Six Resources to Check On-line Your Web Site Accessibility

Creating the interface for a Web site is not always an easy task. Besides the questions of size and colours, you have to deal with many technologies like HTML, JavaScript or CSS style sheets, without taking into account specific languages like Flash. Then you have to find a solution that will be acceptable on different browsers (IE, Firefox, Opera, Netscape, Safari) across different versions. The resulting code is not always pretty, furthermore if for earlier versions of your Web site you used some generators and you did not bother to control the generated code.

Recommendations and check lists exist on Web site accessibility like the “Checklist of Checkpoints for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0” produced by the W3C (WWW Consortium) Version 2 is currently in the draft status. There are also various national standards that deal with accessibility.

Reading the standards or checklist and verifying that your existing code adheres to them could be a tedious task. Therefore, it is valuable to have an external and automated point of view on your Web site’s accessibility status. Here are some free on-line tools to do this. These are sometimes on-line version of commercial Web tools. There are some limitations like often working for only one page and not for the complete Web site, but they already give you a quick first diagnostic on your pages:

* Cynthia Says portal is a Web content accessibility validation solution. It is designed to identify errors in your content related to Section 508 standards and/or the WCAG guidelines.

* Erigami produces the Truwex tool  to manage website compliance with Web accessibility, online privacy, and quality standards. They offer a free on-line check of your Web site.

EvalAccess allows to automatically evaluate the accessibility of web pages using the WCAG 1.0 from the W3C. It can evaluate a complete Web site and gives a direct relationship between errors/warnings and W3C recommendations

* Functional Accessibility Evaluator of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

* HERA is a tool to check the accessibility of Web pages according to the specification Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. HERA performs a preliminary set of tests on the page and identifies any automatically detectable errors or checkpoints met, and which checkpoints need further manual verification.

* WebXACT is a free online service from Watchfire that lets you test single pages of Web content for quality, accessibility, and privacy issues.

For those who wants to have a plug-in in their browser to check accessibility, you can consider the Web Accessibility Toolbar for Internet Explorer from Vision Australia. The Web Developer extension for Firefox from Chris Pederick has its usage for accessibility explained in the following post of an excellent Web site on accessibility.

Many desktop tools will also allow you to test accessibility with trial versions existing for most of the commercial tools. The W3C maintain a complete list of Web site accessibility tools. On the same Web site, you will find also documentation on how to select a tool.