both the front and back ends of your site, powered by the new Tenon.io API.
Tenon is an automated accessibility testing service developed by Karl Groves. It’s designed to make accessibility testing less painful for developers. Groves has taken the “API first” route in order to create flexibility for developers interested in building tools for content management systems, browser extensions, IDE plugins, etc.
Access Monitor is the first plugin to use the Tenon API for testing WordPress sites in the admin. It generates a report that identifies each issue, where it’s found, and who is affected by it. With that knowledge you can work on improving your site’s overall accessibility. Here is an example of results for a single page:
Accessibility reports generated by the plugin are configurable and can return results for multiple pages at once.
Access Monitor includes the following features in its automated testing:
- Run a one-time test or schedule a test to be run on a weekly or monthly basis.
- All tests run through the system are saved for later review and comparison so you can track the performance of a page or a test over time.
- Duplicate issues are filtered out from the display. If an accessibility issue appears on multiple pages, it will only be shown the first time it’s identified.
- Re-run any test from the Accessibility Reports screen at any time, which creates a new test on the same pages and using the same test parameters.
- Test the page you’re viewing in the admin, using a link in the admin bar labeled ‘A11y Check.’
What Does Access Monitor Test?
It’s important to note that a perfect score from Access Monitor doesn’t necessarily mean that the theme you’re using meets WordPress accessibility guidelines or that your site is perfectly accessible. Dolson notes that the plugin only tests issues that are machine-testable, which means that it cannot detect keyboard issues, color contrast, etc.
Access monitor incorporates the current 72 tests outlined by the WCAG criterion for accessibility best practices. This includes items such non-text content, focus order, images of text, and the ability to resize text. Tenon plans to add 43 new tests in the first quarter of 2015.
To get an idea of how the testing works without installing the plugin, you can run your site through the Tenon.io testing tool. Having the Access Monitor plugin on hand is useful for when you want to test multiple pages, schedule tests, and keep records in order to monitor your site’s accessibility performance.
The WordPress Accessibility Team, of which Dolson is a member, is mobilizing in 2015 to carry out a plan of action that would make accessibility required for all themes hosted on WordPress.org. The team has a number of hurdles that it will have to overcome in order to get this approved by the Theme Review team, including further education for theme developers.
Automated accessibility testing for WordPress is an important first step towards making users and developers more aware of accessibility best practices. With high quality automated tests like these, there’s no excuse for being completely in the dark about your site’s accessibility issues. Dolson’s new tool puts the knowledge of accessibility experts into the hands of the average WordPress user, who is capable of implementing many of the text content-related recommendations.
If you want to see how your site measures up with current web accessibility guidelines, download Access Monitor from WordPress.org. The Tenon.io API key is free to anyone who signs up.
As I understand, this service is free only for beta period, it looks that later it might become a paid service.
Currently I’m also using WAWE tool, that has a helpful graphic overlay: http://wave.webaim.org