After checking a page I'm working on for Accessibility it turned out fairly well. I found [Wave (Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool) after reading [URL="http://www.sitepoint.com/forums/showthread.php?t=133891"]this](http://wave.webaim.org/) sticky note in this part of the forum. In your opinion do you think this is a good online evaluation tool for Web Accessibility ?
BTW: Some of the links in this sticky need to be removed or updated
No, there is no such thing as a good accessibility evaluation tool. I've said it time and again in this section of the forums (for excess details see my other posts) that accessibility isn't like code validation... a computer can't just look at code and say it's accessible... accessibility depends entirely on the end users needs and is subjective (like design). You need to test for accessibility yourself using guidelines that exist. Computers cannot perceive the way disabled people are affected.
Can I meet that half way with a evaluation tool ?
There are certain things that automated tools can check for, such as adequate contrast between foreground and background, the presence of alt text on images (although they can't tell if it's appropriate), valid HTML, scope on table header cells, etc. But these tests often give so many false positives, and miss so many genuine problems, that they aren't particularly useful - even the good ones.
You can use it as an aid since some of the criteria state that the webpage must be machine accessible and that you use formal markup grammar. Though like was stated the program can only try to "guess" what might constitute a barrier. For example duplicated ID values or links WAVE used to be one of the better tools but they are only rudimentary aids for humans at best.
I understand, a real human with disabilities is the best solution.
Not really. Welcome to the wonderful world of accessibility. The needs of someone who's blind are completely different from the needs of someone who is deaf, are completely different from someone who is epileptic, are completely different from the needs of someone who has only a keyboard, are completely different from someone using voice output but no monitor, are completely... you get the idea.
I like WAVE because all the items it points to are things you should fix. I can second the people on the board who've said other evaluation tools give you false positives or tell you to "fix" things that are correct. In that respect, WAVE is one of the few tools that restrict themselves to things that an evaluation tool can be helpful with. That leaves you a lot of ground to cover, but as long as you understand that it's just a help, I recommend it.
To move beyond that there are three things you can do. One, study Section 508 compliance, the US govt guidelines on what is required for federal contracts. These are things it's good to learn to deal with; the federal guidelines have already become sort of a de facto standard for a lot of people in the industry. Two, check out the WCAG 2.0 at W3C. These guidelines still need work so I do not code to all of them, however, the W3C has a lot of explanation and discussion of WCAG and it may be the best single location on the web to learn about a lot of the different aspects of accessibility. Three, one of the most important things you can do for your webpage is sit down with the XHTML and read it through. An absolutely critical thing that evaluation tools CAN'T do is tell you if your page makes sense. But it's pretty easy to tell if you just read your XHTML line by line. Anything you don't understand or that confuses you, rewrite until it passes this test (you'll hear this referred to as "Is your code linearized?". You'll find that a lot of things about accessibility you pick up and learn the best practice and you just code that way from then on. Checking your linearization however, is an important final procedure to perform.
Thanks for the referrals. I understand about making sure your code is linear, one thing just half a year ago I didn't understand but now I do
It's this kind of sloppy compromising which damages the end user experience. Cutting corners shouldn't be an option if you want to present yourself as a professional at what you do. Accessibility validation tools aren't some kind of simple quick patch until you get round to doing the job properly. Either your website is accessible, or it isn't. There's no meeting it half way. While I understand your reservations towards manually doing anything that may be able to be checked using a piece of software, it's a simple fact that disability isn't something that can be measured and replicated effectively using computers. There are checklists for WCAG, tonnes of articles and tutorials on web disability, great books on the subject... why compromise your audience with a half-effort attempt when you can maximize the visitors experience.
Technically, several real people with several real disabilities are the best option though it's not always possible. I always say the key to understanding disability is to emulate the limiting factors yourself... browse the web with the monitor turned off to experience blindness, turn off speakers for hearing loss, browse while "hand trembling" to experience motor function deficiency (and perhaps via speech). Be creative in your approaches but whatever you do, ensure your website is as seamless for people as possible. You need to consider how people input/output against machines and determine their complexities.
Section 508 is built upon WCAG, its the most definitive example of recognised factors that affect users on the web. However it's worth mentioning that WCAG isn't perfect in itself... it doesn't cover disabilities like dyslexia, lingual issues, computer disability or mental health impairments. Disability is anything which can inhibit the end user, whether physical, intellectual, emotional, social, psychological or mechanical... a broader perspective if required when testing for completeness.
I understand what you mean
That's what I don't like about it. WCAG tries to write web pages to be completely accessible and it includes things that are NOT a good idea for a webpage to do. It's "too" extensive. Your webpage should fulfill it's obligations for accessibility, but it decreases its own effectiveness when it tries to make up for the accessibility failings of browsers and / or other devices. Access keys are just ridiculous. You do not make the web more accessible when you require your user to learn a completely different navigation paradigm on every website. Especially when in testing there were cases where the access keys either took precedence over, or fired along with the special commands built into accessibility software; naturally this Decreased the accessibility of the website for those it was specifically geared towards.
While there are points I disagree with both ways, I think Section 508 did a pretty good job of culling out the key ideas that were useful and abide by the Hippocratic Oath to "do no harm". That's generally where I like to start and if I can provide progressive enhancement from there, that's great.
I could not agree more. I so often find that people unfamiliar with the subject assume that accessibility means "handicapped" and falls under the ADA or something. Language is probably the single largest accessibility issue. Machine limitations require serious consideration (it was not that long ago, the average laptop fell into this category). I find that people are most attentive when we talk about these issues, because they're the ones they haven't thought about before.
I don't agree that section 508 is close to perfect either, WCAG is a better specification as it covers a wider range of potential issues and ways to resolve them but like all things, it's nothing more than a tool. While they both can only give people some best practices, it can't do the hard work of researching, empathising and catering to the end users needs. I think the one thing about accessibility is that not everyone has the empathy to be able to work with their audience.