Web Accessibility Guidelines for the University of South Alabama by Jeannine
Adult Interdisciplinary Studies, Senior Project, University of South Alabama
Advisor, John H. Strange, Ph.D., Department of Behavioral Studies and Educational Technology
April 23, 2001
Name: Jeannine B. Griffin
Student Number: 092960
Field of Study: Applied Arts
Disciplines: Art, Computers and Communications
Senior Project Title: If Helen Keller were a Student Today, Could She Access Your Web Site? Web Accessibility Guidelines for the University of South Alabama
Mrs. Griffins technical background consists of a Data Processing certificate, Apple certificate for repairing Apple computers and monitors and five years working at Corpus Christi School as a technology administrator and computer teacher. Mrs. Griffin designed and implemented a computer curriculum for grades K-8 for all the Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Mobile. She currently designs and maintains several Web sites.
I am deeply grateful for the assistance of many people and organizations in helping me design and implement this study. They helped in many ways and I could not have completed this study without their help and many valuable contributions. Any mistakes or shortcomings of this study are mine. Any contributions this study may make to an understanding of Web accessibility and usability reflects the valuable input of all those who helped me. I want to especially thank:
John H. Strange, Ph.D., Director CREDITT, College of Education, advisor and
contributor to the researchers fund for the purpose of attending the Universal
Web Accessibility Symposium, WebNet 2000 World Conference
George E. Uhlig, Ph.D., Dean of College of Education, and contributor to the researchers fund for the purpose of attending the Universal Web Accessibility Symposium, WebNet 2000 World Conference
Thomas L. Wells, Ph.D., Dean of College of Continuing Education and Special Programs, and contributor to the researchers fund for the purpose of attending the Universal Web Accessibility Symposium, WebNet 2000 World Conference
Dorothy C. Mollise, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Developmental Studies, Statistics
Ana Burgamy, International Programs and Development, use of Web site
David Speed, Continuing Ed. And Special Programs
Bernita Pulmas, Director of Special Student Services
Pam Horner, Institutional Review Board
Staci Baldwin, University of South Alabama student and beta tester
Brenner Fishman, University of South Alabama student and proof reader
Adaptive Solutions, Inc., provider of JAWS and ZoomText for use in testing
Carolyn Hartly, Student Center Computer Lab
Students that participated in study
Paul Boham, Web Aim, online Web accessibility instructor
Patrick S. Miller, Instructor in Art and Art History, Web Design-Dreamweaver
W. Elliot Lauderdale, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Adult Interdisciplinary Studies, AIS 380
Ellwood B. Hannum, Ph.D., Associate Dean, School of Continuing Education and Special Programs, AIS 430
Sue Fishman, Academic Advisor, Adult Interdisciplinary Study
Faculty members interviewed for this study
Cynthia Waddell, Universal Web Accessibility Symposium, WebNet 2000 World Conference
Brad Martin, WHIL, a JAWS demonstrator
James Bullock, Mobile Association For The Blind
Steven Sullivan, Alabama Institute for the Blind
Keri Brown, Augusta Evans Special School
Eugene Sullivan, Senior Librarian of the University of South Alabama
Nancy Schick, Center for Applied Special Technology, software e-Reader
The University of South Alabama, where I learned that education is not about what education can do for you, but rather how education provides knowledge and understanding that allows you to do for others
Web accessibility is a term that is used to identify the extent to which persons with disabilities can successfully access information on Web pages. Web usability is the term used to identify the extent to which information accessible on the Web is in a form that can be used efficiently and effectively.
Federal legal requirements that Web pages must meet accessibility guidelines and specifications are increasingly being applied to universities. It is quite possible that the University of South Alabama may have to modify its entire Web site in order to meet the legal standards for Web accessibility that are emerging, especially in light of the adoption of a University of South Alabama policy requiring all students to have access to the Web as of September 1, 2001.
A study was conducted using a correlated-samples design of repeated measures
in which a random sample of visually impaired students at the University of
South Alabama were observed using a selection of University of South Alabama
Web pages before and after these Web pages had been modified to meet Web accessibility
guidelines. The results of
this study clearly indicate that Web page modifications to meet Web accessibility standards are possible and that when implemented these modifications make a very significant difference in the ability of students with disabilities to successfully access and use Web based information.
