WAI-Tools Open Meeting, 29 November 2017

Personal summary of the “Open Meeting” held this morning about Scalable Web Accessibility Assessments.

I attended by phone an “Open Meeting” organised by the W3C and hosted by Shadi Abou-Zahra. From the URL I gather that it’s the first one of its kind. Here is a draft summary. Anybody, please feel free to correct me.

  • The Accessibility Conformance Testing (ACT) Rules Format 1.0 specifies requirements for writing accessibility test rules. This includes test rules that are carried out fully-automatically, semi-automatically, and manually.
  • The subject of automatic and semi-automatic testing is going to be addressed in the Automated WCAG Monitoring community group. Creating (semi-)automated tests for WCAG is key to affordable, large scale research. The tests are designed in a way that they are useable by people with a variety of skills. The results too should be informative, not just to developers, but to website managers, policy makers and disability advocates and other interested parties.
  • Portugal has created an Observatory: for the moment, it includes automated tests, but they will introduce semi-automatic tests, as well as a label for accessible sites. This should be ideally backed by the Observatory, thus by automated/semi-automated tests.
  • Norway has a public sector authority body, which monitor, audit and publish indicators based on a documented implementation of WCAG. They want to deploy a new set of rules that implements as many WCAG rules as possible.
  • Work on a reporting tool can be followed at Website Accessibility Evaluation Report Generator. The aim is to get more efficiency from an auditing process.
  • A Proof of concept is going to be developed to browse results and compare data from different sources, to benchmark accessibility ratings, aiming at a common interpretation of WCAG in all auditing methods.
  • The WAI-Tools project is going to span through the next three years.
  • Here is a demo of the way rules can be formalised. Every rule will have to follow the rule format requirement.
  • Providing information on “next steps” when an accessibility report is produced is considered as part of the “consolidations” in accessibility statements, and may end up being developed through WAI/EOWG (WAI’s Education and Outreach Working Group).
  • Partial conformance will not be addressed in this group; questions on this subject should be taken to the AGWG. This project aims at focusing on simplifying the processes. Also, the project will focus on conformance and will not address best practices for the moment (small steps for the win).
  • Sampling is a real problem, because bad sampling can bias results. There was discussion about it in WCAG EM (Evaluation Methods) and it’s not solved yet. Two approaches emerge though: structured sampling (according to diversity of media, of design, etc.) and random sampling (validate at random a number of pages).

A few verbatim sentences that I found of note (although, sorry, I can’t point out to who said what across the phone):

  • “We want to demonstrate the feasability of test rules, developed by Deque and other testing tools.”
  • “A possible format for test results can be EARL or JSON, it’s not decided yet.”
  • “You may have a valid implementation of the test rules, we just need to know that it’s valid, regardless of the proper way you tested it.”
  • The last word, food for thought: “We’re looking at the wrong end of accessibility, we should focus on the other end: authoring tools.”

More information can be found (and will be updated with slides) at Advanced Decision Support Tools for Scalable Web Accessibility Assessments (WAI-Tools).


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