Wednesday June 16, 2021 By David Quintanilla
A Complete Guide To Accessibility Tooling — Smashing Magazine

About The Creator

Nic Chan is a contract front-end net developer and an advocate for a extra inclusive net. She blogs about accessibility and different subjects on her personal web site at …

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In a brand new brief collection of posts, we spotlight a few of the helpful instruments and strategies for builders and designers. Lately we’ve lined HTML Emails and SVG Generators. This time we glance into completely different sorts of instruments that can assist you streamline your accessibility testing course of. Don’t miss the next one.

Studying to construct accessible web sites could be a daunting process for many who are simply beginning to implement accessible practices. We’ve pulled collectively a variety of accessibility tooling, starting from single-use bookmarklets to full-blown functions, with the intention to enable you to get began with constructing extra accessible web sites.


The WebAIM Million survey discovered that dwelling pages with ARIA current averaged 41% extra detectable errors than these with out ARIA. ARIA is a necessary software for creating complicated net functions, however the specification is strict and will be tough to debug by those that don’t use assistive know-how recurrently. Tooling can assist us be certain that we’re utilizing ARIA accurately and never introducing extra errors to our functions.

WAI-ARIA bookmarklet results page.

The WAI-ARIA bookmarklet masses a script to examine your web page’s roles and ARIA attributes. (Large preview)

The Paciello Group has created a WAI-ARIA bookmarklet which scans your web page to ensure all components and their given roles and ARIA attributes are legitimate. Upon activating the bookmarklet, the web page is scanned for any errors, and a brand new tab can be opened with the outcomes. The outcomes embrace the entire variety of legitimate roles, any detected ARIA errors, and code snippets of the place any errors had been discovered as a way to simply debug your web page.

One factor not explicitly examined within the above bookmarklet is the presence of duplicate ARIA roles. Sure landmark roles have names that sound like they could apply to a number of components, however ought to solely be used as soon as per web page, resembling banner or contentinfo. Adrian Roselli has give you a simple CSS-based bookmarklet to check if any of these ARIA roles have been duplicated. Activating the bookmarklet will add a crimson define to any offending component.

Demo of NerdeRegion, a live region that says 'Nothing to read here' has been changed to 'Read Smashing Magazine!' The text changes are tracked in the NerdeRegion panel in the Dev Tools.

Nerde Area tracks all adjustments made to any dwell areas in your web page. (Large preview)

NerdeRegion is a Chrome extension that logs all of the output of any aria-live areas. Can’t determine why your display screen reader is saying one thing unexpectedly? NerdeRegion can allow you to maintain observe of timestamped bulletins and the supply component they originate from, all inside a panel in DevTools. Since there will be bugs and inconsistencies with how aria-live areas are introduced with completely different display screen readers, NerdeRegion could be a useful gizmo to determine if a difficulty is doubtlessly attributable to your code or by the gadget mixture.

Computerized Testing Instruments

This class of instruments can be utilized by the developer or tester to run automated assessments on the output of your code, catching errors that will not seem apparent within the supply code. There are a lot of high-quality paid companies and different instruments past what we’ve talked about right here, however we’ve centered on instruments with complete free choices with the intention to cut back boundaries to entry. All the listed instruments will be run on pages that aren’t on the general public web, permitting them to be extra simply integrated right into a improvement circulation. It is very important word that accessibility testing is sophisticated and at all times requires guide testing to know the total context of the positioning, however these automated testing instruments may give you a stable head begin.

Lots of instruments use axe-core underneath the hood, so it could be redundant to make use of a mix of instruments. In the end, what sort of software you select is extra about what sort of UI you favor, and the extent of comprehensiveness within the outcomes. For instance, Lighthouse, the software constructed into Google Chrome, makes use of a partial number of axe-core guidelines, so for those who handle to get a clear scan with axe DevTools, you shouldn’t must run a Lighthouse scan as effectively.

Axe DevTools showing details of a ‘Document should not have more than one banner landmark error’ with code snippets.

