QUAIL: Accessibility Information Library

QUAIL is a jQuery and Sizzle-comptable library for checking content against accessibility guidelines. It provides a flexible way to test for certain problems (say, images missing an alt text) and a collection of over 250 tests to get you started.


At the core of QUAIL are tests. Tests search for a single type of accessibility problem, and they are all defined in the file src/resources/tests.yaml (a JSON version is available in dist/tests.json - read more about building these files). For example, one of the most common accessibility problems out there is an image missing an alt attribute (which allows users with screen readers to hear a description of the image). The test definition in the tests.yaml file looks like this:

  selector: "img:not(img[alt])"
    - "image"
    - "content"
  testability: 1
  type: "selector"
      - "a"
          - "F65"
          - "H37"
    en: "Image elements must have an \"alt\" attribute"
    en: "All <code>img</code> elements must have an alt attribute"
The test name in this example is “imgHasAlt,” which is the unique label for the test. These are used in creating guidelines. There are at least two definitions for each test:
  • type - QUAIL has some default test types to simplify the process of writing test definitions. The simplest is a selector, which just takes a jQuery/Sizzle-compatable selector and finds all items that match that selector. For selector tests, we also must define the selector to use (in this case, img:not(img[alt])).
  • severity - The default severity level. Severity is a measure of how certain we are a test will not create false positives: - severe - We are 100% certain that this test is always correct. If an image is missing its alt attribute, it’s missing its alt attribute. - moderate - We are mostly certain this test is correct. This is usually found for content-related tests, like testing to see if a block of text is written at or below a certain grade level. - suggestion - We cannot test for this, but can suggest things to manually review. For exmaple, we cannot test that content in a Flash object is accessible, but we can point out that a flash object is there and link to appropriate guidelines on making accessible flash.
  • guidelines - A list of pre-defined guidelines (right now, either 508 or WCAG 2.0) including: - techinques - The WCAG techniques aligned with this test - configuration - Optional configuration options for this test only specific to this test.
  • title - The human-readable title of the test, prefixed by language code.
  • description - The human-readable description of the test, prefixed by language code.


Guidelines are simply a collection of tests. QUAIL comes with US Section 508 and WCAG guideline files in src/resources/guidelines. Every guideline is simply an array of test names, which means you can easily create your own guidelines. In the examples/php directory you can see a custom guideline being defined in a PHP script.


To use QUAIL, you will need to make a simple jQuery/Sizzle object (in this example, we are checking an element with the ID of content), then run the quail function against it:

$('#content').quail({ jsonPath : 'src/resources',
                  guideline : 'wcag2a',
                  accessibilityTests : accessibilityTests,
                  testFailed : function(event) { ... },
                  customTests : {
                    myCustomTest : {
                      type : 'custom',
                      callback : function(quail) {
                        quail.html.find('.error').each(function() {
                          quail.testFails('myCustomTest', $(this));
                  complete : function(event) { ... },

The quail function accepts a single object with the following items:

  • jsonPath - Required - The path to the resources folder where QUAIL is located. Certain tests load additional strings like emoticons or filler words from JSON files to save space. If a test ends up needing to load additional resources, this will be required.
  • guideline - Required - Either the name of a guideline file that can be found in the jsonPath directive, or an array of test names.
  • accessibilityTests - Optional - If you wish to load your own custom test definitions, this will prevent QUAIL from using it’s own tests.json file to load the tests. This is also useful if you are loading tests.json through your own method and don’t want QUAIL to do it for you.
  • testFailed - Optional - A callback that will be called everytime an item fails a test. This callback recieves an object with the following items:
    • element - The native jQuery/Sizzle object that represents the DOM element.
    • testName - The name of the test that failed
    • severity - The severity of the test.
    • options - Additional options as passed by the test definition.
  • customTests - Optional - An object of tests that can be added to QUAIL on the fly. Tests should have a name, and either use some of the pre-defined callbacks in QUAIL (like “selector”), or a “custom” type, where you define a callback that accepts a QUAIL object.
  • preFilter - Optional - A callback that can be used to pre-filter out failed items. If this callback returns false, then the item is skipped and not considered failed. This callback receives the following argumetns: - testName - The name of the test that failed - element - A full jQuery/Sizzle object of the element - options - Any additional options set by the test
  • complete - Optional - Called when all the tests are completed. This is useful for reporting, as it gets a summary of all resutls. This callback gets a single object with the following items:
    • totals - An object with the total number of severe, moderate, and suggestion tests which failed.
    • results - An object with all the elements and tests that failed.

Available tests

Indices and tables