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Web Accessibility Compliance Testing by Machines?

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If you have not yet read page one of this article, ‘Web Accessibility Gurus’, please click here.

One facet of the whole accessibility debate which many disability access experts seem to be actively ignoring is the disabled user him or herself.

In their continuing mission to stand out from the growing throng of their fellow bandwagonites, it would appear that an increasing number of experts now advocate automatic means of web accessibility compliance testing, thus creating an entirely new throng of their own.

And this throng would have us believe that web accessibility compliance testing by machines is as thorough as testing by humans...

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Web Accessibility Compliance Testing needs the Human Touch

As I briefly mentioned in page one of this article, there is most definitely a need for disability access testing by a ‘live’ audience instead of just computers, since automatic means of are not currently able to verify compliance to even half the guidelines set down by the various standards agencies in Europe, the USA and by the World Wide Web Consortium itself.

But, while web accessibility compliance testing by a live audience may look like the way forward; just how can this be achieved, given the current (and future) scale of the World Wide Web?

On a corporate level, the problem of hiring disabled testers is a relatively small one, given the comparatively large budgets commonly allocated to web development in this sector. Similarly, it is at least within the realms of the feasible for most medium-sized businesses to take advantage of an experienced web accessibility consultant’s services in order to address the issues in hand.

But what about the countless number of small operators who currently make up such a large proportion of commercial web sites?

Surely there is no economical or realistic way for these companies and organisations to fully address their web site’s accessibility issues? And, given the sheer numbers of small online businesses and one-man bands operating on the web, this will potentially present a huge problem at some stage in the future.

One answer, although there seems to be little support for it at this stage, is for the various global disability charities to start playing an active role in the web accessibility compliance testing of smaller web sites.

In theory, organisations such as SENSE, the RNIB and others could implement a testing service, staffed by the very users most closely concerned with the whole issue, in exchange for a realistic fee.

Not only would this act as a means of ensuring the accessibility of smaller web sites, it could also act as a means raising much-needed funds for these worthy organisations.

Whilst firm legislation on the whole subject of accessible web sites may still be a distant prospect, would it not be better to start tackling the issue now, rather than at the last possible minute?

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