Often, when people think about web accessibility, they focus on blind people and their use of screen readers. But it's not essential for you to learn how to use a screen reader, especially right away. Blind people who use screen readers typically don't use them how sighted people do; blind people develop strategies to speed them when they're surfing the web.
While there will be information on this site regarding testing with a screen reader, it will be most effective for you to focus on other areas first. Here are some suggestions to help you address potential accessibility issues for all site visitors who use assistive technology.
Check to be sure that you can navigate the site using a keyboard. You should be able to tab to all links and form fields. And you should be able to activate all links and buttons with the "enter" key. Finally, you should be able to enter and exit modal dialogs/lightboxes without using your mouse.
PC users have this keyboard functionality in all browsers, however, Mac users need to make some modifications. Read Enabling keyboard navigation in Mac OS X Web browsers ( 456 Berea Street) for help with configuring your preferences.
Also, make sure, as you navigate your site with the keyboard, that you can see where you are at all times. You'll especially want to check that your focus cursor moves through the page in the order you would expect.
Many web accessibility experts and organizations have produced lists of quick (or "Easy") checks to help you get started. If you only have time to read one, Easy Checks – A First Review of Web Accessibility by the Web Accessibility Initiative is among the best.
In this WebAIM Blog post, 10 Easy Accessibility Tips Anyone Can Use, the suggested tips are these:
Karl Groves offers The 6 Simplest Web Accessibility Tests Anyone Can Do. You will want to read the article in full, but to give you a taste, Karl's suggestions are:
Certainly, which checks make sense for you to perform will depend on your role in the site development process, the tools you use to build your site, whether you are focusing on a web or a native mobile application, etc. But these tips should give you a good overview of the kinds of issues you will want to keep in mind. Remember that it is easier to think about and address possible accessibility issues from the start, rather than to go back and remediate issues later.