Axe DevTools automated take a look at factors out your errors and the place in your code to search out them. (Large preview)

Axe DevTools is on the market as a Chrome or Firefox browser extension and reveals up as a panel within the developer instruments. You’ll be able to take a look at a complete web page or simply a part of a web page, and all detected points are sorted by severity and include code snippets for simpler debugging. Axe additionally enables you to catch extra errors than different automated instruments with its Clever Guided Exams characteristic. Clever Guided Exams establish areas to check and do as a lot heavy lifting as attainable, earlier than asking the tester questions with the intention to generate a outcome. Axe additionally means that you can save and export outcomes, which is beneficial for working by way of fixing errors as a part of an extended and extra cooperative improvement course of.

Accessibility Insights additionally runs on axe-core, however has a number of options that differentiate it from axe DevTools. It may be run on varied platforms, together with Android, Windows, or as a browser extension. All variations of Accessibility Insights characteristic an inspector-like software for wanting up particular person component data, in addition to a approach of operating automated checks. The net extension additionally comprises an Evaluation characteristic, which has a mix of automated, guided and guide assessments with the intention to permit you to generate a full report.

WAVE extension run on a Smashing Magazine page.

WAVE’s doc construction panel reveals you what landmarks and headings are in your web page. (Large preview)

WAVE by WebAIM has been an integral a part of my software package. Obtainable in extension kind in addition to a mass testing service and an API, I discover this software greatest for checking my work as I develop as a result of its simplicity and velocity. The whole lot is loaded as a panel on the aspect of your web page, and you may get a holistic view of errors by scrolling by way of the web page. If an error is displayed within the aspect panel however you aren’t positive the place within the DOM it’s, you possibly can flip off types to find it throughout the markup. WAVE’s heading and landmark characteristic is one among my favourite issues about it because it ensures that my doc semantics are appropriate as I construct.

SiteImprove has a free Chrome extension along with their paid service choices. Like WAVE, you run the extension on a web page and it lists errors in a panel on the aspect of the web page, together with filters for issues like conformance stage, severity and accountability. The severity filter is very helpful as automated testing at all times tends to provide some false positives.


Low distinction textual content errors had been discovered on a whopping 86.4% of homepages final 12 months. Builders typically have restricted management over a coloration palette, so you will need to attempt to set up an accessible coloration palette as early on within the course of as attainable.

Smashing Magazine brand colors as an Are My Colors Accessible palette

Are My Colours Accessible contains a palette mode the place you possibly can examine each coloration in your palette in opposition to one another. (Large preview)

While you’re beginning to design a coloration palette, an in-browser coloration selecting software could also be useful. Are My Colors Accessible is a software that may assist you determine an accessible coloration palette. The fundamental mode calculates the distinction ratio between any two colours. The font dimension and font weight of your textual content can have an effect on the distinction ratio required based mostly on the extent of conformance, and this software helpfully lays out all of the completely different requirements it meets. It additionally options HSL vary sliders as a way to tweak any of the colours, with the outcomes mechanically updating as you make changes. Palette mode enables you to examine each coloration in a palette in opposition to one another and shows the distinction ratio and requirements met, which is useful for figuring out how one can mix completely different colours collectively. Making any coloration changes additionally updates the permalink, permitting you to simply share coloration combos together with your crew. In the event you choose a distinct interface for choosing colours, Atul Varma has built a similar tool that makes use of a coloration picker as an alternative of HSL vary sliders.

Geenes accessibility color comparison page where a red spectrum is compared to a gray spectrum.

Take your coloration tooling to the following stage with Geenes, which can assist you determine all of the tints and shade of your palette. (Large preview)

Geenes makes an attempt to do all of it by constructing out full tint/shade ranges for every coloration group you add, permitting you to design a full-color system as an alternative of a restricted palette. Along with offering distinction ratios, Geenes additionally means that you can apply your palette to numerous mockups, and emulate completely different types of coloration blindness. You’ll be able to trial most options totally free, and unlock a number of palettes with a donation.

Sure instruments can assist you resolve particular color-related accessibility points. Buttons particularly will be tough, as not solely do you need to fear in regards to the textual content coloration with the background coloration, you additionally want to think about the button background with the web page background, and the main focus define coloration with each backgrounds. Stephanie Eckles’s venture ButtonBuddy explains these necessities in easy language and helps you choose colours for these particular person elements.

