Deque axe Browser Extension Testing

With the growing recognition of how important digital accessibility is, there are new tools emerging that can help you make your site more accessible. One of these tools is Deque’s axe browser extension. Deque’s axe browser extension is a free automated testing tool. It’s useful when combined with manual testing, like keyboard-only checks, and screen reader testing.  

Note: Deque also offers paid versions of axe that offer more automated testing features for workflows and a way to export all defects on a given page.

How to install axe in your browser

To install the browser extension, go to Deque’s axe website and select the appropriate version for your specific browser (Chrome, Firefox, or Edge).

How to test with axe

The following example will test a W3C page that has plenty of defects – the URL is: This website was purposefully designed with defects to show some common accessibility issues.

To test the above web page (or any web page you’re currently viewing) in Chrome, follow these steps:

  1. Open DevTools by pressing F12, or Control+Shift+I, or Command+Option+I (macOS). Make sure you’re on the Elements tab.
Chrome displaying a test web page, with the DevTools panel open
  1. Click the “»” button (if you’re using a screen reader, it’s the “More tabs” button). This will open a submenu. Select “axe DevTools” from the submenu.
In DevTools, select the More tabs submenu and then axe DevTools
  1. A new tab, “axe DevTools” will appear. Click the “Scan ALL of my page” tile.
In DevTools, select Scan ALL of my page
  1. The axe test results will appear. In this example, there are 70 defects, 34 of which are Critical.
axe displays 70 defects, 34 of which are Critical
  1. Next, we can get additional information on a particular issue. We’ll select “Images must have alternate text”.
Select the issue - Images must have alternate text
  1. A specific issue is displayed, along with Issue Tags. The tag “wcag2a” indicates that this defect relates to a double-A level WCAG success criterion. The tag “wcag111” indicates that this defect failed to conform to success criterion 1.1.1. Under the heading “Element source” is the HTML code which caused the defect.
axe displays a specific issue in detail
  1. If you click the “highlight” button, the browser will visually highlight the page element which caused the defect.
Click the highlight button to highlight the defect
  1. If you click the “Inspect” button, the Elements tab will display, and the HTML code that caused the defect will be highlighted.  There’s an <img> tag without an alt attribute in this example.
On the Elements tab, the code which caused the error is highlighted
  1. If you go back to the “axe DevTools” tab and click the “more info” button, a new browser tab will open and display details about this type of defect. Close this tab when you are done with it.
The Deque University site displays details about this defect
  1. When you write up your test results, you may want to recommend a code fix. You can test your code fix right in the browser – go to the Elements tab, right-click on the line of code you’d like to change, and then select “Edit as HTML”.
Right-click the code to change, and select Edit as HTML
  1. For this specific issue that is related to an image not having alternative text, if you add alt=””, the defect will be fixed! (In this case the image is part of a border, so it’s just decorative, but it still needs an alt attribute.)
Fix the HTML code by adding an alt attribute
  1. Now click on the “axe DevTools” tab to go back to axe.
Click on the axe DevTools tab
  1. Click the button that looks like an arrow pointing in a circle (if you are using a screen reader, it is the “Re-run automatic scan” button). This will re-run your scan.
Click the re-run button to re-run the scan
  1. Now the defect is fixed, and the number of defects has decreased by one. Remember to specify your code fix in the audit report, now that you’ve verified it works!
axe results now show one less defect

Testing tips

Here are some additional testing tips you may find helpful:

  • axe usually reports accurate results, although it may occasionally report a false positive. For example: if you have white text on a coloured background, axe sometimes assumes that the background is white and therefore thinks you’re using white text on a white background. Then it will incorrectly flag this as a colour contrast defect.
  • Content must be displayed to be scanned by axe. To thoroughly test all parts of the page, you may need to open accordions, open modal dialogs, and try all responsive design layouts (by changing your browser window’s width).





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