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Evaluation Resource Suite

From: Alistair Garrison <alistair.garrison@accessinmind.com>
Date: Fri, 15 Oct 2004 17:21:31 +0200
To: "EOWG" <w3c-wai-eo@w3.org>, "Judy Brewer" <jbrewer@w3.org>
Message-Id: <20041015152135.904DA38003@smtp1-1-sn3.vrr.skanova.net>

Dear EOWG, 

 

I have read with interest the minutes from your teleconference dated
(minutes - http://www.w3.org/WAI/EO/2004/1008.html), and was reminded of the
discussion we had about this topic in our Dublin Face-To-Face last year
(minutes - http://www.w3.org/WAI/EO/2003/0905.html). 

 

Now, as then, I have certain concerns about the linking of Conformance
testing WCAG with Usability Testing (relating only to people with
disabilities).    I felt I should write something when I read an interview
taken from "Accessibility study of bbc.co.uk: Problems faced by users with
disabilities" [PDF
<http://www.bbc.co.uk/commissioning/newmedia/pdf/BBCi_Accessibility_Study_7-
10-02.pdf>  file, 1.7 mb; DOC
<http://www.bbc.co.uk/commissioning/newmedia/pdf/BBCi_Accessibility_Study_7-
10-02.doc>  file, 2.2 mb]).  The specific extract is as follows.

 

S: Do you use guidelines such as the WAI, and if so how easy and practical
are they to adhere to?

 

U: We have automated scripts that validate our code before it is published.
But the guidelines fall a long way short from being a recipe for an
automatically accessible site. They stop you from making glaring mistakes,
but the majority of the work is in designing good navigation.

 

S: Have you developed your own in house guidelines?

 

U: Not formally.

 

S: Do you test with users?

 

U: Always.  In addition, we employ a consultant (who uses a screen reader)
to review the sites that we build.  Having a visually impaired user review
the site makes more difference than any amount of guideline following.  He
sends us audio tapes of the screen reader output, and I play these to the
developers!

 

I am 110% behind the statement that usability testing is the best way to
provide a truly useable website for your users, however, the point must be
made that to undertake a proper usability test requires a great deal of
skill, time and effort.  This is especially true when it comes to selecting
users that are truly representative of your target audience (where
attendance by people with disabilities in the target audience should be
strongly encouraged).  

 

The mistake which must be avoided is clearly shown in the example above, by
taking advice from this single 'disabled' user (whose 'usability matrix' is
clearly unknown i.e. all those things that add or detract from their user
experience e.g. assistive technology, assistive technology set-up, computer
system, connection speed, level of experience, disability, etc.) this
company runs the risk of making changes to their website (used by 1000s)
that could dramatically improve the user experience for some, but leave
others potentially worse off.

 

It is clear from reading such articles, that people have forgotten (or never
understood) the fact that the Guidelines are a collection of improvements
(from pan-disability organisations world-wide) whose implementation will in
all probability (and depending on the level of Conformance) aid a large
range of users with disabilities.  

 

In light of this, I would encourage a more supportive message to be sent out
regarding the benefits of Conformance testing 'Technical Accessibility',
with a separate statement suggesting that when usability testing is done for
a website all efforts should be made to include users from the target
audience who have disabilities. 

 

Very best regards 

 

Alistair 

 

Alistair Garrison, Managing Director

Accessinmind Limited UK Filial

+46 (8)44 65 287

 

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Received on Friday, 15 October 2004 15:28:01 GMT

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