University of Wisconsin–Madison

Develop accessible websites

  • 1 minute to read
  • Last updated February 2, 2016

In order to assure that websites and web applications are accessible to and usable by everyone, designers and developers must follow web accessibility guidelines. Each of the following topics address issues that are especially common on UW websites.

Features of accessible websites

The following tips are provided by the University of Washington’s excellent accessibility website:

Checking a website for accessibility

You can go a long way toward assuring your website is accessible by following these simple steps:

  1. Validate your HTML. If HTML is used incorrectly, assistive technology can have problems interpreting the page content, which can result in access problems for users. Use an HTML validator to check your code.
  2. Test with a keyboard. Set your mouse aside and use the tab key to navigate through your web pages. You should be able to access all interactive features (e.g., menus, links, form fields, buttons, controls) and operate them by pressing Enter, space, arrow keys or other intuitive keystrokes. If you are unable to access some of your site’s features, your site is likely to have accessibility problems.
  3. Use an accessibility checker. There are several free online tools that will check your web pages for accessibility.  (See the Accessibility Checker section below for a list of recommended tools.)
  4. Test with users. The Division of Information Technology (DoIT) can help with arranging accessibility and usability tests. You could also test your site less formally by simply recruiting and observe users as they interact with your site. To test for accessibility, recruit users who have a variety of skill levels and characteristics.
  5. Ask for help. The UW-Madison community is actively working toward the goal of full accessibility for all visitors to its websites. Since we’re all working together toward this goal, there are many in the community who are happy to help. See the “Getting help with accessibility section” for more information.

Accessibility Checkers

Several free online tools will check your web pages for accessibility. Try the following tools to see which is right for you.

WAVE Web Accessibility Tool  

WAVE by WebAIM  is a free tool that allows the user to conduct free website and web app page accessibility testing as well as identifying contrast accessibility barriers in a low effort way. This tool allows users to test via any browser or add an extension to the Chrome or Firefox browser.

Functional Accessibility Evaluator (FAE) 2.0

FAE by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne is a fast and low effort tool for conducting automated accessibility testing by crawling multiple or all pages of a website. This tool also has an optional Firefox extension called AInspector.

Axe: The Accessibility Engine for Developers 

Axe by Deque is a free accessibility testing tool that allows developers to run a Chrome or Firefox extension. There is also a testing app for Android currently available, and an iOS app coming soon.

Get help

The Center for Digital Accessibility & User Experience can help answer questions you may have about creating accessible technology and content, or connect you with the right group.

Policies and Guidelines

Related Guides

Credit: Much of the content in this and other accessibility guides was provided by the University of Washington’s terrific Accessible Technology website.