Whether or not universities and other authors and owners of Web pages are
subjected to legal requirements on accessibility, they should begin immediately
to revise their Web pages to assure accessibility for all persons, without
regard to whether or not they are disabled.
Imagine Helen Keller communicating with someone in another country. Imagine Keller searching the Library of Congress from a computer screen. Imagine someone like Keller conducting banking and business transactions or taking online courses from the comfort of his or her home (The Alliance for Technology, 2000). Unlike Helen Kellers world, these possibilities exist today, but for persons with disabilities these tasks are often difficult and sometimes impossible. For persons with disabilities the World Wide Web can provide tremendous opportunities yet at the same time create critical barriers when Web sites are not accessible (Lescher, 2000). The Web should provide a universal playing field for all people whatever their race, creed, or disability.
One opportunity the Internet provides is global communications. This two-way communication model enables the user to become both a sender and a receiver of information (Kaye & Medoff 1999). With equal access to information, all people, including those with disabilities, can communicate and receive educational information that helps them become productive and competitive members of our society (Mates, 2000).
There are many aspects to Web accessibility. When a Web site is said to be accessible, it means that persons with disabilities can access information on the Web with the same success as those without disabilities. They do not encounter non-captioned video clips, and their adaptive technologies are able to interpret most Web pages because those Web pages have been coded correctly. This study focuses on restructuring HTML code so that persons who are disabled and use adaptive technology can access information residing on Web sites with reasonable ease.
Problems occur for example when the visually impaired depend on an adaptive device like a screen reader (software) to convert Web pages into sound using synthesized speech techniques (Rouse, 1999). If graphics are not properly labeled with the ALT tag, the screen reader cannot interpret the information. If audio or video clips do not have closed captioning, the deaf will not see the words that others will hear (Waddell, 2000). And if navigation is only functional through the click of the mouse, then even the aging will have difficulty in navigating without the use of keyboard commands (Fraser, Comden, & Burgstahler, 1998). The design of Web sites dependent on graphical user interfaces present problems for the disabled. A Web designer should be more concerned with the universal design of usability and the accessibility of information than with the visual aspects of a Web site (Mates, 2000). By increasing accessibility, usability increases resulting in the expansion of the Web designer's audience.
The purpose of this project is to create awareness of Web Accessibility and to test and address Web accessibility and usability issues that might ease the users interactions with Web sites. This study tests a portion of the University of South Alabamas Web site and provides basic guidelines for designing Web accessible sites based on the standards set by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). The W3C and the WAI were developed to promote efforts to design Web sites that meet the needs of people with disabilities. Because of new policies and laws, the University of South Alabama is asked to consider the recommendations of this study to ensure easier Web access for all students including students with disabilities.
The researchers position is that Web accessibility is an issue that needs to be addressed and there are relatively simple ways to achieve this objective in improving access to Web sites, particularly the University of South Alabamas Web site. By changing HTML code on the International Programs and Developments Web site that resides on the University's server, the researcher expects a significant improvement in the usability and accessibility of this Web site. With some effort and understanding we can remove barriers that create ineffective communication on existing Web sites. Our nations system of disability rights law is centered around the goals of removing societal barriers to people with disabilities and committing to full and equal opportunity for access" (Waddell, 2000, p.1). This access includes the World Wide Web.
Review of the Literature
The first step after choosing this topic was to evaluate previously collected information regarding Web accessibility from books, journal articles, and online resources. The materials reviewed were Web Site Usability Handbook, by Mark Pearrow (2000); Web Accessibility for People with Disabilities, by Michael G. Paciello (2000); Adaptive Technology for the Internet, by Barbara T. Mates (2000); Human Factors and Web Development, edited by Chris Forsythe, Eric Grose, and Julie Ratner (1998); Computer and Web Resources for People with Disabilities, by The Alliance for Technology Access (2000); Universal Web Accessibility, edited by Deani French, Ph D, Mette Baker, MSHP, and Charles Johnson, Ph D (2000); and The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines set by the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (1999).
Mark Pearrow (2000) in his Web Site Usability Handbook provides excellent guidance for developing and implementing research techniques that identify Web accessibility problems. Pearrow also makes specific recommendations for designing Web sites that address the problems of access identified through research. Pearrow takes the reader through a step-by-step planning process that culminates in a series of specific guidelines for determining and addressing Web accessibility problems. This study follows many of these guidelines.
