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Auto-WCAG meets on Standardization question

With close to 20 participants, yesterday’s Auto-WCAG meeting was the biggest one so far. The topic of the meeting: Should there be a standardized accessibility rules? The answer according to most participants: Yes, there should be. Together with W3C’s Judy Brewer and Shadi Abou-Zahra we have started to explore the possibilities to further harmonize and standardize rules for accessibility conformance testing. Something many participants of yesterday’s meeting iterated would be very helpful to them.

As it stands today, conformance testing for accessibility is a challenge for many organizations. Figuring out if your web content meets the accessibility standard is trickier than it may sound. The WCAG 2.0 standard is extremely useful in outlining the accessibility problems people with disabilities face. However, what it does not do is provide instructions on how to consistently test for such problems. This is where accessibility rule sets come in. Unlike WCAG success criteria, which are high level and technology independent, accessibility rules would be designed to reliably identify accessibility issues in specific technologies.

A major advantage gained from such rules is that many can be entirely automated. This makes them ideal for continuous integration testing. Automated testing is simply faster and resolving issues found this way is more cost effective. Then there is the problem of accuracy. If a rule incorrectly identifies an error (for example, because there is an alternative it could not detect), this can significantly frustrate the development process.

Many such rule sets currently exist, but those rules often disagree with each other for a variety of reasons, such as differing views on accessibility and overlooking creative solutions to accessibility problems. Our hope is that the accessibility community can pull together on this question, so we can better integrate our work into common practices of web development and feel confident about having done so.

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