This check isn’t comprehensive but it will cover the most common problems. As a bonus, fixing an accessibility problem usually helps everyone using the site.
1. Take your hands off the mouse.
You’ll have to use tab and shift-tab to move through the page, and press enter to select a link.
What this shows: If people with restricted visibility or mobility can use the site.
Embedded flash, especially if the flash has a navigation elements, will probably fail unless the flash designer has been very smart (IE is actually better than Firefox at working with flash and non mouse users).
Usability dividend: It shows that there is a good logical navigation scheme in place.
2. Switch off your speakers.
Mainly applies to things with embedded multimedia, or flash. Is there alternate text or transcripts of videos?
What this shows: If people with hearing difficulties can get the information they need.
Usability dividend: Transcripts are searchable and an audio track isn’t, so if there is useful info in an audio track always have a transcript anyway for returning visitors. Many browsing situations – open plan offices for instance – mean audio is probably a bad idea anyway.
3. Print a page with the printer set to black and white.
What this shows: If people with limited ability to distinguish colours can use the site.
Usability dividend: Colour is not as good as you might think for conveying information, particularly icons next to text, if something is important the best way to highlight it is to separate it from the other items.
4. Click the labels on form elements and check it moves the cursor to that input element.
What this shows: If the form has been properly coded for use with assistive technology.
Usability dividend: it gives a much better target area for radiobuttons and checkboxes, so it makes the form easier to fill in.
5. Read out loud only the link text on a page.
What this shows: If the linking text makes sense out of context so that the link summarisers feature in talking browsers will work
Usability dividend: Using good link text helps scanning users pick the right link.
So what use is this test? Well, you know if have a problem or not, this check catches 99% of all the problems I’ve seen, and gives a good hint about what to look at more closely.
It’s also a check you can do on any browser. If you want to do a deeper analysis, (the five minute check!) then try the following, you can get browser extensions to help you do these ones – more details on that another day.
- Check with images off
- Load a user stylesheet
- Validate the HTML.
And if you have the time for a thorough and systematic test then read WCAG 1 priority list and also ask folks with a range of difficulties if they can use the site OK.