Who Can Use featuring a comparison of contrast ratios between red and dark blue

Who Can Use can let in case your colours might pose potential difficulties for coloration blind customers. (Large preview)

Some coloration combos might technically meet distinction necessities when considered by individuals with out coloration blindness however might pose issues for particular sorts of coloration blindness and low imaginative and prescient. Who Can Use applies a visible filter to emulate several types of coloration blindness after which calculates an approximate coloration distinction ratio.

If you need to check your coloration combos within the context of an current web site, Stark is a coloration picker extension for Chrome that allows you to simulate sure sorts of coloration blindness. Moreover, Anna Monus has created a useful writeup of coloration blindness instruments already constructed into Chrome. Whereas this type of emulation can by no means totally change testing with actual customers, it will probably assist us make higher preliminary decisions.

The terminal output of Alex Clapperton’s CLI tool.

Verify your coloration distinction ratios with out ever leaving the consolation of your terminal. (Large preview)

Typically as builders, we begin engaged on a venture the place we might must design as we go and start writing code with no full, pre-established model palette. As soon as improvement has began, it may be tedious to maintain importing coloration palettes forwards and backwards into exterior tooling. There are a lot of choices for checking coloration distinction inside a code setting. Alex Clapperton has developed a CLI tool the place you go in two colours and it outputs the distinction ratio and passing requirements proper within the terminal. The BBC has printed a JavaScript color contrast checker that takes two colours and determines whether or not or not it meets your required commonplace. A software like this may dwell in your codebase together with your assessments, or be applied in your design system library like Storybook, PatternLab, and so forth.

A11y Color Tokens takes it a step additional and allows you to mechanically generate complementary coloration tokens in CSS or SASS. You go in a coloration and desired ratio to generate a shade or tint of that coloration that meets necessities. If you could rapidly examine the distinction ratio of one thing, Chrome and Firefox now present the colour distinction data inside their respective developer instruments coloration selectors as effectively. If none of those instruments fit your fancy, Stephanie Walter has lined many different color-related software choices in her blog post on color accessibility.


Constructing for assistive know-how can typically add one other stage of complexity in terms of debugging. As a result of assistive know-how is basically one other layer of an interface on prime of the browser, we now must concern ourselves with combos of browser and assistive know-how. A bug could also be current in both the browser or the assistive know-how, or it could be current solely in a specific mixture. It’s a good suggestion to maintain this list of bug trackers available when attempting to repair a particular concern. A few of these are public as a way to see if others expertise the bug you might be having, however others solely supply a method to report bugs in personal.

HTML5 Accessiblity table of semantic section and grouping elements and their browser support. All modern browsers support the elements, but IE11 is lacking.

HTML5 Accessibility can assist you establish browser assist for various components. (Large preview)

Not all browsers and display screen reader combos work effectively collectively, and never all accessibility options are equally supported throughout browsers. These instruments can assist you examine in case you are experiencing a bug on a particular mixture of gadgets. HTML5 Accessibility is a listing of newer HTML options and whether or not or not the default browser implementation is accessibly supported. In an analogous vein, Accessibility Support offers a listing of ARIA roles and their assist in the preferred browser and display screen reader combos.

Focus Administration

Managing focus is a vital however typically troublesome a part of making complicated functions accessible. We have to take into account that the main focus order is logical, that focus is moved round accurately on any customized parts, and that every interactable component has a transparent focus type.

Firefox feature to label all focusable elements enabled on the Smashing Magazine page

Verify your focus order rapidly with out having to tab by way of the entire web page with Firefox’s Accessibility Inspector. (Large preview)

This bookmarklet by Level Access labels each focusable component on the web page, as a way to examine that the main focus order matches the studying order. For the Firefox customers on the market, Firefox’s Accessibility Inspector has added this characteristic since model 84.

In complicated codebases, the place completely different parts or third-party code is perhaps transferring focus round unexpectedly, this little snippet by Scott Vinkle can assist you see what component at the moment has focus. If I’m scuffling with the main focus being moved round by different elements of my software, generally I additionally like to exchange console.log with console.hint to find out precisely what perform is transferring the main focus round.

