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Author: Scott Hollier

Call for participation: UTS Disability self-employment, entrepreneurship or social enterprise research project

The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) is currently undertaking an interesting study relating to disability self-employment, entrepreneurship or social enterprise research project. The following information has been provided by UTS and I’d encourage anyone with a disability that meets the criteria to get involved.

Call For Participation

The UTS Business School is conducting research which aims to understand the experiences of people with disability in Australia who are sole traders, have small businesses, social enterprises or are entrepreneurs.

UTS Entrepreneurship Research Workshop February 2019

Your participation in this study is highly valued.

You are invited to participate in the Disability Business, Self-Employment, Entrepreneurship or Social Enterprise Survey, an Australia-wide study which aims to understand the needs of people with disability in business development, their experiences, the contributions they make, the barriers they face, and the enablers for business success.

The survey is open. It’s for you! It needs you now.

All published findings will be shared. It’s to help people like you, organisations like yours, and those you support. Our questionnaire will take approximately 20 minutes to complete, and can be completed in different formats, such as large print or E-text.

To access the survey please click on the link below:

http://utsbusiness.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_6L7wdQakKxWm1lX

Project contact: Prof Simon Darcy Simon.Darcy@uts.edu.au
ARC Linkage Research in conjunction with:

  • SSI Settlement Services International
  • NDS National Disability Service
  • Breakthu your choice

Top free tools to check the accessibility of your web content

It’s a common story – you’ve been asked to check if your website is accessible, so you figure the best place to start is to look up this ‘WCAG’ thing everyone’s talking about. Upon arriving on the page of the latest Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), you send it off to the printer figuring that you can use your spare 10 minutes later in the day to find the answer. After a short pause you head to the printer to pick up the document only to discover its out of paper, the toner is low and an entire ream of paper has been used up with the printer wanting more. It’s at this point you realise checking webpages for accessibity is not going to be easy.

Fortunately there’s a number of free tools that can help you to sift through the complexities of the WCAG standard, providing the ability to check your web content against many of the testable success criteria and present the information in an easer-to understand manner. In this article I’ve highlighted a selection of free tools that I’ve found useful, along with some recommendations that keep being discussed in the Professional Certificate in Web Accessibility course that I teach.

HOW THE TOOLS WORK

Before you start using automated web accessibility testing tools, there’s a few things you will need to know about how they work and their reliability. Firstly, most online tools work by providing you with a box whereby you can enter a web address. After selecting ‘submit’ or an equivalent option, you’ll get a webpage back that explains how accessible your chosen webpage is. If you are using a tool inside a web browser such as a Chrome extension, the tool works by installing the extension, visiting the webpage, then selecting the options in the extension to do the same type of test. The results will then be displayed and explained in relation to the WCAG standard, highlighting why the webpage is or is not compliant. Most free tools tend to only check one webpage at a time with more advanced features being left to the commercial products.

TO AUTOMATE OR NOT TO AUTOMATE

While the testing process is straightforward, there’s several things you need to consider when it comes to interpreting the results. Here’s some important points to consider:

  • Automated tools cannot check all aspects of WCAG: it is important to note that even the best tools can only check about half or less of the current WCAG standard. As such, there is still a lot to be tested. Read through the documentation of the tool you’re using to find out what it can and can’t do in relation to its testing processes.
  • Beware false results: most tools use JavaScript or other coding platforms to assess the content. So what happens when it runs into similar code during the testing process? Inaccurate results with sometimes entire sections of a webpage not tested correctly.  This can often lead to both false positives and false negatives, so consider the results with a little scepticism.
  • Different tools give different results: if you use a free automated tool to check itself (e.g. enter the WAVE web address into the WAVE checker) you’ll find that it says the web page is completely accessible. However, if you enter the WAVE web address into a different automated tool, you’ll find it reports there’s errors. This is largely due to the coding methods used to check a website as mentioned in the previous point, so it may be helpful to consider the results of several tools to identify if an issue is there.
  • Automated testing does not replace user testing: while automated tools can be useful, they cannot replace the actual use of people with a disability testing the content with assistive technologies or the testing of every WCAG success criteria in a formalised audit process. If you simply run an automated tool over a webpage and fix those errors it’s unlikely that the web content will be accessible.
  • Many tools need updating: while most tools support the WCAG 2.0 standard, few have been updated to the WCAG 2.1 standard meaning that there are a number of important success criteria that will be missing from your tests if you are aiming to conform to the latest WCAG 2.1 standard.

