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Comments to "Involving Users in Web Projects for Better, Easier Accessibility" and "Involving Users in Evaluating Web Accessibility"

From: Henrike Gappa <henrike.gappa@fit.fraunhofer.de>
Date: Sat, 02 Jan 2010 18:56:38 +0100
Message-ID: <4B3F88D6.1070408@fit.fraunhofer.de>
To: wai-eo-editors@w3.org
Dear editors,

Please find in the following some comments in regard to the posted notes:

- Involving Users in Web Projects for Better, Easier Accessibility 
- Involving Users in Evaluating Web Accessibility 

To "Involving Users in Web Projects for Better, Easier Accessibility"

We support wholeheartedly encouraging web site developers and owners to
conduct user testing for better accessibility. However, we feel that the
limitations of the proposed test methodology needs to be addressed much
more clearly. For instance, to stress that the test results obtained
with only a small group of disabled users can only be understood as
informative, also in regard to the generalization of test results to
users with the same characteristics, e.g., blind or screen-reader users.
There is a lot of diversity among people with the same disability even
when utilizing the same assistive technology. Furthermore, to our
knowledge, it is a precondition to have a deep insight into
accessibility guidelines and, at least to some extent, experience with
assistive technologies to really employ user testing for better
accessibility and to create accessible web applications. In other cases,
its benefit is more of motivational and educational nature which is of
great value and thus highly recommendable. The described issues are
somehow mentioned in the document, but should be pointed out much more
explicitly. For instance when contrasted with the section "More
Efficient Development", the limitations of the proposed methodology will
not be identified most likely by the uninformed user.

Besides this, we are afraid it might not become clear to the reader
which user groups are addressed by the note. Most of the time the note
names only people with disabilities, sometimes it is people with
disabilities and older people and sometimes it is only "users", for
instance, in the section "More Efficient Development".

Suggesting as test methodology to "ask a lot of questions" to gather
user data is vague. We propose to be more concrete. Since tests sessions
have a time limit, it is advisable for many test purposes to develop at
least a questionnaire guide to ensure that all relevant issues are
touched and that test results are comparable in case there are several
test participants.

To "Involving Users in Evaluating Web Accessibility"

Our first comment in regard to this note is -- as it was for "Involving
Users in Web Projects for Better, Easier Accessibility" -- that the
limitations of the described evaluation methodology need to be pointed
out more clearly. We are in favour of user testing, and agree that user
testing may reveal accessibility issues that would not have been
detected via standard conformance testing. However, it is also important
to note that many accessibility errors will definitely not be detected
by user testing alone. Therefore, different from what is stated in the
introduction of this article, to our knowledge, conformance checks to
all relevant accessibility guidelines are not only "important" but need
to be understood as the basic of all accessibility evaluations. We would
also suggest conducting a full review instead of a preliminary one and
fix all errors, before bringing in users to avoid operation errors of
the assistive technologies due to accessibility errors in the code.

In the section on "Range of User Evaluation" informal vs. formal
usability evaluation are compared. We think it would be important to
also explain here differences of the outcome in terms of significance
and validity. Also gains and limitations of involving only a few people
with disabilities as stated in the section "Basics", should also be
pointed out clearly to the reader, so the reader is able to conclude
correctly what will be an appropriate test scenario for her purposes. In
the section "Drawing Conclusions and Reporting", the editors state the
need to be careful when "... drawing conclusions from limited evaluations
....". However we feel that this is not explicit enough, because valid
conclusions cannot really be drawn from such user testing, and this
should be clear to the reader.  The problem is not so much the lack of
statistical significance as mentioned, but the limited validity and
generalisability of test results.

In the section on "Analyzing Accessibility Issues", it is proposed to
assign occurring accessibility issues to the origin, e.g., "the
developer did not markup/code the web page properly" or "the user's AT
isn't handling the markup properly". From our experience with
accessibility audits, this can only be achieved by accessibility
experts, which means for a reliable judgement, that the evaluator needs
to have deep knowledge about HTML, accessible web coding and standard
behaviour of AT. Otherwise, such mappings are in danger of being

Finally, the section "More Information and Guidance" provides
information on user testing specifically for usability professionals.
Here, we do not really understand what is meant by "usability testing
for accessibility". Both, user testing for usability as well as
accessibility issues are based on methods and techniques derived from
Psychology and related sciences, e.g., work psychology or software
ergonomics. Thus to our understanding there are usability tests and
accessibility tests which follow different goals. They might overlap in
regard to certain sub-goals and methodologies employed, yet, the goal is
quite different and both disciplines should not be intermixed to our

Kind regards,
Henrike Gappa, Gabriele Nordbrock and Carlos Velasco

Henrike Gappa
Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT
[Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology FIT]
  Web Compliance Center - http://www.fit.fraunhofer.de/
  imergo®: http://imergo.com/ http://imergo.de/
  Schloss Birlinghoven, D 53757 Sankt Augustin (Germany)
  Tel: +49 2241 14-2793 Fax: +49 2241 14-2065
Received on Monday, 4 January 2010 13:26:03 UTC

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