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Author: Scott Hollier

W3C WAI expands its translation of accessibility standards and related guidance

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) has recently announced a significant expansion in its translation of accessibility-related documents including new translations of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standard.

In an e-mail update from Shawn Henry, it was stated that:

“Over 20 new translations of W3C WAI accessibility resources are listed at: All WAI Translations https://www.w3.org/WAI/translations/  You can get to that page from the “All Translations” link at the top of WAI web pages.”

Languages that currently featurein W3C WAI wtranslation workinclude:

  • Arabic
  • Belarusian
  • Catalan
  • Danish
  • German
  • Greek
  • Spanish
  • Estonian
  • Finnish
  • French
  • Hebrew
  • Hungarian
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Dutch
  • Norwegian
  • Polish
  • European Portuguese
  • Brazilian Portuguese
  • Russian
  • Swedish
  • Simplified Chinese

Further information on the available translations can be found in the Translations section of the W3C WAI website.

Minecraft 1.14.0 Java edition adds accessibility menu and features

 Minecraft, the block-building computer game, remains one of the most popular video game titles of all time. Despite the game recently celebrating its 10th birthday, it continues to draw a crowd with an estimated 91 million active users continuing to enjoy the interaction with blocks, zombies and creepers as of March 2019. While the game already has a global following, it may see growth among disabled gamers due to recent improvements to the Java edition of the game.

Minecraft screenshot featuring a person walking along a beach with captions

In its recent 1.14.0 major update known as Village and Pillage the first bullet point states that there are “lots of accessibility improvements!” The Release Notes provide more specific detail, outlining the accessibity improvements as:

  • There’s a new Accessibility menu which provides a useful place for all of our accessibility features to be toggled
  • When the narrator is turned on, buttons will be narrated on focus
  • Most screens allow tab and shift+tab navigation through buttons, edit boxes and other UI elements
  • Most lists allow up/down arrow keys to navigate through them
  • We’ve added a new option for turning up the background of all transparent text elements, which should help make them more readable for some people

Minecraft accessibility menu screenshot

With the help of player SuperkidsST I was able to try out the use of Narrator in Windows 10 and could successfully move around the buttons and read out text. The other accessibility features appear to work well too. The inclusion of the new menu panel made it much easier to locate the features and quickly toggle between them.

Given the age of the Minecraft Java edition, it’s great to see Microsoft continuing to improve the accessibility of the game. Special thanks to SuperkidsST for helping me to see the accessibility features in action.

The internet thinks you’re a robot, and other ‘dark patterns’ people with disabilities face online: ABC

Interest in the area of digital access appears to be receiving more mainstream interest in Australia with the ABC writing an article relating to online dark patterns and how they affect people with a disability.

In the article, titled The internet thinks you’re a robot, and other ‘dark patterns’ people with disabilities face online, journliast Ariel Bogle discusses the challenges faced by people with disabilities due to web accessibility, current government policy and CAPTCHA. Due to several of these issues overlapping with my work, I was invited to share a few thoughts for the article. The first part of the article is as follows:

Scott Hollier logged into an online portal recently, and was immediately faced with a familiar yet irritating internet question: “How many of these pictures include buses?”

CAPTCHA security tests, or the “Completely Automated Public Turing Test, to Tell Computers and Humans Apart”, are not always accessible to people with disabilities — sometimes putting them, ridiculously, in the “robot” category.

“I had two choices,” said Dr Hollier, a digital access specialist who is legally blind.

“I could either not do what I needed to do for my work. Or I could ask my 11-year-old son to come figure it out for me.”

The article continues to discuss the issues of dark patterns and explores the challenges accessibility causes along with the importance of WCAG 2.1 and the need for people with a disability to be involved in user testing.

While it was exciting in itself to be given the opportunity to contribute to the article, it’s even more exciting that this is the second news story in recent months on the tpic, following on from the ABC article Call for online disability access standards for computers from Equal Opportunity Commission posted in April.

Thanks to Ariel for the opportunity to contribute to the article and again great to see continued reporting of digital access issues and the need to improve Australian policy and legislative frameworks.

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.