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UKOLN is supported by:. Beyond WAI: Thoughts On Web Accessibility. Brian Kelly UKOLN University of Bath Bath, BA2 7AY. Email URL Contents. Background Shared Assumptions My activities The Challenges WAI Limitations The Broader Perspective

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beyond wai thoughts on web accessibility

UKOLN is supported by:

Beyond WAI:Thoughts On Web Accessibility

Brian Kelly


University of Bath

Bath, BA2 7AY



  • Background
    • Shared Assumptions
    • My activities
  • The Challenges
    • WAI Limitations
    • The Broader Perspective
  • Thoughts On Solutions
    • A Model
    • Quality Assurance
    • Strategic Questions
  • Other Issues:
    • Strategic challenges
    • WAI WCAG 2.0


The views given are based from a particular perspective and from an understanding of a particular sector.

The views are meant to help start a debate.

common assumptions 1
Common Assumptions (1)


  • Things we should have in common:
    • A desire to see widely-accessible and interoperable services
    • Use of open standards to provide platform and application-independent services
    • A recognition of the challenges faced within the sector in achieving these aims (funding, time scales, expertise, user requirements, …)
    • A desire to provide advice on how to achieve the aims whilst acknowledging the challenges
common assumptions 2
Common Assumptions (2)


  • We also recognise that:
    • The W3C is the authoritative body which is driving the development of Web standards
    • W3C WAI has driven the agenda for Web accessibility
    • W3C WAI has been successful in raising awareness globally that:
      • Digital resources can be made accessible
      • Digital resources should be made accessible
my activities in the area
My Activities In The Area


  • My activities include:
    • Attended the public launch of W3C WAI at the International WWW conference
    • Representing JISC on the W3C
    • Organising an accessibility panel session at WWW 2003, Budapest (with Judy Brewer & Wendy Chisholm, W3C, myself and Jenny Craven, CERLIM, MMU)
    • Joint participation with TechDis in workshops for FE sector
    • Joint paper with Lawrie Phipps, following recognition of shared views on approaches for implementing best practices
uk he web sites 1
UK HE Web Sites (1)


  • In Sept 2002:
    • Article based on survey of 164 UK HEI home page published in Ariadne e-journal
    • Survey used Bobby and reported on errors capable of being detected automatically
    • Four sites seemed to comply with WAI AA – but only 3 did comply
    • 70 complied with WAI A
    • <>

Community is aware of WAI, SENDA, … and seeks to implement best practices.

Subsequent discussion led to concerns over whether WAI AA guidelines were achievable / desirable

uk he web sites 2
UK HE Web Sites (2)


  • Following survey publication one Web manager said:
    • "I too have been struggling with just how rigorously the WAI guidelines should be implemented … I certainly aspire to comply as full as I can with the WAI guidelines but …"
    • Some guidelines are too theoretical
      • I will have a pragmatic approach:
      • Will use tables for positioning
      • Will not associate form controls for search boxes
      • Will not necessarily nest headers correctly


These are seen as WAI requirements. Are they?

accessibility e learning
Accessibility & E-Learning


  • E-learning accessibility provide additional challenges:
    • It is intended to make information resources easy to access; in learning students may be expected to engage in thinking
  • Specific problems encountered include:
    • Providing images and asking students what they have in common (ALT text gives the game away)
    • Environments with well-liked drag and drop interfaces (how to make this accessible without a mouse)
    • 3D visualisation, …
wai guidelines
WAI Guidelines


  • Some thoughts on the WAI WCAG guidelines:
    • The A / AA / AAA guidelines:
      • AAA is for Oxbridge / A for the FE sector
      • A addresses most areas of disability -> AAA unusual disabilities
      • A addresses aspects which can be dealt with using today’s mainstream technologies; AAA with future XML browsers
    • WAI guidelines address accessibility issues and promote W3C standards
    • WAI guidelines ignore wider IT issues (out-of-scope for them)
accessibility beyond the web
Accessibility Beyond The Web