Another useful resource is Michael G. Paciellos (2000) Web Accessibility for People with Disabilities. It contains one of the most comprehensive collections of Web accessibility information currently available. This book introduces the reader to the concept of Web accessibility. In addition, it covers legal issues related to Web accessibility, standards of accessibility that must or should be met, and guidelines for Web designers to ensure that their Web sites are appropriately accessible. Paciello also discusses techniques for creating accessible Web sites, testing, and validating procedures for ensuring Web accessibility and a compendium of resources on disabilities in general. Paciellos book does not adequately address the use of cascading style sheets, an important tool used in Web design.
Barbara Mates (2000) Adaptive Technology for the Internet, despite the general nature of the title, is really written for librarians. The book is useful, however, to the general reader since it provides a good understanding of available hardware and software that addresses disability and Web accessibility issues.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines by the W3C (1999) in partnership with the WAI establishes the standards for Web protocols and sets forth the standards including Priority Levels that are required for certification of Web accessibility. (These guidelines are best used directly from the World Wide Web rather than when printed.)
As a whole, the literature reviewed makes clear that Web accessibility issues should be addressed. Second, due to legal mandates such as the American Disabilities Act, access issues must be resolved. And third, Web accessibility issues can be successfully and appropriately addressed through research, Web design, and hardware and software solutions.
Web Accessibility (top)
According to Tim Berners-Lee, World Wide Web Consortium Director and inventor of the World Wide Web, The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect (W3C, 1999, par. 1). Valdes, writing in Accessibility on the Internet, helps us understand accessibility when he says, Accessibility means providing flexibility to accommodate each users needs and preferences Web accessibility involves the ability of a Web page to be read and understood, using adaptive technologies where necessary (1998, par. 3 & 7). Adaptive technology enables persons with disabilities a right of entry to information and transactions on the World Wide Web (Waddell, 1999). Denying information to students with disabilities could result in problems for the University of South Alabama as well as other schools and colleges (Hinn, 1999).
In 1999, there were 54 million physically disabled persons unable to access information on existing Web sites, which were easily accessed by those who do not have disabilities (Waddell, 1999). Of the 10 million Web sites in use in 1999, (Nielsen, 1999) only about two percent were designed to meet specific standards that allow the handicapped, using adaptive technologies, the capability to access Web pages (Olson, 2000). According to Bernita Pulmas, Director of Special Student Services, there are currently 546 students with disabilities registered and attending the University of South Alabama. Of those students, 266 have learning disabilities, 23 have psychological disorders, 18 have mobility impairments, 15 are visually impaired, seven are hearing impaired, five suffer from substance abuse, four have Epilepsy, and 208 have other physical impairments.
In higher education the Internet is an essential tool because it gives students the ability to collect information on courses, register for courses, view syllabi, retrieve grades, conduct research, participate in group assignments, and utilize the campus social calendar. By creating Web accessible sites, the Web designer can provide the user a greater sense of independence and participation. The results of an accessible Web site can ensure an equivalent educational experience for all students ("Universal Web Accessibility," 2000).
There are other reasons to design an accessible Web site. One reason to incorporate accessibility into a Web site would be the opportunity to extend ones audience. Another reason is that Web accessibility often improves usability, therefore benefiting the non-handicapped user. Also, the Americans With Disabilities Act requires reasonable accommodations for all people. Finally, making Web sites accessible is just the right thing to do ("Universal Web Accessibility," 2000).
Most adaptive technologies today exist in the form of hardware and software for individual use. Because of the diversity in disabilities, different people need different degrees of assistance. A person that has a visual impairment, yet not blind, may benefit from a screen magnification program and a larger monitor. Visual impairment can include persons who are colorblind; persons who have only peripheral vision; persons with only tunnel vision; or persons who cannot read standard size text, but who do not fit the definition of blind.
Someone who is blind generally has severe visual impairment or complete loss of vision. These people instead rely on their auditory and tactile senses. People who are blind may benefit from a screen reader, which has a built in speech synthesizer or a Braille display. Instead of using a mouse, the blind user navigates by using the TAB or ARROW keys. Braille key-tops and printers may also be needed.