IS IT WORTH USING AUTOMATED TOOLS AT ALL?

Based on the issues above, you may be asking whether its worth using such tools at all given the risks. In my opinion, it is worth using automated tools. In specific circumstances, such as locating missing alternative text, they can be very useful as they will clearly highlight where the issue is and guide you to the correct location to make the change. This can save a lot of time and effort in hunting around the code trying to track down a potential issue. That said, it’s important to ensure that testing with assistive technologies and methodical testing against all aspects of the WCAG standard that you’re testing against is the priority. If it is, these tools can be very useful.

To demonstrate the tools in action, I’ve used where possible an archived version of Mr Bottles, one of the most inaccessible websites I’ve ever come across. However, some of the online tools couldn’t recognise the URL so in these instances I’ve just used Google which is a very simple and accessible webpage.  

 FREE ONLINE TOOLS

WAVE

WAVE Online screenshot

If you’re in a working environment where the Standard Operating Environment (SOE) on your workstation is locked down like a fortress, you may not be able to install some of the popular browser extensions or automated tool software. In these instances, there’s two online tools I’d recommend. The first is WAVE.

The benefit of the WAVE tool is that it provides the results in an intuitive and visual manner which can be helpful to easily identify issues such as alternative text and colour contrast.

aChecker

aChecker Online Screenshot

The other online free tool that I really like is aChecker. This tool is not as visually appealing as WAVE, but can make it easier to hunt down issues through its comprehensive reporting structure.

There are many other free online tools available but in my view using WAVE and aChecker together provide you with a good overview of the issues, presented in different styles and can be useful in cross-checking the validity of results.

BROWSERS AND EXTENSIONS

WAVE for Chrome

WAVE Chrome extension screenshot

Similar to the WAVE online tool, the WAVE Chrome extension is very popular among web accessibility specialists. Once the extension is installed in the Chrome Browser, it is a relatively straightforward process to browse to the webpage you’d like to test, then using the extension to test it, providing a useful report.

Axe for Chrome

Axe Chrome extension screenshot

A second tool to consider is Axe,  This tool is more difficult to use, as the extension requires some digging through the developer settings to bring up. Its output is also more technical focusing heavily on addressing coding issues. While not as easy for new users, technical professionals will find its attention to detail very useful in hunting down accessibity issues.

ARC toolkit for Chrome

ARC toolkit for Chrome Extension screenshot

The ARC Toolkit works a little bit like Axe in that you must wade into the developer settings to find it, but it also performs a comprehensive analysis on all web content.

SiteImprove accessibility checker for Chrome

SightImprove Chrome extension screenshot

The last of the four tools I’d recommend is the SiteImprove accessibility checker which is a little more intuitive in its design and provides some useful results.

Mozilla Firefox  Accessibility Inspector

It’s also worth noting that the latest version of Mozilla Firefox also has a built in automated accessibility tool. If you are a Firefox user, you can enable the Accessibility Inspector to check your content.  

These are just a small portion of tools available. If you’d like a more comprehensive list of both free and commercial tools, the W3C has a list of accessiblity tools to consider. If there’s a tool you like to use that’s not on the list, let me know by e-mail or Twitter and I’ll look to add it to the list.

OZeWAI 2020 national conference coming to Perth in February

OZeWAI, Australia’s national digital accessibility conference, has announced that it will be holding its next gathering in Perth, Western Australia and co-locating with the Perth Web Accessibility Camp (PWAC). The camp will be held 11-13 February 2020.

