Why Web Accessibility Matters
According to a 2007 CDC survey, 12% of the United States population has some type of disability. Although some people with disabilities access web pages in the same way as people without disabilities, many require some type of adaptation. Such adaptations can include:
- Changing font configurations for improved readability.
- Using special devices or software (such as voice recognition software) for navigation and input.
- Using text-to-speech browsers that vocalize web page text.
- Using devices that instantly translate web page text into Braille.
Many existing web pages cannot be properly presented or used in these contexts. As a result, much content and functionality is not available to a sizable number of actual or potential users.
Web Accessibility Validation Approaches
Fortunately for both developers and people with disabilities, ensuring web accessibility is much simpler than loading and testing each web page on every possible adaptive device or browser configuration. Developers can ensure a basic level of accessibility by following accessibility guidelines during development and maintenance. Such guidelines typically prompt developers to improve accessibility by adding elements such as optional labels and redundant content (rather than removing potentially inaccessible features or content).
Section 508 and WAI WCAG
Today, there are two primary sets of industry-standard guidelines for web accessibility:
- Section 508: The Section 508 amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 mandates that any technology produced by or for Federal agencies be accessible to people with disabilities. Section 508 Web Guidelines detail 16 specific requirements that web pages must satisfy to comply with Section 508 legislation. Most of these guidelines focus on ensuring graceful page transformations to adaptive devices and making content understandable and navigable on adaptive devices. Although these guidelines were designed specifically for Federal agencies and vendors producing technology for Federal agencies, they have become the standard that many web developers use to gauge and ensure web accessibility.
- WAI WCAG : In 1999, the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), a World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) organization committed to making the web more accessible for people with disabilities, developed the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 1.0. In 2008, the WAI released a new set of Web Content Accessibility Guideline 2.0 that improves upon the WCAG 1.0, applies to more advanced technologies, and is more precisely testable.
Web Accessibility Validation with Parasoft
One way to verify whether web pages follow most Section 508 and WAI WCAG guidelines is to test them with Parasoft SOAtesta full-lifecycle quality platform for todays complex, distributed applications. SOAtest streamlines the accessibility testing process by automatically identifying code that positively or possibly violates Section 508 and WAI WCAG web accessibility guidelines. Specifically, SOAtest checks whether pages comply with accessibility guidelines that can be verified through automatic static code analysis (most-- but not all-- accessibility guidelines can be checked in this manner) and helps you identify code and page elements that require further inspection and/or modification. It can also assist with the inspection process by automating the peer review process, including preparation, notification, and tracking.
RIA Testing, AJAX Testing, Service Testing, and More
Above and beyond its accessibility auditing capabilities, SOAtest also enables the team to perform functional and load testing from web UIs (including RIA and AJAX) through the message layer to the database and back-endwith detailed visibility into how transactions pass through the various system components...
To read more, download the Web Accessibility paper PDF.