Web accessibility evaluation instruction

Instruction statement

This instruction articulates the techniques and best practices for evaluating the accessibility of a website or application. It steps through the techniques and tools for both preliminary reviews and full conformance evaluations.


This instruction does not apply to:

  • websites that have no relationship to RMIT (for example, personal or private sites)
  • web authoring tools not provided or supported by the University
  • student work used for an online showcase
  • academic research or experimental works not used for official purposes by the University
  • courseware that cannot be reasonably supplied in accessible formats, such as simulation tools. In this case the educational designer and academic coordinate alternatives with the Disability Liaison Unit as required.

Instruction steps and actions

Step 1. Define the evaluation scope

Make sure everyone involved in the evaluation understands what sections of the website will be included, and what types of files there are (other than web pages). Also confirm whether the evaluation goal is a quick Preliminary Review, or a detailed Conformance Evaluation.

Step 2. Explore the website

Explore the website to understand its purpose and functionality. Ensure you can access all parts of the website structure that was defined in scope. For web applications you may need to have different user profiles created (e.g. login as a student and login as a staff administrator) and the database populated with sample data.

Take note of:

  • common web pages typically linked from all pages (e.g. home page, login, contact)
  • common functionality (e.g. tasks that users perform on the site)
  • the variety of web page types (e.g. different design templates, types of content, dynamic content and interactive components)
  • web technologies and markup languages (e.g. HTML5, CSS, JavaScript) and the libraries used to generate some page components (e.g. JQuery, Spring)

Step 3. Select a representative sample

If the website is small or based around one user task, then the entire website will be evaluated. For most larger websites, sampling is necessary. The size of the sample will vary depending on the size and complexity of the website.


  • all common pages
  • at least one distinct page for the following features:
    • Web pages from distinct common functionality
    • Web pages from distinct types of pages
    • Web pages with distinct web technologies
  • other pages relevant to people with disabilities:
    • Help pages
    • High traffic pages and other popular website entry pages
    • Error screens (e.g. Error 404 - File not found)
  • all pages in a complete process (e.g. login, check exam results, logout)
  • other randomly selected pages.

Step 4. Audit the selected sample

Use the Web Accessibility Checklist to review each page from the sample to determine its compliance with WCAG 2.0 success criteria.

Many pages will have repeated elements (e.g. they share the same header and footer template).

  • If the evaluation goal is Preliminary Review, success and failure may be captured once only and not for every repeated instance.
  • If conducting a full Conformance Evaluation, you will need to capture every instance where a success or failure occurs.

Note any required inputs or states to replicate the issue and take screenshots of particular problems. Note what tools and configurations were used to detect issues so tests can be repeated.

Automated checks

By running automated tools first, you can identify particular issues early and omit them from manual checks. If the automated tools return errors or warnings, manually inspect these results to verify that the tool has reported correctly.

Code validation

Run Unified Validator across the entire sample.

      • For publicly available websites, validation can be done by simply entering each page URL.
      • For websites and applications not publically available, copy the source code of every rendered page and paste into the Direct Input screen.
Accessibility checkers

Use a combination of the following. Tools that work within the web browser are ideal for checking intranet, password protected and dynamically generated pages.

      • Total Validator, also available as Total Validator browser extensions for Firefox and Chrome.
      • WAVE web accessibility evaluation online service, also available as WAVE toolbar for Firefox.
      • Vision Australia’s Web Accessibility Toolbar for Internet Explorer.

Editorial review

Read, manipulate and evaluate the content to see if it meets the success criterion.

  • Use website forms and note what happens for system feedback.
  • View pages using different browser settings, such as increase/decrease font size, change browser window size, turn off scripts.
  • Explore interactive user interface elements.
  • Use the website with keyboard only.

Manual checks

Check the resource by inspecting the markup or behaviour or using a relevant tool to see if it meets success criteria.

  • Web developer browser extension for Firefox and Chrome enables page transformations in the browser (switch off scripts, images, styles)
  • Colour Contrast Analyser software or Contrast Checker online service for checking foreground and background colours
  • Text-only browser such as Lynx or Lynx Viewer
  • Voice browsers such as Fangs Screen Reader Emulator extension for Firefox or ChromeVox screen reader extension for Chrome
  • Juicy Studio Readability Test for public URLs or Readability-Score to paste blocks of text
  • A black and white printer

Step 5. Report the evaluation findings

Documentation will have been gathered at all stages of the evaluation, along with completed checklists. Use these templates to prepare reports:

  • Preliminary Review report template
  • Conformance Evaluation report template
[Next: Supporting documents and information]