Web pages are often designed without handicapped users in mind. Despite there exist Web accessibility guidelines such as W3C Accessibility Guidelines or U.S. Section 508 law, many Web designers are not aware about problems they cause to handicapped visitors of their pages. And even when a Web designer tries to make Web pages accessible, he may not be aware about all the obstacles handicapped users can meet.
Software tools can be helpful here. Several Web accessibility checking tools already exist, but they have various problems:
- Most of them are non-free and you can't use them freely to evaluate accessibility of your website effectively. Making things accessible means removing barriers and it is important to make the barriers as low as possible.
- New tests usually can't be added easily. An easily extensible and freely modifiable tool is needed so that its features can be improved efficiently. A good and maintained tool can make the whole process of making Web pages accessible more effective.
- The tools often don't try to go beyond semi-automated tests. But there are many accessibility problems which can't be detected, diagnosed and reported without human assistance. A tool helping humans with the testing process is needed.
As there seems to be no truly satisfactory Web accessibility helper available, the Free(b)soft project has started work on WAhelper. WAhelper serves for both performing semi-automated Web accessibility tests and driving the whole testing process through a Web application. WAhelper includes the following pieces of software:
- WAchecker —- Python library for semi-automated checking of Web accessibility.
- WAassistant —- Web application helping to evaluate Web site accessibility, implemented on top of Roundup issue tracker.
- WAusers —- Web application helping to manage public WAassistant servers.
(WAassistant and WAusers are implemented on top of Roundup issue tracker.)
WAhelper is free software and we would like to cooperate with other people concerned about Web accessibility on improving it. And of course we would especially like to see WAhelper in real use to make Web pages more accessible than they currently are.