The RNIB is set to conduct its largest ever manual website accessibility testing exercise later this year, when it will check all 433 UK local authority sites against a specially-devised set of criteria.
The project will form the charity’s latest contribution to the annual ‘Better Connected’ review of UK council websites conducted by the public sector Society of IT Management (Socitm).
In previous years RNIB has run initial automated accessibility tests on all the sites, only carrying out more detailed manual assessment on those passing a certain threshold. This year, however, it will carry out manual checks on all sites based on attempts to perform three practical tasks on each such as paying council tax or renewing a library book online. A few other random top level pages will also be checked.
Marco Ranon, Principal Web Accessibility Consultant at RNIB, told a recent Socitm seminar in London the tests would not use a checklist approach against all the principles of the internationally accepted ‘WCAG [web content accessibility guidelines] 2.0’. Instead, though the guidelines would be used as a reference, the performance of tasks would be rated from 0-3 against 14 criteria such as presence of ; unique and informative page titles; and clear labels on forms, Ranon said. Some criteria such as the presence of keyboard shortcuts for tasks would be considered essential “showstoppers”, whose absence would spell failure of the test as a whole – again with close reference to WCAG, he said.
“Web accessibility is not about going through every page, unless you have a very small website,” Ranon told E-Access Bulletin this week.” You have templates and then try to educate content people. This is the largest group exercise we do as a team, and conformance testing with WCAG 2 takes a long time, so it was not practical.”
‘Better Connected’ reviews are carried out in November and December, with all results including accessibility test results due to be published at the end of February 2012.