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Do-It-Yourself Digital Accessibility Auditing

Important Information

This page only covers the auditing process of digital documents, media, and websites.

Step 1: Know the Standard

Before conducting an accessibility audit, familiarize yourself with the accessibility laws and standards. At minimum, you should learn the names of the laws and standards before conducting an evaluation as you will need to refer back to them whenever your assessment results need clarification.

Step 2: Automated Testing

While automated testing is estimated to catch only around 20% to 25% of accessibility issues, it is still a great place to start, especially for beginners. Use the appropriate automated assessment tools listed below to estimate your content's level of accessibility. Each link will take you to a user guide or download page for the respective tool.

Note: Not all tools listed in this table are supported by Clemson.

Automated Accessibility Auditing Tools
Program Assessed Auditing Tool
Microsoft Office Built-in Accessibility Checker
OpenOffice/LibreOffice AccessODF add-on
Google Workplace Grackle Add-ons
Web Pages
Color Contrast for All Programs
(Color Contrast Requirements)

Additional accessibility auditing tools are available (especially for web pages), so if these do not suit your needs, use your preferred search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.) and/or app store to find one that will.

While not developed specifically for accessibility auditing, the following Web Developer tools can be helpful as well.

Step 3: Manual Testing

To get a more accurate measure of your accessibility, manually test your product using the tips and tools below.

Screen Readers

To identify the majority of your accessibility issues, try exploring your product with a screen reader program or a screen reader emulator/simulator like Silktide. For the best results, use an actual screen reader program and choose one that is more commonly used by persons with disabilities. We've listed a number screen reader programs for different operating systems and platforms below and provided links to their documentation. For your convenience, we've also arranged the list from most used at the top to least used at the bottom, according to data from WebAIM's annual survey results for 2021.

Automated Accessibility Auditing Tools
Reader Use With User Guides
JAWS (costs $) Windows only,
Internet Explorer (but for Canvas use Mozilla Firefox)
JAWS Commands
NVDA (free) Windows,
Mozilla Firefox
NVDA Operation
VoiceOver (free) iOS only,
VoiceOver Commands
VoiceOver Gestures
Narrator (free) Windows only,
Narrator Commands
Chromevox (free) Chromebooks, Google Chrome Chromevox Commands
Talkback (free) Android OS only Talkback Operation
Orca (free) Linux OS Orca Operation

Before starting your screen reader, learn how to turn the screen reader on and off. If you are annoyed by the voice or are startled by how loud the voice is, you will want to be able to quickly turn it off.

Afterward, determine your screen reader's modifier key (a key or combination of keys that are held down while other commands are entered). JAWS and NVDA have Insert as their modifier, although NVDA can be set to use Caps Lock. VoiceOver uses Caps Lock or Ctrl + Option as its modifier.

To begin exploring with a desktop computer or laptop, set your mouse aside or turn it off then start using the Tab key, Shift + Tab keys, and the directional arrow keys to navigate. Depending on your screen reader, some of these navigation commands may require that the modifier key(s) be pressed before the navigation occur. Additionally, some web tools (especially Adobe's tools and a number of web conferencing tools) may also require the use of the F6 key to navigate from panel to panel. To activate links or buttons, you will generally use either the spacebar or the enter key.

To begin exploring with a touchscreen device, swipe left or right and then double-tap to activate.

As you explore, pay attention to reading order; verbalization of graphics; and the ability to access, activate, and/or exit every feature. If you cannot reach, activate, or exit a feature through the screen reader's commands or gestures, check that the product you're exploring doesn't have specific commands for doing so. If it does not, then there is a strong probability that you have discovered an accessibility issue that needs repair. Additionally, if you do not have a visible indication for where you are in the product as you navigate (i.e. a "focus ring") then this too is an accessibility issue.


To find additional accessibility issues, run the following simulations. Some of these simulations cannot be applied to documents.

Simulations for Manual Testing
Simulation Description
Mobile Viewing View web content through a smartphone, tablet, or mobile device emulator and verify that the content is responsive (i.e. is optimally formatted for a mobile device).
Disable CSS Use your browser's developer tools or Web Developer add-on/toolbar to disable CSS then check the reading order and verify that there is no information conveyed through color, shape, size, or location alone.
Disable Images Use your browser's developer tools or Web Developer add-on/toolbar to disable images then check that all images have alt text and/or text equivalents nearby.
Magnify Use Ctrl or Cmmnd + = (think of it as Ctrl + plus or Ctrl + increase) or your device's built-in magnification software then explore the product, paying close attention to how easy or difficult it is to find and interpret information. When finished, if you used the keyboard commands to magnify, use Ctrl or Cmmnd + 0 to return to normal.
Low Vision:
and more
Google Chrome has extensions (ChromeLens, Silktide) that can simulate various vision impairments. For websites, Toptal's filter is a good option as well. Using the colorblindness simulators are perhaps the most important of these as most of the other conditions often require the use of a screen reader to compensate. With the colorblindness simulator, you should look for strong contrasts between colored text, their backgrounds, and surrounding text. Additionally, verify that there is no information conveyed through color alone.
Hearing Impairment Mute your computer's speakers and explore the product, paying close attention to whether or not auditory information is also conveyed through text or visual cues.

Step 4: More Tests

If your product passed all of the tests above, then you have likely improved the accessibility of your product significantly. If you want to go further, make sure you've assessed all areas in the the Homeland Security's Trusted Tester Section 508 Testing Protocol and consider have your product tested by persons with disabilities.

I've Done It All! It's Accessible Now, Right?

Congrats on doing a thorough job ensuring accessibility! You've pretty much arrived. This said, there is still no guarantee that your product is or will remain 100% accessible. Routine check-ups and regular testing will be needed to best ensure that your product continually meets accessibility requirements and audiences' needs.