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RE: Web Accessibility Evaluation and Testing

From: flybynight <isforums@manx.net>
Date: Fri, 15 Jul 2011 01:21:15 +0100
To: "'Shawn Henry'" <shawn@w3.org>
Cc: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-Id: <201107150021.HKY91820@manxnetsf02.manx.net>
Hi Shawn

Just been through the docs on involving users in web site evaluation and as
you suggested, they do broadly address the kind of problems I described.

I would however make a couple of points:

1. While I take a particular interest in web accessibility and have read
much of the guidelines and techniques established by WAI, I have never come
across these documents before. I am sure that if I revisited the site and
read through the information more carefully I would have found them before
but I have tended to use the WCAG and techniques more as a referrence when
trying to address a particular issue.  I'm sure others will simply say that
I should just read through all the information and I wouldn't argue with
this point of view. However, I don't feel this approach is uncommon and
suspect others seeking guidence will use the guidelines in a similar way and
hence may not be aware of these documents either. And this brings me back to
my original point. How can we emphasise the importants of looking at
usability, getting users involved as soon as possible, and using the
guidelines to meet this objective? Assuming that others agree with this
premice that is. Or to maybe put it another way, how can we raise the
profile of these helpful documents?

2. As I went through the documents and considered some of the points others
have made, it struck me that it might be helpful if the guidelines
recommended that any site that has considered accessibility and taken time
and effort trying to improve the accessibility in a very deliberate way,
include what they have done in their accessibility statement. I'm not just
thinking of the usual blurb I've seen on many sites which can be cut and
paste from one site to another, but very specific information of the type of
users the developers engaged with and the technology (browser / AT) that was
used to give best results as well as any specific tips on how to use them on
the site in order to get the most out of the site based on their tests. This
would serve a number of purposes:

1. It would help users get the most out of a site as quickly as possible and
explain how to get the most out of the site using a particular set up.

2. This in turn would help to manage their expectations which in itself,
would reduce frustration.

3. It would help designers / developers focus on these issues and gain
credibility for work that they have done.

4. It would raise the importants of ensuring that a site is actually usable,
rather than simply conformant and encourage organisations to get users

5. It would stop me from getting frustrated reading bland accessibility
statements that don't actually mean anything and show that a company has
really considered the issues and sought to address them, rather than simply
cover their backs in case of litigation.

If a company has genuinely made a concerted effort to address accessibility
and done the work, then why not get credit for it? Maybe it could be
mandated for a particular level of conformance (A / AA ?)

What do others think?


-----Original Message-----
From: Shawn Henry [mailto:shawn@w3.org] 
Sent: 14 July 2011 17:22
To: Ian Sharpe
Cc: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Subject: Re: Web Accessibility Evaluation and Testing

  Hi Ian,

Please read the WAI documents in our previous replies to this thread:
* Involving Users in Web Projects for Better, Easier Accessibility at
* Involving Users in Evaluating Web Accessibility at

I think that they are based on the ideas that you are expounding. The
primary goal of these documents is to get developers to include real people
with disabilities early and throughout their projects to understand how to
make their websites (and browsers, authoring tools, etc.) really work well
for people with disabilities.

Please let us know if you disagree with anything in these documents or have
suggestions for improvements.

Ian Sharpe wrote: You hope that testing would highlight the kind of issues
I'm thinking about but by that time, it may be too far down the line to do
much about it.<end quote>

Agree. WAI's document "Involving Users in Evaluating Web Accessibility" says
it "is the second of two pages on including users in web projects; please
read 'Including Users in Web Projects for Better, Easier Accessibility',
which covers broader issues of including users early in website design, tool
development, standards, and other web projects."

Ian Sharpe wrote: perhaps encouragement to read through the guidelines in
their entirety to help designers get a better feel for the issues might also
improve understanding.<end quote>

I agree that understanding the bigger picture is important, rather than
focusing only on one discrete issue at a time. However, I think the
guidelines themselves are not a good place to start for generally
understanding how people with disabilities use the web. They provide an
excellent tool during development and for testing, but they are not a good
introduction. Instead I think people should get a better understanding by:
* Reading How People with Disabilities Use the Web starting from
* Watching videos of how people with disabilities use the Web, such as those
listed at http://www.uiaccess.com/accessucd/resources_videos.html
* Watching real people with disabilities using the web and asking lots of
questions, as described in the other documents linked in this e-mail message

Ian Sharpe wrote: I don't feel this particular message is being communicated
as well as it could be.<end quote>

Ah, yes, so many designers and developers and so little good
communication.<grin> I think that WAI's communications have addressed this
(and welcome specific suggestions for improving it), and it would be good if
more people communicated the message to reach more designers, developers,
and managers.

