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A Preliminary Checklist for Website Accessibility Compliance

December 8, 2022

With the holiday season upon us, we know you’re focused on festivities and fun—and want to give you something to make life easier.

That’s why we’re releasing this handy website accessibility compliance checklist. You can use it to determine what you’ve done or need to do to bolster the accessibility of your website—and ultimately meet compliance.

Before we get into checklist items, though, let’s define what website accessibility means and why it matters. Put simply, website accessibility means that individuals with disabilities can understand, navigate, and interact with or contribute to your site. One in four adults in the United States has some sort of disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, making disabilities far more widespread than many people realize.

Disabilities come in many forms, including visual disabilities like color blindness, partial or full blindness, and low and impaired vision; hearing disabilities like deafness and partial hearing loss; cognitive and learning disabilities, such as attention deficit disorder and memory loss; and physical disabilities like limited motor functions and traumatic and congenital (or from birth) conditions.

To make your website accessible and meet compliance, your site will need to adhere to one of these bodies of standards:

  • Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Level AA, developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and used by organizations and businesses worldwide.
  • Section 508, developed by the United States government as part of the Rehabilitation Act. Federal agencies and any organization that receives federal funding needs to comply with Section 508.
  • Guidelines from the Americans with Disabilities Act, created by the U.S. government as part of the ADA civil rights law that prohibits discrimination of people with disabilities in all areas of life, including when using electronic and information technology. Local and state governments, nonprofits, and businesses need to comply with ADA guidelines.

The WCAG represents the most comprehensive of all standards bodies and integrates guidelines from both Section 508 and the ADA. For these reasons, we recommend using the WCAG to our clients.

Our checklist covers many of the main items and areas included in the WCAG. Print it and use it for a fast, easy glimpse at where you stand on your path to compliance.

Does your website do the following?

  • 1. Create enough contrast between the text color and background color.
    Check your text and background colors at, and use a color-contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 between your text and background.
  • 2. Include meaningful alt-text on all images.
    Make the alt-text on your images clear and succinct, and don’t ever skip it.
  • 3. Make your entire site keyboard-friendly.
    Ensure that visitors can access essential objects on each page by using the keyboard only. This involves utilizing the tab key to navigate. Just make sure you create a logical and intuitive navigation, which generally means allowing users to move from left to right, top to bottom.
  • 4. Utilize focus indicators.
    For keyboard navigators, focus indicators around essential elements help immensely. Often, an outline works well. This means, for example, that when the user tabs to that element, an outline appears around the object.
  • 5. Provide video and audio captions.
    Include captions and transcripts on your audiovisual content. This enables not only individuals with hearing challenges but also those in noise-sensitive environments to access your content.
  • 6. Pay attention to your forms.
    Users like simple forms and often abandon the effort when asked to enter extraneous information. To make your form accessible, use labeling and grouping controls, provide clear error messages, validate input, and avoid time limits.
  • 7. Use PDFs sparingly.
    PDFs are difficult for many users to access. When possible, use web pages (HTML) instead of PDFs, and if that isn’t possible, then take steps to make your PDF accessible.
  • 8. Use ARIA tags on dynamic content. 
    Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) can help you identify interactive elements in your web page’s code that assistive technology might struggle to interpret and present. Utilize ARIA tags to enable assistive technology to better help users.
  • 9. Indicate the language. 
    In order for assistive technology to translate your content appropriately, make sure you add a language attribute tag to every page.
  • 10. Stay away from unnecessary flashing or moving content.
    Anything moving, flickering, or flashing on a screen can cause a number of accessibility issues, such as dizziness and nausea in people with vestibular issues and distraction in those with cognitive issues.

Consider an accessibility audit.

Of course, the best way to make sure that you cover everything is to undergo an accessibility audit of your website with a partner who understands both your needs and the nuances of the accessibility standards. To stay compliant, accessibility audits are helpful to do periodically, particularly if you update your site frequently.

How many items on the checklist does your website achieve?

Whether you’re just starting out in your accessibility efforts or are far into your journey, our team at Astriata offers expertise in human-centered web design and development, usability, and accessibility—and can help. Reach out to start the conversation.

We're here for you.