W3C

Calibrate Your Accessibility Evaluation With ACT

Today W3C published Accessibility Conformance Testing (ACT) Rules Format 1.0 as a W3C Recommendation (web standard). It was the joint work of many people over the past three years.

What does this standard do?

The standard defines a format for writing accessibility test rules. These rules can then be shared, compared, and implemented by developers of automated testing tools and manual testing methodologies. This contributes to a common set of rules and harmonized interpretation of the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

Where can I find ACT Rules?

The W3C ACT Rules Community Group (ACT-R) is a place where anyone interested in rules writing and reviewing can participate. Today ACT-R counts over 50 contributed rules with more in development. Mature rules are submitted to the W3C Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (AGWG), which develops WCAG, for formal publication.

The ACT Overview page lists formally published ACT Rules.

Who relies on this standard?

Several developers of testing tools and methodologies, including:

“What ACT is doing to help standardize how we test for accessibility is critical for the systematic adoption of accessibility testing practices. Digital equality is within reach due to efforts like these.” – Preety Kumar, CEO, Deque Systems.

“As a developer of accessibility testing tools, ACT rules enable us to provide high quality, harmonized test results that are in line with the community’s interpretations of WCAG. It supports our mission to create a ‘better web for all’.” – Kristian Kristoffersen, Accessibility Product Director, Siteimprove.

“This specification lays the foundation for collaboration that leads to consistent accessibility conformance test results from different implementations. Level Access has been involved with this work since the start because this effort gives organizations implementing inclusive experiences confidence in the efforts they are taking to further access by people with disabilities.” – Jonathan Avila, Chief Accessibility Officer, Level Access.

“TPG sees significant benefits in the publication of the ACT Rules Format 1.0, which will provide a common format for expressing accessibility conformance tests and foster collaboration across the industry, ensuring that the resulting methodologies are rational and easily communicated, and importantly, it provides an accepted standard that will enhance adoption of conformance rules by the market at large. Actions such as this serve the larger purpose of empowering enterprises of all sizes with improved methods to proactively test and monitor their digital content for accessibility.” – Kathy Wahlbin, General Manager, The Paciello Group.

“As a company that conducts accessibility audits and develops an automated accessibility testing tool, the ACT rules are incredibly helpful in ensuring consistency across site testing and product development. The ACT rules make everybody’s life easier, and package WCAG into easily digestible chunks.” – Gian Wild, Chief Executive Officer, AccessibilityOz.

This also includes accessibility testing in digital publishing:

“The DAISY Consortium is excited by the ACT Rules Format 1.0 as an excellent opportunity to strengthen the documentation of accessibility testing procedures by the community, not only for the Web, but also for other digital publishing formats like EPUB. We notably intend to use the ACT Rules Format to document our open source EPUB accessibility checking tool, Ace by DAISY.” – Avneesh Singh, Chief Operating Officer, DAISY Consortium.

Also organizations who do accessibility testing use ACT, including:

“With the publication of the ACT Rules Format 1.0 specification, accessibility test tools have a common and transparent way to document their conformance checks. This will lay the groundwork to improve the consistency of accessibility test results among tools and elevate the quality of accessibility conformance testing overall.” – Nigel Prentice, Program Director Global Head of Accessibility, IBM Design Program Office.

“The ACT Rules format provides a consistent way to describe conformance tests, link to related information, and provide examples. The rules themselves will help to clarify accessibility guidelines and standardise testing results, hopefully leading to improved web accessibility.” – Emma Pratt Richens, Senior Accessibility Specialist, BBC.

“We at Benetech and the DIAGRAM Center support the great work being done and this latest ACT Rules Format 1.0 which has been formalized. Earlier this year we had a hackathon and one of the projects was to help add some tests to ACT. Great to see this a formal specification now!” – Charles LaPierre, Technical Lead DIAGRAM and Born Accessible, Benetech.

How can I contribute to this?

  • If you develop accessibility testing tools and methodologies, join the W3C ACT Rules Community Group (CG) to help develop and review test rules
  • If you use accessibility testing tools and methodologies, ask your vendor how they implement ACT Rules
  • If you support accessibility, help spread the word on this work on harmonizing accessibility testing

Acknowledgements

Many people have been involved in this effort. Foremost, I would like to thank the group co-facilitators and co-editors Wilco Fiers and Mary Jo Mueller, co-editor Maureen Kraft, and other participants of the group. This work is also supported EC-funded WAI-Tools Project.

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