Skip to main content

WAVE Tool Continues Lead in Web Accessibility

Sue Reeves


View as a pdf

WAVE5 sidebar screenshot
An example of a WAVE5 sidebar.

To help web developers and designers create content that’s available to everyone, Web Accessibility In Mind, (WebAIM) a program of Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities, offers a free web site evaluation tool called WAVE5.  Users simply type in a URL, upload a file or paste in a piece of HTML code, and WAVE processes the code and looks for access or compliance issues. Users can also download a free toolbar within the Firefox web browser.

WebAIM took over development of the first version of the tool in 2001 after the death of the original developer, Len Kasday, from Temple University. The toolbar was first released in 2008.

“WAVE provides an easy-to-use presentation that is great for facilitating human accessibility evaluation,” said WebAIM associate director Jared Smith. “It can teach you about web accessibility as you use it. We've developed WAVE to focus on true end user accessibility, not merely compliance with a set of guidelines, although WAVE can help you make your site compliant.”

WAVE can only check one page at a time, Smith said, and some people would like to use it to check an entire web site automatically. A stand-alone API platform was recently released that allows large entities to install the WAVE analysis engine on their own systems for wide-scale evaluation and data collection.

The online version of WAVE evaluated more than a million pages last year, Smith said.

“Due to the private and secure nature of WAVE toolbar evaluations, we can't know how often it is used,” Smith said, “but we suspect the usage is perhaps 10 times higher than the online version.”

Previous versions of WAVE, as well as other web evaluation tools, generate reports, but they are often difficult to decipher. WAVE5 offers a new sidebar containing a color-coded, icon-laden summary of errors and alerts. With just a few mouse clicks, users can see the details of each error and alert, as well as a documentation box that lists the error, what it means, why it matters and how to fix it. Users can learn more about web accessibility as they are using the WAVE tool.

WebAIM is currently working on releasing Chrome and Firefox toolbars that provide the improved functionality and interface of the WAVE5 online version.

“Rather than focusing on new version, our focus for the foreseeable future is on small feature improvements, speed enhancements, and in providing access to the current WAVE functionality in multiple ways,” Smith said.

Share This Story