In an effort to take a look at all focus types on an internet web page, we will use Scott O’Hara’s script as a place to begin. Tabbing by way of each component can get cumbersome after some time, so a script to rotate by way of every component can assist us make certain our focus types look constant and work throughout the context of the web page.

A demo page for the Tabindex Bookmarklet. Every element with a tabindex is identified, and links with positive tabindexes are marked with a red X.

Discover and take away any optimistic tabindexes in your web page with the tabindex bookmarklet. (Large preview)

Setting a optimistic tabindex to attempt to repair the main focus order is a standard accessibility gotcha. Parts which have a optimistic tabindex will drive the browser to tab to them first. Whereas this will likely not technically be an error, that is typically surprising and may trigger extra issues than it solves. Paul J. Adam’s tabindex bookmarklet means that you can spotlight all components which have the tabindex attribute utilized.

Structure Usability

The doc studying order can generally fall out of sync with what a viewer would possibly anticipate if a format depends too closely on the CSS Grid or Flexbox order property. Adrian Roselli has coded up a bookmarklet for keeping track of the reading order that can assist you make certain your web site passes the meaningful sequence guideline.

Smashing Magazine page with the text spacing bookmarklet applied.

Steve Faulkner’s bookmarklet enables you to examine how resilient your textual content format is when the utmost textual content spacing settings requirement is utilized. (Large preview)

The WCAG comprises a text spacing criterion the place all content material ought to nonetheless work when sure textual content settings are utilized. To check for this, Steve Faulkner has created a bookmarklet that automatically applies the required text spacing settings to all of the textual content on a web page. Avoiding issues like fastened heights and permitting for overflow not solely makes your web site extra accessible, it ensures that no matter content material you place into your web site received’t break the format, one thing your content material editors will thanks for.

Jared Smith constructed a bookmarklet to turn your cursor into a 44×44 pixel box as a way to hover it over your controls to ensure that they meet the advisable goal dimension criterion.


Linters are a category of instruments that catch errors by scanning the supply code earlier than the appliance is run or constructed. Through the use of linters, we will repair smaller bugs earlier than we even run or construct the code, saving useful QA time later.

Many builders already know and use ESLint in some capability. As an alternative of studying new tooling, it’s attainable to get a head begin in your accessibility testing by together with a brand new plugin into your current workflow. Eslint-plugin-jsx-a11y is an ESLint plugin on your JSX components, the place any errors can be proven as you write your code. Scott Vinkle has written up a helpful guide on setting it up.

Axe Linter VS Code extension showing a warning for an img element with no alt text.

Axe Linter is a software that may catch accessibility errors earlier than your code is even run. (Large preview)

Deque has come out with axe Linter, accessible as a Github app or VS Code Extension. Axe Linter checks React, Vue, HTML and Markdown information in opposition to core guidelines with none configuration so it’s straightforward to rise up and operating, though you might be welcome to go in your individual choices. One useful characteristic is that it distinguishes between WCAG 2 and WCAG 2.1 which is beneficial in case you are attempting to fulfill a particular commonplace.


The net is constructed to be resilient. In case you have damaged markup, the browser will strive its greatest to patch over any mistake. Nonetheless, this may have unintended unwanted effects, each from a styling perspective and an accessibility standpoint. Operating your output by way of the W3C HTML validator can assist catch issues like damaged tags, attributes being utilized to components that shouldn’t have them, and different HTML errors. Deque has created a W3C HTML Validator bookmarklet based mostly on the identical engine which helps you to examine the markup on localhost or password-protected pages that the common validator can not attain.

A11y.css homepage showing the different ways it can be installed.

A11y.css is a stylesheet that means that you can rapidly scan your HTML for accessibility points. (Large preview)

In the event you’re extra of a visible particular person, Gaël Poupard’s venture a11y.css is a stylesheet that checks for attainable dangers inside your markup. Obtainable in each extension or bookmarklet format, you possibly can customise the language in addition to the extent of recommendation displayed. In an analogous vein, sa11y is a software that may be put in as a bookmarklet or built-in into your codebase. Sa11y is particularly designed for wanting on the output of CMS content material. It shows any warnings in non-technical language in order that content material editors can perceive and make the required corrections.