Mobility impairments can create problems for people who use the computer. Some people with this disability have difficulty pressing multiple keys simultaneously. For example, a task that requires the user to hold down the ALT while pressing the letter F could be impossible for someone who has the use of only one arm and hand. When accessing the Internet, the mobility-impaired person might use alternative keyboards, mouse alternatives and/or speech recognition programs through voice input devices.
Persons with hearing impairments face other challenges when accessing their workstation. One so challenged might be severely affected by background noise on Web pages. A Web designer could keep the background design simple to avoid such distractions. Captioning video on Internet sites, teletypewriters (TTYs), and speech amplifiers may also be helpful. Persons who are deaf also benefit from hearing impairment adaptations and devices like Telecommunication Devices for the Deaf (TDD). In addition, there are software programs that will translate auditory messages into a visual display.
Because of the wide range of learning disabilities, there are many adaptive solutions (such as word prediction software) for those who are learning impaired. Some solutions include simplicity in layout of Web pages and high contrast pages with simple backgrounds to reduce distraction. Also, persons with dyslexia can benefit from screen readers (Mates, 2000).
It has even been shown that those suffering from epilepsy can experience seizures by encountering Web pages that are especially busy with excessive animation. Again, simple stationary layouts avoid such problems.
Screen Readers (top)
The study that is a part of this project was directed specifically toward the visually handicapped. Persons with visual disabilities often use screen readers like Job Access With Speech (better known as JAWS) or ZoomText (a screen reader that also enlarges text). There are many other screen readers available.
The JAWS screen reader program speaks to the users disclosing only the information that is text provided. If a Web page has a logo image or image navigation, JAWS cannot read it unless it is properly coded with the ALT tag (Bennefield, 1997). JAWS is a unique program that has a JAWS cursor and a Virtual PC cursor, which allows the user more options and the ability to access the browser menu bar. JAWS supports standard Windows applications and outputs to most popular refreshable Braille displays.
The ZoomText program offers screen magnification from 2x to 16x, color filtering, document reader, and screen reader. It has two levels for flexibility and hotkey options. ZoomText is very easy to use and also supports many Windows applications. Because this program enlarges text, a 19 inch monitor or larger is recommended (Adaptive Solutions, Inc., personal communication, January 29, 2001).
Laws and Policies (top)
Pat C. Covey, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of South Alabama, has approved for implementation the Student Computer Equipment and Software Requirements Policy that requires all students entering the Fall 2001 semester to have Internet access for research (Covey, 2000). If this policy is enforced, the University may need to make its Web site accessible to all students. Steps to improve Web access for students with disabilities also need to be addressed if the University is to comply with the Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards set by the Access Board and becoming effective June 21, 2001.
In 1973, the Rehabilitation Act mandated rights for people with disabilities. These rights include access to educational institutions and communication systems. A key component of modern communications technology is the Internet. If the Internet is used to convey information and assign tasks, then institutions like colleges and universities are legally required to ensure that electronic information is accessible and usable to everyone ("Universal Web Accessibility," 2000, p. 3).
In the fall of 2000, North Carolina State University agreed to resolve three cases from students with visual disabilities alleging the University was discriminatory in its programs and activities. These cases claimed violation of the Rehabilitation Act (504) which prohibits discrimination in programs that receive federal financial aid and funds from Title II of the Americans Disabilities Act of 1990. The Office for Civil Rights that is responsible for enforcing both the Rehabilitation Act (504) and Title II has taken the position that Title II prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities by public entities (U.S. Department of Education, 2000, p.2). The Office for Civil Rights further contends that since universities receive federal financial assistance, they are therefore considered public entities and subject to the provisions of Section 504.
In August 1999, the Chancellors Office of the California Community Colleges announced that all California community colleges must comply with the W3C Web accessibility guidelines at a priority one level (Waddell, 2000, p. 3). This action was a response to Web accessibility complaints. Guidelines were also released by the California Community College entitled Distance Education: Access Guidelines for Students with Disabilities (Waddell, 2000).
