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As part of my website designs, I like to make sure that I am adhering to the accessibility standards (Section 508, UK Disability & Discrimination Act, etc...).

Can anyone recommend any tools/websites/browser extensions that will help with this type of check (preferably on both live sites and development sites that I have locally on my machine)?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Here's a start... :)

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It's good to keep in mind that while there are tools to help with accessibility, there will never be one that covers everything. (For instance, a tool will check if you've put ALT text on all your images, but it can't check that the text is an appropriate description.)

I'm sure this is something you're aware of, but there are web developers out there who think an automated tool is sufficient to check accessibility.

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Yes! That can not be emphasized enough. One can have a perfectly valid web site that passes all automated accessibility tests yet still be completely inaccessible. –  DA01 Sep 28 '10 at 14:31
    
+1 Quite right! The best validators I've used only go as far as throwing a warning (rather than an error) saying "This image is missing ALT text, but it may not be required in this situation." –  msanford Jan 11 '12 at 15:02
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Try Cynthia Says, also available as a menu option in the Web Developer Toolbar for Firefox and Chrome. As far as I can tell, it's only for live sites, but it describes itself as being "designed to identify errors in your content related to Section 508 standards and/or the WCAG guidelines."

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Here are the tools used by renowned accessibility expert Steve Faulkner and the Paciello Group: http://www.paciellogroup.com/blog/2010/09/accessibility-testing-tools-we-use/

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I'd like to add TotalValidator (free cross-platform app) and Fangs (FireFox extension) to the list.

I would also like to emphasize that because accessibility is tightly tied to usability and no automated WCAG validator will replace a human trying it and breaking it. We're continually surprised by some of the problems that have appeared during usability testing even when the code is WCAG compliant.

The flip-side to that is that you need to interpret the results from usability testing, as people always express their personal preferences (which may have no real impact on the design's general usability or accessibility compliance). In this field, you may come across more ... passion than in other usability testing.

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