1998 Conference Proceedings

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TOOLKIT FOR PROMOTING WEB ACCESSIBILITY

Judy Brewer
Director, Web Accessibility Initiative International Program Office
World Wide Web Consortium
jbrewer@w3.org 
http://www.w3.org/WAI 

Daniel Dardailler
Project Manager, Web Accessibility Initiative
World Wide Web Consortium
danield@w3.org 
http://www.w3.org/WAI 

Dr. Gregg Vanderheiden
Director, Trace Research and Development Center
University of Wisconsin at Madison
gv@tracecenter.org 
http://trace.wisc.edu 

Abstract:

This session covers a package of resources for promoting Web accessibility for page design and content development, including: approaches to explaining access barriers; rationales for accessibility and universal design; authoring tool criteria; page authoring guidelines; and evaluating accessibility of Web sites. Discussion during the session will include what approaches people have found most successful for promoting accessible Web page authoring, and what are the biggest challenges to successful promotion of accessibility.

A Toolkit for Promoting Web Accessibility:

With the enormous number of organizations and individuals now publishing to the Web, there is a need for many and diverse channels to spread awareness of the need for Web accessibility and solutions for accessible design.

This session focuses on strategies and resources which can be used in educating different parts of the Web community. While many of the resources presented in the session will be available on the Web, we expect valuable discussion during the session on how to use these resources, and on additional strategies and resources which need to be developed.

Explaining Access Barriers:

Many content developers for the Web are unfamiliar with adaptive strategies and technologies which people with disabilities use on the internet. Their initial reactions to the concept of "Web accessibility" can range from "Why would the Web pose a barrier for someone with a disability?" to "You mean someone with that disability can use a computer?"

A brief list of access barriers across different disabilities can quickly bring an understanding of the need for access. For instance:

Providing additional information on access barriers and adaptive technologies can help audiences understand and use page author guidelines appropriately. For instance, providing a basic overview of how a screen reader works can make it more likely that page authors will mark up tables so that they can be accurately interpreted by screen reading software. Likewise, explaining how people read captioned text can increase the likelihood of appropriate captioning for audio or video clips on Web sites.

Introducing Rationales for Accessibility:

Often people become interested in Web accessibility for a specific reason, unaware that there are other reasons for accessible design. Some people come to the topic because of regulatory requirements for accessibility, others because they consider it the "right" thing to do. Few are initially aware of business reasons for accessibility.

Even for audiences who are strongly motivated by one rationale, it can be helpful to introduce information supporting other rationales to increase the likelihood that they can secure accessibility commitments from colleagues in their organizations who have different perspectives. Rationales to cover in promoting Web accessibility include:

Expanding the Concept of Universal Design (Design for All):

Universal Design, or Design for All, is a concept that is still unfamiliar to many audiences. Universal Design captures the concept of design which meets the needs of all users -- those with varying functional needs as well as the "average" user. The functional limitations of different disabilities offer design challenges which can lead to more flexibly-usable and fully-featured products, creating benefits for non-disabled users. Examples to illustrate the concept of Universal Design include:

Selecting Authoring Tools:

Accessible page authoring is most easily done with authoring tools that support accessibility. The W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative is developing guidelines for authoring tools in addition to its browser and page authoring guidelines. These authoring tool guidelines will have several areas of focus: full implementation of the accessibility improvements in the core Web technologies (HTML, CSS, etc.); prompting and automating of accessible design; and accessibility of tool user interfaces.

Organizations or individuals who are making a commitment to Web accessibility can inquire whether authoring tools meet the "WAI Accessibility Guidelines: Authoring Tools" (in development) when deciding what authoring tools to purchase.

Using Page Authoring Guidelines:

One of the most important tools to introduce in promoting Web accessibility is the "WAI Accessibility Guidelines: Page Authoring." On February 3, 1998, the W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative released a working draft of this document. These guidelines include a checklist for page accessibility, and more detailed explanations of accessible page design principles.

The "WAI Accessibility Guidelines: Page Authoring" are based on unified guidelines compiled by the Trace Research and Development Center from dozens of Web accessibility guidelines around the world. The WAI page authoring guidelines also incorporate the accessibility improvements from HTML 4.0 and expected accessibility improvements in CSS2 (Cascading Style Sheets: Level 2).

Measures to increase accessibility are grouped into the following categories: structure, navigation, and alternative format. Each item in the guidelines is designated as either "required" meaning that one or more groups of users cannot understand a page if that guideline is not followed; or "recommended" if it will make it easier for one or more groups to understand and use. Areas covered in the page authoring guidelines include:

Evaluating Accessibility of Sites:

To facilitate use of the page author guidelines, there is a checklist at the end of the document. This checklist is a good place to start when evaluating the accessibility of a Web page or site. A "yes" on all items on the list is a good initial indicator that a site will be accessible to all users.

It is important to emphasize that accessible page design is not complete until the page has been tested thoroughly. Some degree of testing can be done simply by turning off sounds and graphics in graphical browsers, or testing forms with keyboard-only tabbing (no mouse). Testing with a text-only browser or a self-voicing browser can reveal additional accessibility problems. There are also an increasing number of accessibility checkers and validators which can identify accessibility problems and provide suggestions on how to improve sites.

Resources:

General information on the W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative: http://www.w3.org/WAI

Working Draft of WAI Accessibility Guidelines: Page Authoring: http://www.w3.org/TR

A supporting resource package for this session will be available at: http://www.w3.org/WAI/Resources

Information on the Trace Research and Development Center: http://trace.wisc.edu


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