• Public School District
The Beginner's Guide to Accessibility Testing Tools and Results
Kara Franco and Will Rickenback

The first step that you and your school can make to work towards web accessibility is scanning your site with web accessibility evaluation tools. These scans test the elements on your page to help determine if your web content meets accessibility guidelines and reports back with the potential accessibility issues. Automated evaluation tools have limitations and cannot test for all potential errors; manual testing and expertise is needed to determine if a particular result is indeed an error. In this article, we will go over in greater detail how evaluation tools work and their limitations.

Accessibility Testing Tools and Results

Limitations of Evaluation Tools

Web accessibility evaluation tools are useful for quickly identifying potential issues and understanding the general accessibility health of your site. Automated evaluation tools cannot check all aspects of your site for accessibility and should be looked at as a tool to assist with manual testing. 

Evaluation tools often categorize the results from scanning your site pages into several levels of severity, but the name for these categories can vary widely.  The general idea is to note items based off of the probability that the scan is accurate.  The typical categories are:

  • Items that are almost positively an issue - we'll call these Errors but other tools may call these Violations
  • Items that are likely to be an issue, but that need human review - we'll call these Risks but other tools may call these Reviews or Alerts 
  • Items that are recommendations or best practice suggestions - we'll call these Warnings but other tools may call these Features

Additionally, many WCAG 2.0 success criteria must be tested with assistive technology (AT), such as a screen reader or keyboard.

Determining the relevance of Risks can be complicated as these items may be related to content or structure of the site. It can take experience to be able to quickly and accurately determine the relevance of these items, not only due to the necessary understanding of the WCAG standards, but also the volume of these items found on most sites.  We recommend using the AudioEye Ally Toolbar to assist with accessibility remediation. When the Toolbar is in place on your site, AudioEye's certified experts will analyze and make determinations for both Error and Risk items and will apply remediations as needed. After remediation of the errors, AudioEye will validate their remediation with a manual assistive technology user to make sure usability is part of that remediation. Please contact your Client Success Manager for pricing and more information on adding the AudioEye Toolbar.

Working with Evaluation Tools

About Evaluation Tools

Although there are several limitations to evaluation tools, they are still valuable and will help your team narrow down and identify accessibility issues within your content. There are different evaluation tools for different web roles since developers, designers and content creators have different responsibilities. 

There are also different costs for testing tools; from free, in-browser testing tools that test one page at a time, to paid services, such as the Ally Managed Service offered by our partner, AudioEye, that can scan an entire site automatically and assist with remediations. The AudioEye Digital Accessibility Platform (DAP), the tool used in the Ally service, is the very same tool that Finalsite's Quality Assurance team uses when checking newly built websites before launch.    

In-browser Evaluation Tools

For simplicity's sake, let's begin by focusing on the content creator role and free, in-browser, single-page testing, such as WAVE, Accessibility Checker and aXe.

Many manual browser-based testing tools use the WCAG 2.0 success criteria to check your site for accessibility. The WCAG 2.0 success criteria are a series of testable statements that result in either true or false. In-browser evaluation tools will scan the elements of the page and test against the criteria. The results will be categorized by the success criteria and possibly, roles. Many evaluation tools will group the results into three severities, as was discussed above. 

We encourage schools to focus on reviewing the errors first. These errors will need to be inspected by your team to determine if they are indeed accessibility issues. As your team reviews the errors, refer to the WCAG 2.0 guidelines for assistance. Some errors will need to be resolved by your content creators, Finalsite or third-party vendors; please review the post titled Understanding Responsible Parties in Accessibility Remediation. To learn more about understanding and analyzing the potential errors and best practices, please review the post titled Interpreting Gray Areas in Accessibility Testing.

Using the AudioEye Toolbar

Accessibility remediation using the AudioEye Ally Toolbar is a very different, much simpler process.  After contracting with Finalsite to add the AudioEye Ally Toolbar to your site, Finalsite will add a small bit of code to your site. Visitors will start to see the Accessibility icon in the bottom-right of the page and they can click to expand to view more details. Site visitors will be able to view insights into the progress of accessibility remediation and have access to tools that will allow them to navigate and view the site more easily.  As the certified experts at AudioEye scan the site and review the errors and risks, they will add remediations to the site as necessary.  AudioEye will scan the site on a regular basis and make updates as needed to ensure ongoing compliance as your content changes.  

A great benefit of AudioEye to schools and website editors is that it is mostly a hands-off process.  The school will have certified experts remediating issues as they occur and the school will not need to become experts in order to manually remediate issues (though we highly recommend becoming familiar wil preventing issues in content - see article).  The presence of the AudioEye Toolbar on the site will provide users the confidence that they are visiting the site of an organization that takes accessibility seriously.

Why do the results differ between tools? 

The developers of evaluation tools have different approaches and design their automated tests to focus on certain aspects of the WCAG 2.0 standards. Most tools aim to test for issues that can be reliably caught in an automated test or test for issues that, with certainty, have a negative impact on end users. No matter the testing tool, your district should view these results as potential issues, and work to determine if they are indeed issues, rather than work to clear out all of the errors. There may be instances where testing tools throw false positives or may, themselves, have bugs! That is why it is best to become familiar with multiple tools and the WCAG 2.0 guidelines. Knowledge of the WCAG 2.0 guidelines are important as they apply to the organization's entire digital presence.  

Request Your Accessibility Analysis


Kara Franco

As Finalsite's Product Education & Accessibility Specialist, Kara works to create educational content and training for schools and districts. She serves in areas of accessibility, product education and training. Kara is a member of the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP) and is working towards her Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies (CPACC) credentail. She is also an avid gardener, bird watcher and loves jazz and cats! 



Will Rickenback

Will, Finalsite's Delivery Quality Assurance and Accessibility Manager, spends his days guiding a team of quality assurance professionals to ensure that the websites that we create meet Finalsite's quality and accessibility standards. He also guides Finalsite's cross-functional accessibility committee, helping to coordinate accessibility initiatives across Finalsite's diverse teams. Along with chasing around two crazy preschool daughters, Will is working towards his Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies (CPACC) credential.

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