Accessibility

I had no experience with accessibility validation prior to this unit. After an initial look at this information, I have arrived at a few main conclusions:

  • Understanding much of what these programs do requires knowledge of HTML.

  • These programs are very efficient in detecting and correcting the deficiencies of non-compliant web pages.

  • There are a number of levels of accessibility compliance.

  • Understanding how to work with accessibility factors requires studying requirements and knowledge of how to create compliant web pages.

  • Understanding how to comply with accessibility factors will make the web-author of distance leaning sites more valuable in the marketplace:  able to create sites that qualify for government funds.

  • Creating learning web sites with consideration for people with accessibility concerns seems like a good thing to do.

My Investigative Approach to the Subject

I went to the resource links provided by our instructor Dennis. (Note the "Unit 1 Resources" page provides excellent referral information without being bloated with numerous links.)

I utilized Bobby (online) and also downloaded and installed A-Prompt software on my computer.  Making initial use of both of the programs is fairly intuitive, and does not require much referring to help files. I checked for accessibility a number of web pages located on different learning sites and also checked web pages that have no association with learning web sites. There is a wide range of compliance levels among the different pages. My initial conclusion is that the software programs make compliance analysis easy to do and understand. It also seems that understanding HTML and other aspects of web pages is very important.

Comments on Bobby and A-Prompt

Bobby

Bobby is a free (online) accessibility program. It does a good job showing what needs to be fixed on a web page. It is a good resource to have available if you are in the field (away from your computer) and need to check web pages. However I am surprised by the poor page formatting and use of fonts. In addition its page reporting presentation seems unrefined. However it does get the job done and it provides excellent explanations, via hyperlinks, to the various rules of compliance. I do not believe Bobby  has an interface for "repairing" web pages and making them compliant as does A-Prompt. Note: Bobby does limit the number of uses it allows in an hour.

A-Prompt

A-Prompt is also a free accessibility program but it requires downloading (fast download) and installing on your computer. It utilizes a split screen to list aspects of the web pages you are examining, stating if they are compliant or not. It has a much more refined and reader-friendly interface than Bobby does. The interface provides a means of correcting ( the program calls it repairing) the pages and making them compliant with accessibility requirements. In my initial explanation of this program, I found that web pages had to saved on to my local computer in order to be tested.

Web Pages Checked with Programs

I checked web pages from a few distance learning sites:

  • Computer Writing and Research Lab
    at the University of Texas at Austin
    E316k-CA -Masterworks of
    American Literature
     

  • University of Denver
    Writing Workshop
    College Writing II
    ENGL 1002-08
     

  • Spring 1999 - Writing Course
    M C Morgan
    Dept. of English
    Bemidji State University

Other web pages were tested from non-learning web sites as well as web pages that I created in FrontPage. Note: I can see the benefit in knowing the availability of the  Lift for Microsoft FrontPage program .

My main conclusion after testing the various pages is that the better laid out or formatted pages are more compliant. They may not have even been trying to be compliant, but they incorporated many of the required elements of accessibility, just by them using more sophisticated web development tools.

The following are  accessibility requirements as stated in the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines:

  • 1. Provide equivalent alternatives to auditory and visual content.
  • 2. Don't rely on color alone.
  • 3. Use markup and style sheets and do so properly.
  • 4. Clarify natural language usage
  • 5. Create tables that transform gracefully.
  • 6. Ensure that pages featuring new technologies transform gracefully.
  • 7. Ensure user control of time-sensitive content changes.
  • 8. Ensure direct accessibility of embedded user interfaces.
  • 9. Design for device-independence.
  • 10. Use interim solutions.
  • 11. Use W3C technologies and guidelines.
  • 12. Provide context and orientation information.
  • 13. Provide clear navigation mechanisms.
  • 14. Ensure that documents are clear and simple.