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Web Content Accessibility Checker Pitched At Wider Audience

An updated version of a free web content accessibility checker, originally developed because its creator was frustrated at the limitations of similar products, has been launched in JavaScript to allow wider usage.

QUAIL ( http://quailjs.org/ ) is a piece of software that uses more than 200 tests to assess if web content conforms to the widely used Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.

Kevin Miller, a web developer at California State University, Monterey Bay, developed the first version in 2009 after he found other accessibility checkers that he used in his job too limited. “I wrote QUAIL out of frustration about what products were out there at the time,” Miller told E-Access Bulletin.

Issues for which QUAIL can test include seeing if headers on web pages are being used correctly; if links to other pages make sense when read on their own – perhaps by a screen-reader; and if images have appropriate text to describe them for someone who cannot see the image. It can be used to provide accessibility checking for any web page, including learning management systems, social media sites or content management systems.

The software is aimed primarily at developers and content authors. “Ultimately, the goal was to provide instant feedback to content creators, kind of like spell-check-as-you-type lets users know they misspelled a word with a red underline, QUAIL can do the same about images missing a description … When a document is easier to read for everyone, it’s also a big win for users with assistive technology” Miller said.

QUAIL has now been converted from PHP (a programming language commonly used in web developing) to a jQuery plugin – software that uses the widely used JavaScript programming language – to open it up to more users. “I really wanted this to be a project that could be embraced regardless of what someone was building”, Miller said. “Because JavaScript is ‘the programming language of the web’, moving to JavaScript meant a much broader potential audience.”

Speaking about how he would like to develop the software in the future, Miller said that QUAIL can help make accessibility testing a more automated and integrated experience, by registering and testing every change made when a web application is being built, for example.

Comments

  1. steve faulkner | March 30th, 2013 | 3:22 am

    While the concept of quail is interesting the default guideline set contains a significant amount of tests that are out of date and/or incorrect, which may lead to developers into unnecessary code additions and/or additions that do not have the desired benefit. Until the default set of tests match reality Quail should be treated with extreme caution.

  2. Mike Gifford | April 3rd, 2013 | 4:07 pm

    This is a great project, because it is open source. It does take a while to build and maintain any test. Folks should consider adding to the issue queue if they find tests that are insufficient:
    https://github.com/kevee/quail/issues

    It’s a great start to get content editors more aware of the accessibility challenges of their work. No automated tool will catch everything though.

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