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RE: Accessibility software

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From: Robinson, Norman B - Washington, DC
Date: Dec 19, 2005 3:00PM


Debbie,

My organization has access to any number of commercial tools.
The automated tool approach doesn't really work all that well.

What seems to work best is to have a goal based checklist for
the content creators (e.g.,
http://www.usps.com/cpim/ftp/hand/as508a/508a_c6.html#508hdr92) and to
allow them VISUAL preview instead of only code-based inspection. The
only automated inspection I suggest requiring is a W3C style validator
to eliminate some of the standardization issues, but that can be
burdensome on users (who debatably shouldn't be posting official web
pages unless they understand the basic mechanics and impact of
failures).

I've found Firefox (http://www.mozilla.com/) with the Web
Developer add-on
(https://addons.mozilla.org/extensions/moreinfo.php?application=firefox&
category=Developer%20Tools&numpg=10&id=60) to be the most useful for end
users.

A few other extensions such as Table Inspector
(https://addons.mozilla.org/extensions/moreinfo.php?application=firefox&
category=Developer%20Tools&numpg=10&id=464), a screen reader emulator
(https://addons.mozilla.org/extensions/moreinfo.php?application=firefox&
category=Developer%20Tools&numpg=10&id=402) and easy to identify
colorful source code
(https://addons.mozilla.org/extensions/moreinfo.php?application=firefox&
category=Developer%20Tools&numpg=10&id=655) makes it easy for them to
_visually_ discern the issues.

I mainly recommend these as I've also found many users want to
install the same tools at home and learn the development skills
necessary on their own time. The cost of these tools is nothing, which
allows them to practice and share beyond the usefulness of a commercial
tool. I'm not an open source zealot, but these tools _work_. There is
also AIS Toolbar available for Internet Explorer, but I find the Firefox
approach to be better due to the quality of the extensions, the number
of additional extensions, and the practice that most of my users that
aren't web developers keep Firefox dedicated to a development
configuration.

Finally, a tool to find & replace or traverse the entire file
structure of a web site file by file can be very useful. Mostly for the
users that have web administration responsibilities or who have to
remediate several hundred web pages. It allows them to search for
"<Table" and then look for the absence of summary tags for instance.
There are many shareware programs on Windows and other commandline tools
that do this easily on Linux or OS X. I use WinMerge and "Advanced Find
& Replace" on Windows.

Regards,


Norman B. Robinson

-----Original Message-----
From: <EMAIL REMOVED>
[mailto: <EMAIL REMOVED> ] On Behalf Of Debbie
Charles
Sent: Monday, December 19, 2005 3:15 PM
To: <EMAIL REMOVED>
Subject: [WebAIM] Accessibility software


Hi,

I was wondering if any of you are using site licensed packages to check
sites for accessibility. I am in SC at a state university, and our state

has mandated Section 508 standards effective later next year. We are
currently looking at packages available, such as Watchfire. We have
hundreds of staff and faculty members publishing sites campus-wide that
will be subject to the standard. Most are not trained developers (and
even
those who are have not consistently considered accessibility), but
rather
have the responsibility because they were interested in it and enjoyed
it
or other less happy reasons. :)

Watchfire (site license), for example, will allow unlimited checks by
large
numbers of people (they've confirmed 100 people can run a check at the
same
time). The report can capture code so the user knows where to look for
the
problem and has a 'help' that will show code examples, etc. I realize
there
are many things accessibility software cannot check for, but we have
over
500,000 pages in our site, and a staff of 6 who are available to assist
in
correcting issues. We have developed a comprehensive plan for training,
etc., but feel a tool like this can let those webmasters who are fairly
comfortable with code, etc. begin to work toward compliance.

Many of the sites will require little more than adding alternate text,
but
most of our audience doesn't even know what that is. We have limited
resources (me) to help individuals determine the accessibility of their
site, and we want them to be able to do a check on their site, note the
problems, make a plan to transition, attend training specific to their
problems, fix their problems (as many as possible) on their own as our
(very limited number of people) address mission critical sites.

I would really like a critique of any commercial packages if anyone has
any
experience with them. Thanks for any suggestions!

Debbie

Debbie Charles
Educational Technology Services
864.650.3995