Important note: This Wiki page is edited by participants of the RDWG. It does not necessarily represent consensus and it may have incorrect information or information that is not supported by other Working Group participants, WAI, or W3C. It may also have some very useful information.
Vivienne Conway, Edith Cowan University, Web Key IT Pty Ltd
website accessibility, accreditation, certification, usability, standards, compliance, certification, accreditation methods
(draft note: the introduction section should define the term and scope of the research topic note only)
Website accreditation is a process leading to certification that a website conforms to a defined standard and is a helpful management tool for efficient and effective implementation of legal, economic and social requirements.
Some of the terms used in the context of accreditation include:
- Accreditation is the declaration of competency which enables a body to make declarations, in this case about the accessibility of a website. The term 'accreditation' is often used where 'certification' would be more correct.
- Accreditation may also refer to accreditation or certification of organizations or people who evaluate websites, of the software used (authoring tools, user agents, media players etc.) and of processes such as the web development process, and quality assurance process.
- Conformance is a state, such as the level of WCAG 2.0 to which a website conforms
- An Accessibility statement declares the website's conformance to a particular standard, or progress towards conformance with a standard and may include other information about the website
- Website certification is a statement that:
- the website has been evaluated according to a prescribed method
- states what level of conformance to a particular standard is evident
- may state when the website will be re-evaluated
- may describe the qualification of evaluator awarding the certification
(draft note: The background should provide historical information about the topic including in this case legal context in different countries)
The benefits of certifying the accessibility of a website include raising the awareness of accessibility and enabling public recognition of the efforts taken by a website owner to make their website accessible to the widest possible group of users. However website certification has limitations including the accuracy and validity of the evaluation of the website, as this is subject to the expertise of the evaluator.
There are different approaches to website certification. One approach is that of self-evaluation, where the owner states the website is compliant with a specific standard, e.g. WCAG 2.0 to Level AA. These certification statements are made using different methods, some of which call into question the credibility of the evaluation.
Another approach is to employ the services of an expert or third-party website evaluator who provides some certification of a standard reached. The validity of these results will depend upon the expertise of that evaluator. Also, methods for certification raise a number of issues including the misuse of labels (e.g. W3C logo), inaccurate declarations, third-party evaluations where the validity is challenged, and the over-reliance upon specific categories of tools (e.g. over-reliance upon automated tools).
Other approaches may relate more to how the website was created. Evaluating a website by people with disabilities and seniors provides a personal usability dimension to an evaluation and may be conducted on its own or in conjunction with a technical evaluation according to a specific standard. The evaluator might state that specific groups of users would not be disadvantaged and the website has been tested to ensure this is accurate e.g. has been tested for users with vision-impairments using a specific screen-reader.
A symposium on the use of accessibility metrics was held by the Research & Development Working Group in September 2014. It was concluded that (insert conclusion).
Additionally, it needs to be recognized that there is a difference between certification as stated above and a report on guideline conformance. Certification used in this context means that the website has been tested and is certified to conform to a standard, e.g. WCAG 2.0. While technical compliance or conformance involves a knowledgeable website evaluator testing a website using a methodology such as the WCAG Evaluation Methodology to ensure that the pages tested technically meet compliance with the standard.
The fact that a website carries an accreditation certificate, does not necessarily mean that the website is accessible at a specific point in time. Historically, certification methods have included the use of the ‘Bobby-Approved’ mark and also the use and misuse of the W3C logo. Past schemes have generally not worked well because of a number of problems in determining the level of accessibility of web pages in general. These attempts often fail because they did not accurately reflect the real quality of the web pages and their standards of accessibility.
The idea of accreditation should not dismissed as being without merit however. In looking at the historical perspective we can see the value that they provided by raising the awareness of accessibility. Both the ‘Bobby Approved’ and RNIB ‘See It Right’ schemes demonstrated a corporate effort to promote accessibility and corporate social responsibility. Certification of websites plays a valuable role in demonstrating conformance to legislative or procurement requirements, for example Section 508 in the United States.
The purpose of an accreditation should look to the benefits it may provide to users as well as to the organization seeking the accreditation. While there are obvious business benefits to an organization who seeks accreditation, it needs to be the user who obtains the benefit. Does the ability to see/hear an accreditation mark indicate that this will be a website they will be able to use?