  • W3C WAI:
    • Raised awareness of accessibility issues
    • Ideas taken onboard by others:
      • OS Vendors (accessibility aids in Windows XP)
      • Application vendors such as Adobe PDF) and Macromedia (Flash)
  • The response from the market place means it is not longer true to say (for example) that fixed font sizes can’t be resized (Windows XP now allows this, as does Opera)
  • Web accessibility could be regarded as a subset of IT accessibility


  • W3C WAI are a very successful body
  • But are they too blinkered?
    • They promote W3C standards … but should this be in the remit of an accessibility body
    • Accessibility of proprietary formats, OSs, etc. is outside their remit
    • Unsuccessful engagement in addressing such issues at WWW 2003 - see <>
    • W3C privacy work provided technical framework and delegated implementation, policies to community. Why isn’t this approach being used by WAI?
background to qa focus
Background To QA Focus


  • QA Focus:
    • JISC-funded project to help ensure JISC’s digital library programmes are functional, inter-operable and widely accessible
    • Approach based on development of a quality assurance methodology
    • Approach is developmental and based on:
      • Documented policies
      • Systematic processes for ensuring compliance
    • Have developed matrix for selection of standards
    • Peer-reviewed conference papers published
    • See <>
standards selection matrix
Standards Selection Matrix


  • QA Focus has developed a selection for selection of standards:
    • Open standards are good, but some can be immature, expensive too use, fail to be deployed
    • Proprietary formats are deprecated but some can be well-established (PowerPoint), provide low-costs solutions, become more open (Flash/SWF), be perceived as open (Java), …
  • QA Focus selection matrix:
    • Seeks to addresses these (and related) issues in a systematic way
    • Can be deployed by (a) third party checking (cf. NOF-digi) (b) peer review or (c) self-assessment

See <>

quality assurance
Quality Assurance


  • QA Focus has developed a QA methodology:
    • Documented policies, including policy, architecture and exceptions:
    • Systematic procedures for ensuring policies are implemented (and underlying causes addressed)

Web Standards: Policies

Policies: Compliant XHTML 1 and CSS 2

Architecture: Save from MS Word / Zope CMS

Exceptions: HTML files derived from MS Office files

Web Standards: Procedures

Compliance checking: ,validate and ,cssvalidate used after page created. Monthly batch validation

Audit trail: Batch audit trail & notes published

accessibility policies
Accessibility Policies


  • What type of accessibility policies could be applied:
    • The Web site will comply with WAI AABut scope, feasibility, compliance checking, …
    • The institution has a policy on accessibility. We seek to ensure … On the Web site we will seek to comply with appropriate WAI guidelines, accessibilities guidelines and …Relates to wider accessibility policies. Recognises wider Web issues. But danger of being too woolly, unless advice on implementation and compliance checking measures provided
accessibility procedures
Accessibility Procedures


  • If a QA methodology is adopted we need to define compliance checking procedures:
    • Use Bobby: no!
    • Use a range of automated tools: still over-emphasises problems capable of automated detection
  • Better approaches should probably address usability and accessibility:
    • Usability and accessibility testing regime when new services deployed
    • Simple batch automated accessibility / standards compliance checking to spot workflow errors
    • Tools for user feedback and procedures for responding to feedback
a richer implementation framework
A Richer Implementation Framework
  • A proposed model
  • NB JISC's forthcoming ITT and synergies with other sectors



Objective standards / best practices

JISC ImplementationAdvice



Individual Implementation

HEI / FEI Implementation

accessibility strategies
Accessibility Strategies


  • Some thoughts on e-learning accessibility strategies:
    • Can we not seek an accessible learning environment, even if the e-learning environment may be in-accessible?
    • Is just-in-time accessibility an option rather than just-in-case accessibility, especially in difficult areas such as 3D visualisation, etc.
    • Is accessible Flash, PDF ... an option (RNIB’s / BECTa’s view?) or does the open standards card trump this? Should we (JISC) mandate this view or seek to persuade others but leave it to them to decide?
    • Isn’t the term “e-learning accessibility” misleading – shouldn’t be refer to “e-learning usability (and accessibility)
wai wcag 2 0


  • The updated WAI WCAG guidelines 2.0 are now available:
    • Should JISC give an official response when these are voted on?
    • What should are views be?

Questions, comments, rebuttals welcome