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WCAG conformance claims, practical use case, a11y seals, Euracert example

From: Detlev Fischer <fischer@dias.de>
Date: Mon, 30 Jan 2012 12:21:44 +0100
Message-ID: <4F267D48.3020308@dias.de>
To: public-wai-evaltf@w3.org
Am 30.01.2012 10:48, schrieb Alistair Garrison:
> "The main goal is to define an internationally harmonised methodology
> for evaluating WCAG 2.0 Conformance claims (for entire websites,
> sections of websites, web applications, whole web pages, etc...)."

Hi Alistair, hi list

As I said before, I have no general problem with linking the scope of 
evaluation to the scope of the conformance claim, whether it be made for 
an entire site of for sections of a site (a micro-site, a shop, whatever).

However, the rephrasing may be a bit confusing for those who see a 
conformance claim as the *result* of an evaluation (conducted according 
to the methodology) rather than something that is first stated and then 
checked (in-house or independently).

As a reality check, it may help to consider our diverse (or not so 
diverse?) *practices* of consulting and evaluating. I am not sure how 
much common ground exists here. Just for starters, this would be *our* 
most common use case:

1. a site owner or web design agency wants help to ensure that their
    relaunch will be accessible (in formal terms, that it meets WCAG
    or the German BITV). We may look at screen designs and give first
    pointers to potential problem areas

2. The site exists as an HTML draft. It is tested (design support test)
    and the resulting report contains recommendations what should be
    changed to improve a11y (and by the same token, conformance)

3. The design agency works in changes suggested (or not). The site goes
    live. A final conformance test is carried out, and conformance
    is reached (or not): Depending on the success of the test, the site
    owner can apply our accessibility seal.

(There is whole separate discussion about whether 'conformance' can be 
anything less than pure 100% of the sample - which is not the case in 
our scheme - but I suggest to leave that aside for the moment.)

Lets briefly look at the accessibility seal, the tangible result for the 
site owner and its users. There are quite a few around (maybe you want 
to add to the list?):

* the drempelvrij quality seal, the (NL)
* the BITV-Test 90+ or 95+ seal (DE)
* the Userite 1, 2, 3 accessibility certificate (UK)
* the AnySurfer quality mark (BE)
* the Access-for-all A, AA, AAplus certificates (CH)
* the Technosite label (ES)

This is all Europe - I am not sure whether there are similar seals in 
the US or Canada.

A recognised weakness of a seal is that users may be led to believe that 
it confirms the a11y of the *entire* site, something that is hard to 
achieve in practice and over time even if the sample tested was large. 
Even when the seal is explicitly linked only to pages tested, with a 
disclaimer that it does not apply to other parts of a site, people may 
still misunderstand it.

However, we should remember that users use the site to get something 
done, not to ponder on the relevance of accessibility seals somewhere at 
the bottom of the page.

In practical terms, I guess there is little we (EVAL TF) can do to 
prevent the application of fantasy seals including words like "conforms 
to WCAG 2.0". There will be many more schemes out there, many of them 
less reputable than the ones listed abbove. At least I am not aware of a 
law that would prevent consultants or site owners to apply such fantasy 
seals. (An aside: our way to ground the seal ist to mandate a link to 
the full evaluation report.)

Coming back to UWEM, it would be instructive to look at the fate (shall 
we say failure?) of the Euracert label ( http://www.euracert.org/ ) 
that was set up to offer a mapping of testing and consulting 
organisations' methodologies to UWEM 1.0. If I am not mistaken (correct 
me Eric if I am wrong), the idea was that any methodology that mapped 
onto the UWEM 1.0 test methodology would be able use the Euracert seal 
in addition to (or in place of) its home-grown seal. For some reason, 
the scheme never took off in a big way - I think it was just the Spanish 
company Technosite and the French organisation Association BrailleNet 
that used the Euracert label, the gallery just having 11 entries. Maybe 
a little post-mortem of the experience would be instructive for us?

Received on Monday, 30 January 2012 11:22:09 UTC

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