Section 508 of the 1998 Rehabilitation Act requires accessibility to all electronic and information technology developed or maintained by the federal government. Thus all colleges and universities receiving federal funds are obligated to provide information and electronic technology access to students with disabilities. The Department of Education interprets the Assistive Technology Act (AT Act), to require States receiving assistance under the AT Act State Grant program to comply with section 508, including the Access Boards standards ("Universal Web Accessibility," 2000, p. 12).
American With Disabilities Act.
Under the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, the Internet is viewed as a resource of public accommodation (Marquand, 2000) that permits persons with disabilities the right to access public services. The issue of public accommodation, as it pertains to the Web, is relatively new because the Internet is still in its developmental stage (Waddell, 1999). It does however apply to educational institutions, businesses, and government agencies ("Universal Web Accessibility," 2000).
The Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Compliance Act.
In 1997, the Federal Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Compliance Act was enacted. This legislation was incorporated into the Workforce Investment Act of 1999 and was added to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. This law requires federal agencies to provide access to information for the disabled that is comparable to information accessed by those persons without disabilities.
The Assistive Technology Act.
The Assistive Technology Act of 1998, previously known as the Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988, requires states to comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act in order to receive federal funds for technology assistance programs. Section 508 plainly states that this section shall not be construed to limit the rights, remedies or procedures available under other federal laws that may provide greater or equal protections for individuals with disabilities (Electronic and Information Technology Access Advisory Committee [EITAAC], 1999, p. 12).
NFB vs. AOL.
The National Federation of the Blind filed a lawsuit against AOL on November 4, 1999. The case was based on Title III of the American With Disabilities Act that defines a public accommodation as a place of exhibition and entertainment, a place of public gathering, a sales and rental establishment, a service establishment, a place of public display, a place of education and a place of recreation (Isaak, 2000, par. 4). On July 26, 2000, both parties agreed to a resolution. This resolution states that AOL will take steps to ensure larger accessibility to their service. This includes an online accessibility policy posted on AOL's Web site, establishing a product development accessibility checklist, and an agreement with screen reader technology companies to develop an AOL compatible browser. This dispute is not considered settled and NFB has retained the right to fill suit again after one year.
The Access Board.
The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board is an independent federal agency. The boards primary goal is to provide access to people with disabilities. Originally the Compliance Board focused on physical barriers, such as transit vehicles and facility access. Now however, the Compliance Board has been extended their coverage to accessibility standards for electronic and information technology. On March 31, 2000 the Access Board published a proposed set of standards ("Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards," 2000, March 31). On December 21, 2000, the final standards were published and will become effective June 21, 2001. The standards are available at http://www.accessboard.gon/sec508/508standards.htm.
Web Usability (top)
Web usability is different from Web accessibility. Usability is defined as finding desired information, comprehending information including image processing, and performing specialized tasks like placing orders and downloading data or software with ease. Variables that affect usability include Internet transmission speed; visual display capabilities (color and resolution); limitations of input devices; computer and Web experience; age and disability limitations; reading ability; and motivation (Lee, 1999).
According to Mark Pearrow, author of Web Site Usability: Handbook, Usability is the broad discipline of applying sound scientific observation, measurement, and design principles to the creation and maintenance of Web sites in order to bring about the greatest ease of use, ease of learnability, amount of usefulness, and least amount of discomfort for the humans who have to use the system (2000 p. 12). The researcher includes some practical testing tools found in Pearrows book, which were useful in preparing this study. These tools are listed in the Developing a Plan section of this paper (p.19).
Web accessibility and Web usability can work together to resolve problems for the end user. A Web designer needs to be aware that usability design can improve the ease of use for all when performing Web specific tasks and in turn help simplify Web sites for the disabled (Pearrow, 2000).
Smart Design Tips (top)
This checklist provides Web accessibility and Web usability tips for Web designers to use when creating Web pages. It is derived from the experience of the researcher as well as recommendations from a number of sources (Lee, 1999; Nielsen, 1999; & Rich, 1999).
· Design for a targeted audience and define a purpose for the Web site.
· Create a simple design.
· Organize Web sites with distinct categories and only main hyperlinks.
· Decide the purpose for the Web site. Does it inform or does it entertain users?
· Avoid embedded links in sentences.
· Create consistent and clear navigation, preferably located at the top of page.
· Create high contrast between background and text.
· Insure that the text has adequate height of displayed characters.
· Avoid use of the Previous and Next buttons. (Using the Back button is helpful and therefore permissible.)
