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Tools, was Re: Manual validation

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@w3.org>
Date: Sun, 22 Sep 2002 19:01:51 -0400 (EDT)
To: Nick Kew <nick@webthing.com>
cc: David Woolley <david@djwhome.demon.co.uk>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.30.0209221853240.32666-100000@tux.w3.org>

Someone asked me just now if I think that tools have made a difference to
accessibility. I thought that what I said below was clearly saying they did,
but since apparently it isn't I will (try to) explain why I think so.

For most people, learning accessibility testing is very difficult. Just using
the list of checkpoints is almost impossible without already knowing what is
in the techniques documents, and knowing some stuff that could be added to

The tools that have been produced for testing and repairing accessibility
problems in Web pages have been enormously helpful by making it easier for
people to do what they need (make acccessible pages). At times people have
claimed that a tool can automatically test everything and there is no need
for a person. I don't think that is true - I know that some tools recognise
their limitations and explicitly ask the user to check some features, and
others just test a certain group of features.

People have from time to time misunderstood or misused the information they
get from tools - this is something we need to keep thinking about. But the
tools themselves are helpful, and seem to be getting better all the time.
Allowing people who aren't experts in either the web or accessibility to
produce accessible web pages (by the right mix of guidance, help, tesing,
etc) and providing ways to make existing web content more  accessible are two
important things that tool developers have done to make the Web a better
place, and I look forward to them getting even better at this.

I suspectit will be a while before they can take away all the need for
thinking. But already they can free up a lot of time to concentrate on the
really difficult issues by making the simple things very much easier.



On Sun, 22 Sep 2002, Charles McCathieNevile wrote:
>On Sun, 22 Sep 2002, Nick Kew wrote:
>>On Sun, 22 Sep 2002, David Woolley wrote:
>>> It is impossible to automatically validate for accessibility, so
>>> manual validation is always needed.
>>A sweeping generalisation:-)
>True, but I suspect a defensible one for a while. The current generation of
>tools are certainly helpful and reduce the time required, but are not yet
>able to replace all the thinking a person can do.
>My personal approach is to check a page against the checkpoints for WCAG 1.0
>(all of them, not just the "barely minimal level A"). For this I use
>whichever automated tools I know will help - which is more a case of me
>learning to use enough tools and save myself work than there being a
>particular tool that is perfect. (The process of manual validation is
>checking against the checkpoints. The better I know my tools, the more and
>more reliably I can automate the drudgery of that, but doing the full check
>is important...)
>In that process I test in a couple of browser types, and look for behaviour I
>know they will reveal.
>And I agree that accepting feedback is always a valuable and important part
>of ongoing accessibility. From the authoring / updating side it is equally
>important to document the process required, so an update doesn't make a page
>become less accessible.
>just my 2 cents.
>>IMO a pretty good target is a three-level approach:
>>(1) Automatic testing with Site Valet
>>(2) Does it work as linearised text - e.g. view in in Lynx
>>(3) Provide a prominent and accessible feedback option for people
>>    to raise any issues that remain in spite of your best efforts.
>>    Make sure someone is tasked with dealing with such feedback!

Charles McCathieNevile  http://www.w3.org/People/Charles  tel: +61 409 134 136
SWAD-E http://www.w3.org/2001/sw/Europe ------------ WAI http://www.w3.org/WAI
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Received on Sunday, 22 September 2002 19:03:08 UTC

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