WAVE Updates and Future Plans

This week WebAIM released a notable update to the WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool. Both the online version and the Chrome extension have been updated.

Update Details

WAVE LogoThe following changes were included in this update:

  • Significant performance enhancements and bug fixes.
  • Smarter ARIA and HTML5 evaluation logic:
    • New icons for structural elements – HTML5 structural elements (header, nav, main, footer, and aside) and ARIA landmarks (banner, navigation, main, contentinfo, complementary), and a new icon is available to identify search landmark elements.
    • Better support for aria-labelledby and aria-describedby. A form control that is missing an associated label element but has an ARIA label is no longer flagged as an error, for example.
    • ARIA attribute names and values are now visible directly in the interface making it much easier to determine if they are used correctly.
    • We’ve added a new icon for broken ARIA references – when an aria-labelledby or aria-describedby attribute references an element that does not exist in the page.
  • The online version now supports some scripting. This provides a more accurate representation of end user accessibility and allow evaluation of dynamically generated or manipulated page and application content.
  • The Outline sidebar panel now indicates skipped heading levels and other heading issues (such as empty headings)
  • A new icon alerts users to large blocks of fully justified text.
  • Numerous other icon and rule updates have been made to ensure accurate feedback and a focus on issues that impact end user accessibility.
  • WAVE now better supports all languages and document encodings providing better support for international pages and applications.

Browser Extensions

Due to policy and platform changes at Mozilla and lack of support for extension development and bug fixes, we have decided to no longer update the WAVE Firefox toolbar. It will still be available for use as long as Firefox supports it, but we recommend users migrate to the Chrome extension which is being updated regularly. We are beginning research into porting the Chrome extension to Microsoft Edge in the future.


We have also made improvements to the WAVE API. The API allows bulk analysis of web pages based on the powerful WAVE evaluation engine. All new evaluation logic above is available in the online API. This functionality will soon be available in the downloadable standalone API.

Future Plans

We have a great vision for the future of WAVE. In the next few months we will focus on continual evaluation logic improvements, performance enhancements, and bug fixes. We’re working on better tutorial materials to help newcomers learn how to best use WAVE. We will also be rolling out additional tools for the standalone API, such as site spidering, site-wide reporting, etc. We’re also beginning work on a visual design update for WAVE to make it easier to use and more visually appealing.

WAVE has come a long way in the decade and a half since it was first created, and we’re excited for what the future holds.


  1. Andrew

    Firefox is moving, eventually, to a new way of writing add-ons that’s apparently going to be very close in architecture to those of Chrome, Opera, and Edge, making it much easier to maintain a single add-on in multiple browsers.

    I hope you’ll re-visit WAVE on Firefox when that happens.

  2. John Brandt

    Do we have to re-install the Chrome extension to use the new version?

  3. Jared Smith

    John –

    Updates are pushed directly to Chrome. You simply need to restart Chrome when it indicates an update is available.

  4. mike prasse

    When I use the URL version of WAVE, and then filter the results to 508, WAVE correctly unchecks WCAG only errors in its panel on the left, leaving only the 508 errors. However, when I do the same with the Chrome extension, it does not change anything in the left panel. Is this a bug?

  5. Jared Smith

    Yes, this is a known bug that should be fixed soon.

  6. mike prasse

    Hi Jared – I noticed that when WAVE detects an empty link, it only cites this as being a violation of WCAG 2.0A 2.4.4. But isn’t it also a violation of Section 508 1184.22(a): “A text equivalent for every non-text element shall be provided (e.g., via “alt”, “longdesc”, or in element content)” ? I know that 508 overlaps WCAG 2.0A, but for other violations found by WAVE, both the WCAG and 508 rule violated are nicely cited by WAVE.

  7. Collier

    Hey, so I have been testing extensively for 508 and the WAVE toolbar seems to give significant inconsistencies in violations between FireFox and Chrome. I often find that the Chrome wave tests find far less violations than FF. Now I am not sure which to trust. This happens most often with forms. I am using Chrome Version 47.0.2526.80 m and FireFox 41.0.2. I don’t have a bunch of add-ons installed. Any advice?! I really want to be consistent and provide a good user experience. Thank you for any advice, feedback and help.

  8. Jared Smith

    As noted in the blog post, the Firefox toolbar is no longer being updated or supported. It is quite old. We recommend using the Chrome WAVE extension as the logic and testing is much more up-to-date and relevant.

  9. Andre Demers

    Too bad it’s only on Chrome. For some corporate users, Chrome is not an option. Hopefully there will be another platform supported sooner rather than later.

  10. mike prasse

    WAVE is a great tool, and we use it extensively at my company.
    We did however have a question come up: WAVE cites the lack of a label as a violation of 2.4.6.

    However, the link to criteria 2.4.6

    …seems to specifically state that 2.4.6 does not apply to the
    case of NO label being present, only to the case where IF a label is present, THEN it should
    describe the topic and/or its purpose. Is that the case, or am I reading it wrong?

  11. kevinR

    Any info on if/when WAVE will be able to scan sites, not just individual pages?