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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: June 2018

4 - Beyond the guidelines: assessment of the usability and accessibility of distributed services from the users’ perspective

Summary

The concept of ‘universal design’ is not a new one. Organizations and individuals have become much more aware that the provision of accessible electronic information makes not only good ethical sense but also good economic sense. The issue has been driven further forward as a result of current and emerging disability legislation (for example the Disability Discrimination Act in the UK), which requires organizations and service providers to ensure equal access for all (or at least to take reasonable steps towards this).

Advice on assessing of the usability and accessibility of services is widely available. In the field of web accessibility, probably the best-known organization is the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), whose Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) provides a comprehensive set of guidelines and checkpoints to help ensure that websites embrace the concept of ‘design for all’. These are available in a number of categories, covering guidelines for the accessibility of Authoring Tools (ATAG), User Agents (UAAG), and probably the most well-known: the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, or WCAG. It should be noted that at the time of writing version 1.0 of the WCAG was still in use, and therefore has informed the findings reported here.

The WCAG Checkpoints are divided into a number of priority and conformance levels to help people assess the accessibility of their websites:

  • • Priority 1: A web content developer must satisfy this checkpoint. Otherwise, one or more groups will find it impossible to access information in the document. Satisfying this checkpoint is a basic requirement for some groups to be able to use web documents.
  • • Priority 2: A web content developer should satisfy this checkpoint. Otherwise, one or more groups will find it difficult to access information in the document. Satisfying this checkpoint will remove significant barriers to accessing web documents.
  • • Priority 3: A web content developer may address this checkpoint. Otherwise, one or more groups will find it somewhat difficult to access information in the document. Satisfying this checkpoint will improve access to web documents. (www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10/) Priority levels are further defined by a level of conformance:
  • • ‘A’: all Priority 1 checkpoints are satisfied
  • • ‘A-A’: all Priority 1 and 2 checkpoints are satisfied
  • • ‘A-A-A’: all Priority 1, 2, and 3 checkpoints are satisfied. (www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10/)
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