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February 26, 2024

Making the World Accessible: A Guide to Accessibility Audits

Lisa Panke



UX/UI Designer & Webflow Developer
Buffalo, NY

As a UX/UI Designer at ZEAL, I recently conducted an accessibility audit for one of our long-term clients. These audits never get boring as they are critical in the world of web accessibility, providing insightful revelations that push us towards creating more inclusive digital experiences. This blog aims to shed light on what accessibility audits are, their pivotal role in inclusive design, and how leveraging simple tools and adjustments can rapidly enhance digital inclusivity.

The Essence of Accessibility Audits

Accessibility audits are comprehensive evaluations designed to ensure digital products, including websites and applications, comply with accessibility standards such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and ADA Compliance. These audits are a cornerstone in UX/UI design, focusing on every element—design, content, functionality—to pinpoint barriers that prevent users with disabilities from fully engaging with digital products.

Why Bother with Accessibility Audits?

The digital landscape should be navigable by all, yet barriers remain for many. Here's why conducting an accessibility audit is not just beneficial but essential:

  • Inclusivity: Audits help make your digital offerings accessible to millions who might have been unintentionally excluded.
  • Legal Compliance: They ensure your digital assets comply with legal requirements according to WCAG, ADA, and Section 508 compliance, which will help you stay clear of non-compliance penalties.
  • Enhanced User Experience: Insights from audits can significantly improve site usability for everyone, a core tenet of user experience design.
  • Positive Brand Perception: Demonstrating a commitment to digital inclusivity elevates your brand, showcasing your dedication to serving all customers.

Delving into the Audit: What We Uncover

During the audit, we leverage both automated and manual testing methods to uncover any issues. From technical glitches to design oversights, each finding is a step towards creating a more accessible digital environment. To give you an idea, here are a couple of examples that highlight common issues and their impact:

Color Contrast Analysis: A key aspect of accessibility, ensuring text has sufficient contrast with its background is crucial for users with visual impairments. Poor color contrast, like light grey text on a white background, creates significant readability challenges, especially for those with color vision deficiencies.

Before/After Color Contrast Improvement

Navigational Challenges: Ensuring that all users, including those relying on keyboard navigation or screen readers, can easily navigate your site is fundamental. Addressing complex or non-standard navigation structures improves accessibility and usability.

Tools to Facilitate the Audit Process

To streamline the audit process, you can utilize several tools that offer valuable insights and make the process less daunting:

  • Lighthouse: This Chrome extension provides automated insights into accessibility and performance, guiding initial improvements.
Lighthouse Accessibility Tool
  • AXE Accessibility Tool and WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool: These tools are invaluable for identifying and suggesting fixes for accessibility barriers, essential for web accessibility testing.

For designs still in the concept phase, I recommend using the STARK plugin for Figma to ensure your creations are accessible from the start.

Implementing Accessibility: A Team Effort

Transforming audit findings into actionable improvements is a crucial step that demands a collaborative effort between designers and developers. Together, we dive into the audit insights, with designers reimagining elements to enhance accessibility while developers bring these adaptations to life through code.

This synergy ensures that every change—from improved color contrasts to keyboard-friendly navigation—is crafted and implemented. Through a cycle of testing, feedback, and refinement, we ensure that our digital solutions meet the WCAG guidelines and enhance interface design accessibility.

Let's Make a Difference Together

At ZEAL, we're on a mission to break down digital barriers and create inclusive, accessible experiences that everyone can enjoy. If you're looking to ensure your digital products are accessible and inclusive, reach out to us. Let's work together to make the digital world a place for everyone.

Join us in this journey towards digital inclusivity. Your digital presence is not just about reaching more people; it's about reaching every person.

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