How to Test Websites for Accessibility

Use both manual and automated testing methods to create accessible websites.


In this video, Michael Horton, Accessible Design and Development Advisor at the GSA’s Office of Government-wide Policy, describes how to use manual and automated testing methods to create accessible websites—and why it matters. He also shares more information about GSA’s Government-wide IT Accessibility Program.

Trusted Testers

Before the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Trusted Tester program, inconsistent accessibility testing approaches produced different results for the same standard. Users were unable to share results with other users while vendors and developers received mixed messages on the testing process and test results.

The DHS Trusted Tester program addresses these issues by providing a code inspection-based test approach for determining web content conformance to the Section 508 standards.

The DHS Trusted Tester program offers:

  • Common evaluation processes and procedures for Section 508 testing;
  • Scalable training with a certification exam for testers; and
  • Resources with certified skills and capabilities related to Section 508 conformance testing.

The Trusted Tester process aligns with the Section 508 ICT Testing Baseline to evaluate the accessibility of a website, which provides more standardized and less subjective results. Automated testing is only capable of inspecting a portion of possible issues, with manual inspections required to evaluate the remainder. Trusted Testers can help identify a broader spectrum of accessibility issues when they are integrated into the review process.

Informal testing is valuable, but in order to be really sure that you’re making something as inclusive and accessible as possible, you have to have some knowledge of what to test for and the Trusted Tester process is that process.—Robert Jolly, 18F Product Manager

There are several testing methods to validate conformance to the Revised 508 Standards:

  • Automated — High volume testing tools automatically scan and test electronic content;
  • Manual — Manual testing uses a documented, consistent, repeatable process;
  • Hybrid — A combination of automated and manual testing.

You should use the hybrid approach—both manual testing by Trusted Testers and automated testing tools—to create accessible websites and digital services.

Become a Trusted Tester

Visit the DHS online training portal to take the Trusted Tester training. You can self-enroll, and DHS provides the training at no cost.

About the Government-wide IT Accessibility Program

The goal of GSA’s Government-wide IT Accessibility Program is to improve compliance and conformance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. The program provides technical assistance to help agencies comply with these requirements, and ensure that covered information and communication technology (ICT) is accessible to, and usable by, individuals with disabilities.

Visit for:

  • Technical assistance for federal agencies interested in developing, deploying, and managing their accessibility policies;
  • Guidance on how to improve accessibility;
  • Accessibility language for contracts through the Accessibility Requirements Tool, to ensure any IT products or services agencies purchase are accessible ; and
  • Additional tools, training and resources.

For more information and resources on IT accessibility, visit our Accessibility topic page, and Join the Section 508 IT Accessibility Community Listserv.