· Make sure a search engine, when present, includes a spell checker.
· Use subheadings (highlighted) and short concise paragraphs (maximum 21 lines).
· Use plain language.
· Create clear and concise content.
· Use text links instead of icons when possible.
· Make sure the user does not have to wait for long download times.
· Use relative (% values) rather than absolute (pixels) size. Users may need to change font size due to screen enlargement programs and monitor resolutions.
· Make sure the site can work with or without images. Some users access the Internet with text browsers only.
· Design for cross-platform.
· TEST, TEST, TEST before publishing the Web site.
· Continue testing and improving the site after publishing it.
W3C Guidelines (top)
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) was formed to develop common protocols and promote the evolution of the World Wide Web. This group is committed to promoting a high degree of usability ("Universal Web Accessibility," 2000, p. 6).
In 1997, the W3C developed a Web Accessibility International Program Office (WAI) that was funded by the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation. The WAI promotes accessibility through five primary approaches: technology; guidelines; tools; education and outreach; and research and development ("Universal Web Accessibility," 2000). Former President Clinton said, The Web has the potential to be one of technologys greatest creators of opportunity, bringing the resources of the world directly to all people, but this can only be done if the Web is designed in a way that enables everyone to use it (Mates, 2000). The W3C guidelines will aid in accessible usage of the WWW.
According to Olson, the Web Accessibility Initiative guidelines call for Web sites to be designed with certain modes that could make modifications for commercial Web sites frustrating, time consuming, and costly. Following these recommendations could involve a complete Web site overhaul (Olson, 2000). For simpler Web site designs, only minor changes may be needed to make them more accessible. If [accessibility] hasnt been part of the front end, if it has to be retrofit and put on, as opposed to being part of the original design its usually more expensive, said Paul McQuade, a government contracts attorney with Greenberg Traurig, in McLean, Va., who works closely with companies affected by the new law (Vaas, 2001, p. 5). To convey information effectively, a Web designer needs to design the Web site with the user in mind. It cannot be over emphasized that designers must understand that in order to avoid problems and expenses in the future they must build Web sites for accessibility now. Otherwise the law may cause enormous problems later.
Having identified several important issues from the literature review, the researcher was interested in the extent of Web accessibility awareness that existed at the University of South Alabama. Faculty and staff members at the University of South Alabama were interviewed to determine their perceptions of Web accessibility issues for persons with disabilities. Nine faculty and staff members were interviewed: Dr. John Strange, Dr. Michael Hanna, Dr. Richard Daughenbaugh, Jean Tucker, Pat Miller, David Speed, Anna Burgamy, Jim Kotis III, and Bernita Pulmas.
The University of South Alabama faculty members interviewed for this project knew very little about Web accessibility even though six of the nine faculty members interviewed teach or design Web sites. Of the three remaining faculty members interviewed, one is the Universitys lawyer, one works with students with disabilities, and one works with International students. Seven out of the nine faculty members interviewed responded No to the question, Do you know what Web accessibility is? Two faculty members seemed aware of the term but wanted more clarification.
The researcher spoke with Bermita Pulmas, Director of Special Student Services, concerning several questions regarding the number of Universitys students with disabilities (Appendix C). She provided statistics for the students with disabilities registered with the Office of Special Student Services at the University of South Alabama (Appendix D). Pulmas also called attention to the statement in the Universitys Schedule of Classes bulletin that acknowledges Disabled Student Services. The statement reads:
The University of South Alabama complies with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disability Act. No otherwise qualified disabled person, solely on the basis of disability, will be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination in the administration of any educational program or activity including admission or access thereto or in treatment or employment therein by the University of South Alabama (University of South Alabama, Fall 2000, p.8).
An interview with the Universitys attorney, Jean W. Tucker, confirmed as expected that the University would comply with the Web accessibility guidelines which fall under the American Disabilities Act concerning public accommodations, if applicable (Appendix E).
James C. Kotis III, Universitys Web Services manager, said that he is interested in this research and he is willing to implement necessary changes to the Universitys existing Web site in order to become Web accessible. Kotis is also interested in hosting a page that explains Web accessibility and links to resources that would help those interested in Web accessibility.
