Accessibility Testing

After adopting an accessibility standard and guidelines, the educational Web site can be checked against the standard using automated and application-based tools. The validation tools can help you determine the level of compliance. One of the useful tools is the 508 Accessibility Suite, a free extension to Macromedia® Dreamweaver® and Dreamweaver® UltraDev™. The suite has comprehensive tools for testing Web sites and making them accessible according to W3C WCAG 1.0, priority 1 and priority 2.

A number of online validation tools are available that help the educator determine the level of accessibility for existing Web pages. Bobby, one of the popular free online validation tools, allows users to test a Web page for compliance with either the Section 508 guidelines or the guidelines established by the Web Accessibility Initiative. To scan a Web page using Bobby, go to the Bobby site, enter the URL of the page you want to test, select the guidelines to use, and click the Submit button. A validation report will be produced that rates the level of compliance and details the problems and possible issues with the page. Besides Bobby, there are other online validation programs (e.g., A-Prompt and WAVE) are available to test Web pages for accessibility. In general, these tools provide a quick and easy check at the accessibility issues on a Web page.

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About Steve Yuen

I am a Professor Emeritus of Instructional Technology and Design at The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, United States.
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2 Responses to Accessibility Testing

  1. Amy Thornton says:

    I didn’t know about the Macromedia DreamWeaver extension. I will have to try that one out. Another tool that we have purchased at Southern Miss is Course Genie. Course Genie allows you to create documents using Word and will convert the document into a Web site. The greatest feature of Course Genie is that when generating the Web site it will also check for accessibility issues that you might have and suggest ways to fix them. The software is not perfect, but it helps the user get on the right track.

    I hope that more people start to realize how important it is to use these tools to make sure their Web sites are accessible to everyone. I think unless you have experienced it through someone else’s eyes it is hard to gain a true understanding of what it is like to not be able to get to the information that you need.

    Along with using the above tools, I also think it is important, if possible, to conduct usability testing by trying to get people with different disabilities to test your site for you. The Web designer can then, sit over the persons shoulder and get the experience of seeing what needs to be changed and why. I have personally done this multiple times, and it has changed my whole perception. If you don’t have a disability you will never be able to feel what that person feels, but at least we can come a step closer to making a little bit easier for them to get to the information they need.

  2. James M. Thompson says:

    In an era of increasing accountability, organizations must be in full compliant to avoid unnecessary and costly fees. Furthermore, organizations have a moral and ethical duty that they must fulfill in order to meet the needs of individuals with disability. In fact, there are approximately 20% of individuals with disability. This is a very large portion of the population that should not be excluded from accessing the web simply because they have a disability that prevents them from navigating the sites. Regarding cost, it could also be costly for organizations to lose valuable customers that could just take their business elsewhere.

    I believe that the 508 Accessibility Suite is an excellent tool that any organization can use, especially the fact that it is free sounds great! Although I have not personally used this tool yet, I am planning to use it as soon as I complete my website. I want to ensure that everyone would have free access to my website with limited difficulties as possible. I wonder how many websites actually take advantage of this free website. For instance, there are times when I frequent specific websites and the navigation tool is quite difficult to use. In my opinion, theses websites are not in full compliance. I have a question regarding websites should be in full compliance. I do understand if organizations are receiving any federal funding whatsoever, they must be in compliance. My question is, “Is the federal government actually monitoring this process and withholding funding from non-compliant organizations?”

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