Studying Degree

An accessible web site begins with accessible content material. Cognitive accessibility has been a significant focus of the continued WCAG 3 draft and is at the moment talked about in Success Criterion 3.1.5, which means that authors intention for content material to be comprehensible by a decrease secondary (7-Ninth grade) studying stage.

Hemingway App default screen, showing some text with readability errors and warnings highlighted.

Hemingway options an editor on the left and a aspect panel with details about the textual content you might be at the moment drafting. (Large preview)

The Hemingway Editor calculates the studying stage of your content material as you write it, as a way to edit to ensure it’s simply comprehensible. The panel on the aspect affords strategies for how one can enhance your content material to make it extra readable. In case your web site has already been printed, Juicy Studio has produced a readability tool the place you go in a URL to the supplied kind and your web site’s content material is analyzed and graded utilizing three completely different studying stage algorithms. There may be additionally a useful clarification as to what every of those scores entails. Nonetheless, one limitation of this explicit software is that it takes under consideration all of the textual content rendered on the web page, together with issues like navigation and footer textual content, which can skew the outcomes.

Check Suites And Steady Integration

The draw back of most automated testing instruments is that they require individuals to run them within the browser. If you’re engaged on a single massive codebase, you possibly can incorporate accessibility testing into your current testing course of or as a part of your steady integration circulation. While you write customized assessments, you might have an consciousness of your software that automated testing instruments don’t have, permitting you to carry out custom-made, complete testing in a extra scalable approach.

Axe-core code snippet demonstrating you can throw errors if violations are found

Construct your individual customized accessibility testing circulation utilizing axe-core as your base. (Large preview)

As soon as once more, axe-core pops up as an open-source library that often underpins most of those instruments, so whether or not or not a software works for you’ll doubtless be based mostly on how effectively it integrates together with your code somewhat than any variations in testing outcomes. Marcy Sutton has printed a framework-agnostic guide for getting started writing automated tests for accessibility. She covers the distinction between unit assessments and integration assessments and why you would possibly wish to select one over the opposite in numerous situations.

If you have already got a take a look at framework that you just take pleasure in, there’s a excessive likelihood that there’s already a library that includes axe-core into it. For instance, Josh McClure has written up a information that makes use of cypress-axe, and Nick Colley has produced a Jest flavored model in jest-axe.

Pa11y is a software that gives a configurable interface round testing that can be accessible in a CI version as effectively. Its many configuration choices can allow you to resolve complicated points that may give you testing. For instance, the actions characteristic enables you to go an array of actions earlier than operating the assessments and will be helpful for testing screens that require authentication earlier than accessing the web page.

Person Preferences

There are a lot of new media queries to assist detect the consumer’s working system and browser preferences. As of late, builders are sometimes detecting these settings with the intention to set the default for issues like movement preferences and darkish mode, however this will likely additionally result in bugs which might be troublesome to breed for those who shouldn’t have the identical settings.

Magica11y demo page showing various user preferences, dark mode is enabled and animations are permitted.

A small however helpful library: Magica11y can assist you debug points created by completely different consumer preferences. (Large preview)

Magica11y is a set of features that allows you to decide your customers’ preferences. Ship the documentation web page to non-technical testers or incorporate these into your app as a way to reproduce your consumer’s environments extra precisely.

Wrapping Up

It’s estimated that automated accessibility testing can solely catch 30% of all accessibility errors. At the same time as tooling continues to enhance, it would by no means change together with disabled individuals in your design and improvement course of. A sustainable and holistic accessibility course of would possibly contain having the entire crew use tooling to catch as many of those errors as attainable early on within the course of, as an alternative of leaving all of it for testers and disabled customers to search out and report these points later.

Want much more tooling? The A11y Project and Stark have curated lists of further accessibility instruments for each builders and customers! Or be at liberty to depart any strategies within the feedback under, we’d love to listen to what instruments you incorporate into your workflow.

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