2006 Conference General Sessions




Kal Gieber
WGBH National Center for Accessible Media
125 Western Avenue
Boston MA 02134 
Day Phone: 617-300-4420
Email: kal_gieber@wgbh.org

Presenter #2
Rich Caloggero
WGBH National Center for Accessible Media
125 Western Avenue
Boston MA 02134
Email: rich_caloggero@wgbh.org

Attendees will learn how to prioritize Web accessibility evaluation data and manual data, and how STEP can add help streamline remediation efforts.

Complete Paper: STEP is a powerful yet easy-to-use software tool designed to help the time-constrained web site designer or maintainer. The typical web site repair process involves using an accessibility evaluation tool to detect some errors, conducting a manual evaluation to find other errors, and then fixing those errors. Much of the repair work is done on a “First found, first fixed” basis, and does not take in to account the severity of the error or its impact on the overall accessibility of the web site. This web site repair process can be time consuming—STEP speeds this process by generating a prioritized list of pages that need to be repaired, based on the output of Web accessibility evaluation tools.

Web sites are constantly changing and are always in need of evaluation for accessibility issues. At present, many evaluation tools exist that enable the site administrators to identify errors. Determining which pages are most in need of remediation is an important task when not all errors can be quickly addressed. This step has traditionally been a difficult, manual process, and one that is often left undone.

Small Web sites with few detectable errors may not benefit significantly from a process that prioritizes errors for remediation. Owners of such sites can usually repair all errors in a short period of time.

Large Web sites and sites with a continual influx of new content have a different problem. Owners of these sites may have too many errors to correct in a short period of time. By the time all errors found in an evaluation are addressed new pages may be added to the site, introducing new and potentially more egregious errors to the site.

A Better Way
All errors that are discovered, whether by an evaluation tool or manually, should be corrected. However, an important fact to recognize is that the complete repair of all errors on a site may require time and resources that are not currently available at the time of the
evaluation. Prioritizing errors by a variety of factors will help maximize the impact of repair efforts. A free tool developed by the National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) at WGBH in Boston, called STEP508 was prototyped in 2003 to address this need. In 2005, NCAM developed a new STEP tool with funding from the General Services Administration with importing, exporting, and reporting capabilities, and with the ability to test against both Section 508 and the W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

The new tool allows site administrators to prioritize both manual errors and accessibility errors found by automated tools and view reports that highlight these errors. Errors are prioritized by several factors including ease of repair, page "importance" (determined by page traffic and other criteria), and impact on users. With a sorted list in hand, repair efforts are focused on pages and errors that are the best targets for repair first - a "worst first" process.

The STEP tool will be capable of handling data from most evaluation tools. The new tool will be using the EARL format from the W3C as the generalized input format. The tool will deliver reports on current and historical accessibility error data, to show improvements made over time. Additionally, the tool will identify and report redundant accessibility error patterns in the output data from most commercially available accessibility evaluation tool manufacturers.

Attendees will learn how to prioritize Web accessibility evaluation data and manual data, and how the newest version of STEP can help streamline remediation efforts.

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