In an e-mail announcement, it was stated that:

“OzeWAI is partnering with the Perth Web Accessibility Camp (PWAC) to host the Australian Accessibility Conference. Our conference aim is to enhance the professional understanding of accessibility across Australia through networking, education and industry certification.

Participants will have the opportunity to:

  • Learn about and contribute to the future direction of accessibility.
  • Collaborate in the accessibility ‘Shark Tank’
  • Undertake internationally recognised industry certification exams
  • Celebrate achievements in accessibility”

The OZeWAI conference has been running for over 20 years with this marking its first time being held in Perth. By co-locating with the seventh Perth Web Accessibility Camp the move ensures that attendees will be supported whether they are just starting out on the accessibility journey or are seasoned digital access professionals.

Additional information can be found on the OZeWAI website. You can also view a selection of PWAC 2019 highlights.

Centre For Accessibility wins Fremantle Business Award

On Friday 7June, The Centre For Accessibility won the award for Excellence in Professional Services at the 11th annual 2019 Fremantle Chamber of Commerce Business Awards.

Dr Scott Hollier receiving Award on behalf of the Centre For Accessibility

The Awards were hosted at the Fremantle Esplanade Hotel by Rydges with the purpose of bringing together and rewarding the most unique, distinctive and inventive business leaders as one of the great celebrations for the Fremantle business community.

The Award was given to the Centre For Accessibility as a result of its work in promoting the importance of digital access through its training workshops and online resource. The Centre was founded in 2018 initially as a partnership between Fremantle-based organisations DADAA, Media On Mars and Digital Access Specialist Dr Scott Hollier.

The full list of winners from the 2019 Fremantle business Awards are as follows:

  • City Of Fremantle Leadership Award Sustainable Enterprise: The Raw Kitchen-Zero Store
  • City Of Fremantle Leadership Award Destination Marketing Campaign: Fremantle Ports Quay To Summer Campaign
  • Tams Excellence Award Marine, Engineering & Defence Industry: Ikad Engineering
  • Excellence Award Professional Service: Centre For Accessibility
  • Notre Dame Excellence Award Innovation: Wa Maritime Museum
  • Award For Outstanding Event: City Of Fremantle – Street Arts Festival 2019
  • Telstra Award For Best Retail: Glen Cowans Fine Art Photography Gallery
  • Afa Award For Best Attraction: Wa Maritime Museum-The Antarctica Vr Experience
  • Peoples Choice Award: Percy Flint
  • Business Of The Year: Wa Maritime Museum
  • Business Foundations Scholarship Winner: The Raw Kitchen – Zero Store

Dr Scott Hollier holding Award trophy

In a tweet on the night, Dr Scott Hollier stated that it was a privilege to represent the Centre For Accessibility in receiving the award. The Centre is continuing to explore new opportunities in promoting the importance of digital access with its recent launch of the Australian Access Awards, the first Australian national awards dedicated to the celebration of best practice in the use of accessible websites and apps.

Apple adds new accessibility features to iOS, iPadOS

As Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) draws to a close for 2019, it’s a good time to recap its announcements regarding accessibility improvements for its portable devices such as the iPhone running iOS and the iPad running iPadOS, a recently announced OS improvement for the tablet.

In an interview conducted by Tim Hardwick for TechCrunch with Apple’s Director of Global Accessibility Policy & Initiatives Sarah Herrlinger, several new accessibility features were revealed relating to voice control and display features.

Features include:

  • Voice control: a new feature that provides support to editing and menu navigation and advanced dictation capabilities. Apple has also indicated that the update provides better support in understanding different accents.
  • Mouse support: provided as an accessibility feature, a mouse can now be used for people with a mobility limitation that makes it difficult to use a touchscreen. Apple will provide additional information on which USB and Bluetooth models will work n the near future.
  • Dark theme: this will allow the interface to feature a darker background with light colour text which will significantly improve the ability to see the screen for some vision impairments

In addition the updates have included some minor improvements to established assistive technologies such as the VoiceOver screen reader.

The iOS13 and iPadOS updates are currently only available to developers but will roll out to compatible iPhone and iPad devices in the coming months.