The following article looks at testing a websites accessibility by utilising online accessibility evaluation tools. For the sake of this exercise, a simple website has been created with HTML & CSS components. The site looks at a range of different technologies and devices that are used by professional photographers. The website has been provided along with submission with the files having been made accessible to assessors through the zip file titled “Accessibility Test Website”
There are many different online evaluation tools that can be used to check a websites accessibility. The W3C have an assortment of validators that check the source code against accessibility standards while user agents provide web browsers that allow plug-ins to be installed that enable users of different disabilities to access online material with ease. The plug-ins provide a good means for accessibility testing which allow for isolating source code and accessing the websites bare content. Listed below are the online testing tools that I will be using during the course of my accessibility testing and a brief description as to what it is they do.
The W3C‘s markup validation service checks the markup validity of web documents and identifies areas of the web page that could benefit and are recommended for adjustment to improve its accessibility. This service will help test the sites images and their accessibility for those that require an alternative descriptor instead of the image in its visual form. A set of alternative text descriptions are to be applied to all informational images that exist within the site.
Browser testing will be conducted to ensure that the websites information that is conveyed in colour, can also be accessed without colour. Many browsers offer this type of accessibility support so that the user can set different colours and fonts with the use of the browsers tools. This type of testing is quick as well as reliable and has been chosen because it is as close to the users commands and offers the tester insight into developer tools that are provided within browsers.
An important part of accessibility testing is checking the sites ability to read as content only and involves isolation of website content (HTML) by way of separating the applied styling elements (CSS). In order to separate the content and fulfill this testing we will be disabling the styling elements. Testing will be performed by using browser plug-ins to attempt to remove style formatting from the technology website
Vision impairments such as colour blindness are quite common but rarely spoken of. Those that are affected have difficulty distinguishing certain colours. Developers who make poor choices between background and foreground colours, are actually rendering there websites inaccessible to these groups. Accessibility testing will be carried out utilising colour contrast checkers that work on the basis of entering the hexidecimal numbers of foreground/background colours into an online checker which then grades your colour choices with a contrast ratio that will then receive an endorsed grading in accordance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines WCAG, a recommended standard set out by the W3C
This article looks at Web Accessibility and gives specific mention to the standards and requirements that have been established by industry professional groups.
The World Wide Web Consortium or simply W3C, have developed and fostered a program called the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). The initiative is regarded as the international standard for web accessibility. The WAI set standards, develop guidelines, provide resources and support materials that promote systematic web development and aims to make the web accessible to all.
Under the WAI, the following standards have been authored and are the global bench mark for web accessibility
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) – The WCAG standard outlines how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities. The content refers to information on a web page in the form of text, images, multimedia material, and sounds. It also refers to the programming language or markup that defines its structure and presentation. The WCAG standard is designed with authoring in mind and is aimed at web developers and designers, web authoring tool developers, web accessibility evaluation tool developers and any other persons or groups such as governments or community groups who strive to set a standard in web content accessibility.
- Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG) – The ATAG standard explains how to make the authoring tools that are used to build dynamic web pages, accessible to those with disabilities so they too can create and publish web content. Furthermore and importantly, the standard promotes the production of web content in a way in which the published content itself conforms to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) so that people using the website and on the receiving end of the chain, can access and interpret the content. The ATAG standard is primarily for the use of developers of authoring tools and those that wish to develop tools that are far more accessible. The following are some of the types of authoring tools that developers are utilising and that should adhere to the ATAG standard, What-you-see-is-what you get HTML editors, software for developing websites such as content management systems, software that converts to documents to web content technologies, multimedia authoring tools, websites that allow users to add content such as blogs and photo-sharing sites.
- User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG) – Quick Note: For the intended purpose of this topic, a user agent is described and intended to be a web browser or other software application that renders web content. Generally speaking and according to wikipedia, a user agent is a software agent that acts on behalf of a user. The UAAG standard explains how developers of user agents can work to make them accessible to those with disabilities. In some cases, accessibility is better met in the browser than in the web content allowing users with specific needs to customise the content, preferences and interface to suit their specific needs. For user agent developers that conform to the standard, they will improve upon their web accessibility by allowing the software greater ability to communicate with assistive technologies that are widely used by people with disabilities. The UAAG has been developed primarily for the use of developers of web browsers, browser extensions, media players, readers and other software applications that serve the purpose of rendering web content. The standard is also intended for those looking to improve upon their own software when it comes to audience reach and its accessibility, individuals looking to choose a more accessible user agent or even people who wish to file bug issues against the UAAG in the hopeful desire that their chosen user agent will improve upon these issues in the future.
As well as the above guidelines established by the WAI, the initiative have published a number of documents that serve as recommendations for improved accessibility across modern websites.
- Accessible Rich Internet Applications (WAI-ARIA) – The ARIA documentation provides accessibility recommendations on how to help make web pages with more dynamic and interactive content accessible to those with disabilities
- Independent User Interface (Indie UI) – Indie UI describes ways in which user actions can be communicated to web applications. It will provide improved accessibility by allowing web applications to function across different devices, different assistive technologies and for users with differing but specific needs
World Wide Web Consortium – W3C