What is a Website Accessibility Audit?

An accessibility audit is a formal evaluation that is manually performed by a technical accessibility expert.

And when this expert is auditing your digital asset, so or example, a website, they’re going to audit it against the applicable WCAG success criteria.

So with the website, all the success criteria are applicable and you’re going to use a particular version, probably 2.1 conformance level AA.

So the assessment will typically involve all of the primary user flows and or screens or page layouts.

So a primary user flow is the common or desired journey that a user takes once on a website or other assets.

So, for example, if I’m if I’m shopping on an ecommerce website on my search for a product, I click on the product, I go to the product page, and I add that product to the shopping cart, and then there’s a checkout.

And audit is going to include all of that because that’s all a primary user flow and it’s something you would want to have audited.

Now you won’t do this for every last screen or page because the results of that audit can be applied across- it can be quite applied globally.

So you would only do that for one user flow, you wouldn’t replicate that but that’s what is included in an audit.

And besides that, you want to include all of the unique page layouts or templates that are specific to a purpose.

So, for example, a blog post page that is going to- you’d likely want to include that in the audit and, but that’s going to have the same layout of all the pages that use that same style template. But if there’s another unique page- so, for example, a contact page you want to have that audited as well.

And so a screen is to think of- a screen as like a pop-up or an app screen and that’s going to be different from a page.

So a pop-up could be sign up for our e-mail list that could be- that could be a screen so you want to include every last thing. You want to have every last consideration because if I just have a page or a URL and I don’t include screens, well then there could be a pop-up that’s not a part of the audit, but it- it’s very, very important and it should be.

So once the audit is complete a report will be returned and the report is usually going to include the issues found, the WCAG success criteria, that success criteria that is associated with the issues, the location of the issues, and then any remediation guidance or suggestions for those issues.

And again, if you like- let’s just say you have 100-page website, not all pages are going to be audited. Nor would you want them to be because that’s going to be very, very expensive. An audit is already usually several thousand dollars so you wouldn’t want to add to that.

You wouldn’t want to be redundant but the good thing is that once you have the audit you can you can apply those same issues as we were talking about earlier- you can apply those site-wide.

So if you have all of the primary layouts that are used on your website, you know that those can be applied and then similarly any issues that are unique.

So, for example, let’s say you have your website- you have videos embedded on your website but those videos don’t have closed captions. That will be caught in an audit and then you will know that every other video needs to have closed captions.

Now the term audit is frequently misused a lot of times people use it in in reference to an automated scan and an automated scan is not an audit.

And so a lot of people will think that they’re getting audits when they’re really getting scans. That is not the same thing.

An audit is virtually conclusive of the accessibility of your website.

A scan is not. A scan is a good start but it is not an audit.

Furthermore, you may have heard of the term VPAT. You may- it’s often interchangeably used with the term ACR. A VPAT is a voluntary product accessibility template.

Typically, people use the term VPAT in reference to a Completed Accessibility Conformance report. That’s where the accessibility of a product or services accounted for.

A VPAT is not the same thing as an audit.

You would need to do a VPAT- an audit to create an Accessibility Conformance Report but they’re not the same thing so it’s important to keep that in mind.

But that is what- that is what an audit is. The most important thing to remember it is the is that it is completed manually by an accessible- a technical accessibility expert.

One last thing, a VPAT is also not- I mean user testing is also not an audit. User testing and audit are two separate things, they’re related but they’re both separate.