New tool from OpenAjax Alliance helps make sites more accessible

The OAA's open-source tool will test applications as code is written, not after the fact. Just what the doctor ordered.

One group that's been left behind somewhat in Web 2.0 has been people with disabilities. To help bridge that gap, the OpenAjax Alliance announced a new open source technology to help software developers make it easier for them to interact on the Internet.

The main thing that differentiates this tool from previous tools is that sites don't have to be complete before they can be tested. As the code is built, the tool tests applications and provides feedback to developers on how compliant they are with accessibility standards.

Accessibility Guidelines, version 2.0. Accessibility Tools Task Force are:

The tool measures code against the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Content

The stated goals of the OAA's

  • Develop a standard set of accessibility validation rules, geared toward meeting compliance to WCAG 2 using WAI-ARIA and WAI-ARIA Best Practices. These rules must be consumable by major accessibility test tools.
  • Develop best practices for reporting accessibility compliance by accessibility test tools
  • Develop IDE best practices to assist developers to produce Accessible RIAs

"From a development perspective, tooling has been the missing link," said Michael Squillace, co-chair of the OpenAjax Alliance Accessibility Tools Task Force and IBM Human Ability and Accessibility Center software engineer, in a statement. "WCAG 2.0 gave us the criteria for Web 2.0 accessibility, and technical specifications like WAI-ARIA helped us understand how to enable rich Internet applications for accessibility. But, there hasn't been a reliable way to ensure compliance or validate correct implementation of specifications for accessibility."

This new tool should be that reliable way, task force members hope.

As Web 2.0 becomes the norm rather than the exception - and while that's still primarily the case in the United States and Europe, things are moving in that direction everywhere else in the world as well - it becomes increasingly important to help those who have problems accessing the Internet due to physical disabilities, whether due to limited mobility, poor eyesight, hearing problems or other issues.

But if you have to wait until the work's completely done on a website before you can test for accessibility compliance, the desire to make changes can be greatly tempered by the costs involved. If you can take care of the work as you go along - well, that's another story entirely.

And making the tool open source means that other developers will be able to get access to it easily and will be able to make adjustments to it as they find things that need fixing or improving.

Sounds like a winner to me.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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