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Which is better automated or manual accessibility testing?

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Accessibility is important on the web. It helps people with disabilities use the same tools, services, and content that you and I can enjoy. But how do you know if your website has good accessibility? That’s where manual testing comes in! Manual accessibility testing requires a person to check their site or app against WCAG 2.1 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) and its associated tests.

What is manual accessibility testing?

Manual accessibility testing is a process of manually testing a website for accessibility. It takes place when the website is live but not hosted on any specific platform, such as in the case of local development environments or staging servers. This can be done by anyone—a human being, an expert, or even you! Manual accessibility testing can be performed in three ways:

  • Manual inspection: where an inspector manually checks the website’s markup against WCAG 2 A success criteria
  • Heuristic evaluation (or automated scanning): where software scans the HTML markup and determines if it meets WCAG 2 A success criteria
  • Automated conformance checking (or validation): where software compares your webpage against WCAG 2 A success criteria

The limits of automated accessibility testing

Automated accessibility testing is not a substitute for manual accessibility testing. It’s also not a replacement.

Automated accessibilty testing is simply the fastest and most efficient way to evaluate your site from an accessibility standpoint, but it can only test what you tell it to test. Automation can’t yet detect all possible issues, so there are still many instances where having humans look at a page is necessary.

Additionally, automated tools often make mistakes when interpreting your content as code or vice versa because of the nuances in language interpretation (for example, capitalization). This means that even if your automated tool accurately finds errors on your pages, it might incorrectly identify some elements as “invalid” or “incomplete.”

Manual accessibility testing with automated tools

You can do manual accessibility testing with automated tools. Automated accessibility tests are a type of automated testing that check code to make sure it meets WCAG 2.1 standards.

Automated accessibility reports generate an accessibility report card and can be used to identify issues in your website’s content, applications and web services. The reports provide a visual representation of the overall compliance with WCAG 2.1 including prioritized recommendations for fixing issues found during testing. This allows organizations to prioritize their efforts based on what needs changing first in order to achieve full compliance

Web Accessibility Evaluation Tools List (WAETL)

Web Accessibility Evaluation Tools List (WAETL) is a collection of web accessibility evaluation tools. It includes both commercial and free software applications, as well as other resources that can be used to test websites for accessibility.

AXE – a11y

If you’re looking for an automated accessibility testing tool, the AXE – a11y project is worth checking out.

AXE – a11y is a free and open source tool for evaluating web accessibility. It can be used as a command line tool or as a web browser extension.

You can use AXE – a11y to test web pages or entire websites.


There are some great tools out there for automating accessibility testing, but they don’t cover everything. They also can’t replace a human who understands the complexities of web accessibility. Manual testing is still necessary, but it can be made easier with automated tools that give you an initial idea if your website is accessible or not. This way, you know where your problem areas lie before investing too much time into manual testing!

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