(draft note: this should include what is actually happening at the moment)
One of the incentives for providing certification of the accessibility of websites include policy, both government and corporate. Some of government policies include:
- Europe: European Accessibility Requirements for Public Procurement of Products and Services in the ICT Domain (European Commission Standardization Mandate M 376, Phase 2) (http://www.mandate376.eu/)
- United States: Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (http://www.section508.gov/Section-508-Of-The-Rehabilitation-Act)
- Australia: Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (http://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/C2014C00013) and the Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy (http://www.finance.gov.au/publications/wcag-2-implementation/)
- Canada: Web Standards for the Government of Canada (http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/ws-nw/index-eng.asp) and within Canada, the Province of Ontario has enacted the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/regs/english/elaws_regs_110191_e.htm#s14s4)
- United Kingdom: Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1995/50/contents)
- Japan: Guideline, Japanese Industrial Standard (JIS) X 8341
(draft note: do we include the above as discussed, and if so, how many countries should we include?)
Work has been conducted by the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (W3C WAI) to develop a business case for the incorporating website accessibility into an organization (http://www.w3.org/WAI/bcase/).
Some of the issues being encountered at the moment include the fact that most labels tend to focus on products and services offered by people. Some website owners feel they should not be obliged to get a certification label because they are sufficiently able to self-assess, others feel they should be able to acquire these services because they don't want to pursue the work of doing it themselves. Consequently,while there is a market need, other organizations have publicly said they do not want this to be a mandatory requirement such as seen in food labeling.
Challenges and Research Opportunities
(draft note: add in information about papers which discuss the accuracy of certification, particularly those of self-evaluation and over-reliance on results of automated testing)
A number of papers have been written which discuss the accuracy of certification, particularly those websites that carry self-certification of meeting particular standards, and those that make statements as the result of automated testing alone.
Related W3C Activities
- Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (WCAG WG)
- Education and Outreach Working Group (EOWG)
- Authoring Tools Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG)
- User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG)
- WCAG Evaluation Methodology (WCAG-EM)
Other Related Standards
- ISO/IEC 40500:2012 (WCAG 2.0)
- BS:8878 - Web Accessibility Code of Practice (UK)
- "Specifications for a Web Accessibility Conformity Assessment Scheme and a Web Accessibility Quality Mark" CWA 15554. ICS 35.240.99 obtained from: ftp://ftp.cenorm.be/PUBLIC/CWAs/e-Europe/WAC/CWA15554-00-2006-Jun.pdf
- "UWEM, Unified Web Evaluation Methodology version 1.2" 2007, WAB Cluster; obtained from: http://www.wabcluster.org/uwem1
- "European eAccessbility Certification: CEN Workshop Agreement: How to assess Web Accessibility Conformance" obtained from: http://euracert.org/en/resources/cwa/
- "New EU legal framework for accreditation" http://www.ukas.com/technical-information/international-role/New-EU-legal-framework-for-accreditation.asp
- "Europa : Web Accessibility Policy" http://europa.eu/geninfo/accessibility_policy_en.htm
- "WebAIM: Accessible Site Certification" http://webaim.org/services/certification/
- "5 things you should know before buying accessibility audit and accreditation services" / Prof. Jonathan Hassell, Hassel Inclusion 14 January 2013. http://www.hassellinclusion.com/2013/01/accessibility-accreditation-value/
- "BCS disability charity and RNIB offer website access accreditation" / British Computer Society - December 13, 2005 link: http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.ecu.edu.au/docview/236990085
- "Guidelines are only half of the story: accessibility problems encountered by blind users on the web" Proceeding CHI '12 Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems Pages 433-442 ACM New York, NY, USA ©2012 table of contents ISBN: 978-1-4503-1015-4 doi>10.1145/2207676.2207736 obtained from: http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?doid=2207676.2207736
- "Benchmarking Web Accessibility Evaluation Tools: Measuring the Harm of Sole Reliance on Automated Tools" Vigo, Markel; Brown, Justin, Conway, Vivienne. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the 10th International Cross-Disciplinary Conference on Web Accessibility, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2461124
- "The Expertise Effect on Web Accessibility Evaluation Methods". Brajnik, Giorgio; Yesilada,Yeliz; Harper, Simon. Human-Computer Interaction; Vol.26, Iss.3, 2011 obtained from: https://www.escholar.manchester.ac.uk/uk-ac-man-scw:147745
- "Beyond Conformance: The Role of Accessibility Evaluation Methods" Brajnik, Giorgio. S. Hartmann et al. (Eds.): WISE 2008, LNCS 5176, pp. 63–80, 2008.c?. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2008, download from: http://users.dimi.uniud.it/~giorgio.brajnik/papers/iwwua08-kn.pdf .