There are several tools that simplify checking for accessibility. Check your documents and web content using the appropriate automated tools listed below.

Automated Testing Tools

Action Wizard - Acrobat DC

Click on Tools, then search for Action Wizard. Click on the Action Wizard icon to open the tool.

Search Tools for Action Wizard

In the toolbar on the right, select Make Accessible.

Make Accessible Wizard in Toolbar

Click on the Start button. Follow the prompts to fix items in the document. Click Close to return to the regular toolbar when finished.

Acrobat DC Make Accessible Start Button

Action Wizard - Acrobat XI

In the Toolbar, expand the Action Wizard. Click on the Make Accessible action.

Acrobat XI Make Accessible Wizard

When the tool opens, click on the Start button. Follow the prompts to add accessibility components to the PDF. When finished, click the Close button to return to the normal toolbar.

Make accessible wizard start button

Microsoft Office has a built-in tool that generates a report on the accessibility of a document. The tool is available in both Word and PowerPoint.

Note: The checker will not recognize “junk” alternate text, so it is still important to check images manually. Double-check that the alternate text is meaningful.

The Accessibility Checker is located under File > Info > Check for Issues > Check Accessibility.

Check for issues dropdown menu 

Within the Canvas text editor, use the Canvas Design Tools to check accessibility of the content. Click on the rocket icon in the upper right-hand corner of the page to Open Design Tools.

design tools icon

Within the Design Tools window, expand the Check Accessibility drop-down menu. Here you can check your headings, images, and link formatting.

Check accessibility dropdown within design tools

The WAVE tool is an automated checker that looks for potential accessibility issues on a webpage. The tool should be run on each page.

WAVE Tool: Summary Report

The first screen you see is a general report of all features that could affect accessibility on the page.

WAVE Summary

To look in more detail at report, click on the Flag icon. You can click on each flag to see where the potential problem is.

  • Red flags (errors) - these require attention
  • Yellow flags (alerts) - these require a manual check. The feature may not be a problem.

WAVE red and yellow flags

Outline View

Click on the outline view icon to see the structure of the page. You should see an outline of the content with properly nested headings.

WAVE outline view

Contrast Tab

Click over to the contrast tab. Although color is important for visual appeal, it is necessary to adjust colors to eliminate these errors for users with low vision or color blindness.

WAVE Tool contrast error report

Verifying Contrast – Solid Backgrounds

How do you know which colors will have enough contrast to be universally readable? One approach, of course, is to play it safe and stick to black and white, which are the default colors in applications like Microsoft Word. But color is an important—some would say essential—design element of slide presentations and the Web. So, which colors are best?

When text is placed against a solid color background, we recommend you use the Colour Contrast Analyser (CCA) by the Paciello Group to determine whether the contrast ratio passes the WCAG 2.0 standards. This free tool helps you “determine the legibility of text and the contrast of visual elements” using color contrast criteria established in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. The tool also simulates certain visual conditions, including dichromatic color-blindness and cataracts, to demonstrate how your web content appears to people with less than 20/20 vision. Use the CCA eyedropper tool to select foreground and background colors. The results display immediately below.

In the following example, we’ve run the CCA on a website designed with orange headings, gray text, and blue link text.

website with poor contrast between headings and background

For this website, the CCA reports insufficient contrast between orange text and the white background. You would want to select a darker orange color from the drop-down color palette.

Colour Contrast Analyser, showing insufficient contrast between orange headings and white background

When we check the gray text against white background, the CCA shows mixed results. This color combination passes at the "AA" standard, but not the more stringent "AAA" standard, which is the goal for most university and public websites. A darker gray would be better.

Colour Contrast Analyser showing mixed results with gray text on white background

Finally, we test the blue link text against the white background. This combination of colors fails both the “AA” and “AAA” standards for normal text sizes, as well as the “AAA” test for larger sizes. It passes only the “AA” standard for large text. A darker blue is required for universal readability.

Colour Contrast Analyser showing failure with blue colored link text on a white background

Verifying Contrast – Photo or Gradient Backgrounds

The Paciello Group's Colour Contrast Analyser and the WAVE Tool both assume that text is placed against a solid background. They cannot always account for text placed on gradient backgrounds or images. In Chrome, you can use the Color Contrast Analyzer Extension, which evaluates a page exactly as it appears in the browser.

This tool repaints the page so that you can see the edges of the text, and discover which text fades into the background. If there is an item that is not outlined, then the item does not have sufficient contrast. The example below shows a before and after view of the extension. In the 'after' view, only the text that is outlined in white has sufficient contrast. You can see that the white text fades into the lighter areas of the background photo.

Image with faded text before using the colour contrast analyser extensionImage with faded text after using the colour contrast analyser extension.