Although I am but one person but I have been communicating this message for
over 10 years. For example, in a 2002 conference paper I wrote: "Section
508...the motivation for accessibility is often limited to meeting standards
and guidelines for accessibility. Many times this puts the focus on the
technical aspects of accessibility, and the human interaction aspect is
lost. This problem can be avoided by adopting the broader definition of
accessibility as a guiding principle. Instead of focusing only on the
technical aspects of accessibility, it is important to recognize that
usability is also an important aspect of accessibility. Consciously
addressing 'usable accessibility' helps clarify the difference between what
meets minimum accessibility standards and what is usable by people with
disabilities."[1] I wrote an entire book and made it available online free
to help designers, developers, and managers include people with disabilities
throughout design and create usable accessibility.

The primary message of many of my recent presentations has been that
accessibility is about *people using the web*, not about just meeting
standards - and that the first step to accessibility is learning how people
with disabilities use the web. These presentations have been in my role as
W3C WAI outreach.

Ian, do you have specific suggestions on what WAI and others can do to
better communicate this message?

(side note: I'm afraid that the main problem is that people don't care
enough to make their websites highly accessible and usable. And even when
some people care, they aren't given the time to do it well.)


[1] http://uiaccess.com/upa2002a.html "Another –ability: Accessibility
Primer for Usability Specialists" - note that that paper is old and I might
not agree with everything I said in there now. <grin>


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: RE: Web Accessibility Evaluation and Testing
Resent-Date: Thu, 14 Jul 2011 11:31:23 +0000
Resent-From: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Date: Thu, 14 Jul 2011 12:30:11 +0100
From: Ian Sharpe <isforums@manx.net>
To: 'Gregg Vanderheiden' <gv@trace.wisc.edu>, 'Emmanuelle Gutiérrez y
Restrepo' <coordina@sidar.org>
CC: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>, "'Phill Jenkins'" <pjenkins@us.ibm.com>

Thanks all for the very constructive feedback.
I do appreciate that many factors, including AT, OS, device,
environment,browser, experience, etc, as well as conformance to any
standards, all affect how easy someone finds it to use a particular site.
But my point ismore about the approach that I feel web designers and
developers are nowtending to adopt in order to improve the accessibility of
a site. That is, I feel that they are looking at conformance to the various
standards rather than taking a step back and asking themselves how they can
make thesite as easy to use for people with disabilities and using the
standardsand guidelines to help them achieve this goal.
To give an example, consider a blog or web forum. I am registered blind
myself , and use the NVDA screen reader to access web content on the whole,
although I can still see enough to use a computer with very strong glasses
and / or screen magnification and a high contrast colour scheme. I haven't
ever had too many problems reading blogs or online forums but know that it
takes me much longer to read through posts than it would a sighted person. I
have to continually arrow down through what is to me superfluous information
such as the person's alias, date, avatar image, links to social networking
or bookmark sites, ratings, number of postsetc in orderto read what is often
a one word or line answer such as I agree. And so have to go through the
same process again to get to a hopefully more helpful comment.
I don't want to get into a debate about whether all of this information is
important or helpful as I'm sure it is but a sighted person can easily pick
out the comment from amongst all of the other noise and then use thenoise
when they want to.
Some blogs or forums are better than others and I suspect some screen
readers may behave differently when confronted with such content, but for
the most part, these sort of sites are far more awkward, cumbersom,
difficult to use for me than for sighted people.
I know that there are many ways to resolve this issue using techniques
inWCAG and ARIA has the role="article" attribute which once implemented by
browsers/AT may help to address this particular issue, but my point isthat
many of these sites will conform to WCAG1.0/2.0 to some level, and yet are
still not particularly easy to use for somebody using a screen reader.
However, if web designers and developers of these type of platformswere
aware of the issues people like me have when using the web and focussed on
thinking how they could address these issues while maintaining the usability
and convenience their sighted users experience, and using thestandards and
guidelines to this end, I believe they could create more "accessible" sites.
This is obviously related to whether sites consider accessibility from the
outset or try to bolt it on retrospectively and know that much of what I am
saying is covered by the various guidelines and standards. But I don't feel
this particular message is being communicated as well as it couldbe.
I genuinely feel that it would be helpful if designers / developers try to
take a step back to look at what they are trying to do, who the users are
and how best to meat all of their needs and used the standards and
guidelines to this end, rather than using them to simply ensure that the
content is conformant, and hence satisfies any legal obligation.
As I said previously though, how this could be achieved is another matter.
You hope that testing would highlight the kind of issues I'm thinkingabout
but by that time, it may be too far down the line to do much aboutit. More
examples of good practice in common usage scenarios would obviously be
helpful and perhaps encouragement to read through the guidelines in their
entirety to help designers get a better feel for the issues might also
improve understanding.
But in the main, unless the developers or designers have a lot of experience
in this area, it is just not easy. In fact, maybe even simply statingthat to
ensure your site is accessible is not easy would also help.
P.S. I am obviously aware that web accessibility affects many more groupsof
people than simply the visually impaired but hope that readers will
understand that I simply use this as an example and in no way mean to
disregard the issues that others experience when using the web and the need
to address accessibility for everyone, not just the visually impaired. It is
simply the area in which I have most experience and hence am hopefullyable
to express more effectively.
Received on Friday, 15 July 2011 00:21:50 UTC

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