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Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)
strategies, guidelines, and resources to make the web accessible to people with disabilities

[Draft] Preliminary Review of Web Sites for Accessibility

Note: This document is a draft [see change log in progress] and should not be referenced or quoted under any circumstances. This document is under development by the Education and Outreach Working Group (EOWG), and will be offered to other W3C groups and the public for review.


A preliminary review may help to quickly identify the scope of problems on a Web site. However, the preliminary review will not catch all of the problems on a site and should not be used to determine conformance level. A preliminary review does not include perspectives from a variety of users with disabilities nor does it touch or test every aspect of a site.

Steps To Conduct a Preliminary Review

A preliminary review combines some manual checking of representative pages on a Web site, along with the use of several semi-automatic accessibility evaluation tools. Reviewers do not need to know Web mark-up languages, but should be able to download software and familiarize themselves with some evaluation tools, and change certain settings on their browser. To conduct a preliminary review, complete all five steps below.

1. Select a Representative Sampling of Pages from the Web Site to be Reviewed

From the Web site to be reviewed, select a representative sampling of pages that match the following criteria:

2. Examine the Selection of Pages in your Browser while Adjusting some Settings

Use a graphical user interface (GUI) browser (such as Internet Explorer, Mozilla FireFox, Netscape Navigator, Opera, Safari, or others) and examine the selection of pages while adjusting some settings in your browser or operating system as follows (some of these manual checks may require additional software):

  1. turn off images, and check whether appropriate alternative text for the images is available.
  2. turn off the sound, and make sure audio content is still available through text equivalents.
  3. use browser controls to vary font-size: verify that the font size changes on the screen accordingly; and that the page is still usable at larger font sizes.
  4. test with different screen resolution, and/or by resizing the application window to less than maximum, to verify that horizontal scrolling is not required (caution: test with different browsers, or examine code for absolute sizing, to ensure that it is a content problem not a browser problem).
  5. change the display color to gray scale (or print out page in gray scale or black and white) and observe whether the color contrast is adequate.
  6. without using the mouse tab through the links and form controls on a page, making sure that you can access all links and form controls, and that the links clearly indicate what they lead to.

Note: For reviewers who have disabilities, certain of the following steps may need to be done with another person who does not have the same disability.

3. Examine the Selection of Pages using Specialized or Alternative Browsers

Use a voice browser (such as Home Page Reader) or a text browser (such as Lynx) and examine the selection of pages while answering these questions:

  1. is equivalent information available through the voice or text browser as is available through the GUI browser?
  2. is the information presented in a meaningful order if read serially?

Note: experienced users of screen readers may substitute a screen reader for a voice or text browser, but if blind, may need a sighted partner to compare information available visually; if sighted, listen to it with eyes closed, then open eyes and confirm whether the information is equivalent.

4. Use at Least Two General Web Accessibility Evaluation Tools

General Web accessibility evaluation tools usually attempt to cover all accessibility checks which can be executed automatically; use at least two general Web accessibility evaluation tools to analyze the selection of pages and note any problems indicated by the tools.

5. Summarize Results Obtained from Previous Four Steps

  1. summarize the types of problems encountered, as well as positive aspects that should be continued or expanded on the site
  2. indicate the method by which problems were identified, and clearly state that this was not a full conformance evaluation
  3. recommend follow-up steps, including full conformance evaluation which includes validation of markup and other tests, and ways to address any problems identified.