Eugene Sullivan, Senior Librarian at the University of South Alabama, was also helpful. He is a user of ZoomText. A computer workstation with ZoomText should be in place at the Universitys library by late spring 2001.
Other resources used to gain further information on issues relating to Web accessibility included attendance at the Web Accessibility Conference ("Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education," 2000) where the researcher met Cynthia Waddell, a well known author on Web accessibility; an online Web accessibility course taught by Paul Boham; a phone conversation with James Bullock of the Mobile Association For The Blind; a meeting with Steven Sullivan of the Alabama Institute for the Blind; a visit with Keri Brown at the Augusta Evans Special School; and a demonstration of JAWS by Brad Martin of WHIL radio station.
The most informative and beneficial interview obtain during this research involved a meeting with Ron and Paula Thompson of Adaptive Solutions, Inc. This company focuses on creating solutions for computer and WWW accessibility. Ron Thompson, owner of Adaptive Solutions Inc., is blind and is a proficient user of the screen reader, JAWS. After an explanation of this project, Thompson generously had his company install two-screen readers, JAWS and ZoomText, on the testing computer station. The testing station will be returned to Adaptive Solutions to have these programs uninstalled when the testing has been completed.
After conducting many interviews, the researcher concluded that action was necessary in order to have the University of South Alabamas Web site accessible by spring, 2001. The need for accessibility is due partly to the Universitys newly adopted Student Computer Equipment and Software Requirements Policy.
After choosing the topic, Web accessibility, the researcher collected over 40 resources. The literature evaluated pertained to persons with disabilities, research, Web design, legal issues, and hardware and software. An analysis of the literature was performed and questions were developed.
In analyzing literature and interviews the researcher formed an hypothesis. To test the hypothesis the researcher used the method of correlated-samples design of repeated measures, pre/post measures. This method was chosen because it allowed the researcher to compile a standard benchmark of performance on the original Web site to be tested. A random sample of students with visual disabilities was selected for this study. The task performance scores measure the variable (ability to access the Web site) in this study. An alpha level of .001 was used for the statistical tests.
H0: The mean task performance scores after treatment A is equal to the mean task performance scores before treatment A. The treatment is the changes made to the International Programs and Developments Web site based on Web accessibly guidelines.
H0: u after treatment u before treatment = 0
H1: The mean task performance scores after treatment A is not equal to the mean task performance scores before treatment A.
H1: u after treatment u before treatment / 0
Developing a Plan (top)
After conducting the literature review, conducting initial interviews, and setting forth an hypothesis, the researcher developed a detailed plan for the study.
The researchers thought process in planning this study included some testing tool ideas that Pearrow (2000) recommends for his usability testing:
· Describe the purpose of the Web site. The researchers testing Web site delivers information to people who are interested in participating in the International programs. The Web site is colorfully attractive and information based.
· Target the intended audience. The primary audience of the researchers Web test site is the students at the University of South Alabama. The secondary audience consists of parents, faculty, staff and extended community.
· Describe the reason for conducting the test. The purpose of testing the Web site is to see if entry pages from the University of South Alabamas home page to the International Programs and Developments Web site and the International Programs and Development's Web site comply with the Web accessibility guidelines set by the W3C.
· How will the tests effectiveness be measured? The researcher planned to test the effectiveness of the specific task performed in the study by a setting a criteria scale of 5 to 1 (5 being the highest).
· Have the study beta tested. The researchers purpose for testing the study prior to implementation was to eliminate problems that might create an invalid test.
These were questions that the researcher wanted answered:
· Can the user navigate easily?
· Can the user easily locate a specific departments Web site?
· Can a screen reader interpret the Web site intelligently and completely?
This is a list of materials the researcher needed for the study:
· Access to a Web site for modifications- The International Programs and Development Web site http://www.southalabama.edu/intlprograms/index.htm was used.
· Computer workstation with speakers- 486 PC with a 12 inch monitor, Windows 95, ergonomical keyboard and trackball mouse (researchers computer).
· Screen Reader software installed- JAWS for Windows 3.7 and ZoomText XTRA 7.0 (from Adaptive Solutions, Inc.).
· Web browser- Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.
· Internet access- T1 connection (University provided).
· Quiet room- A space was used in the computer lab of the Student Center at the University of South Alabama.
· Comfortable chair- The chair was adequate.
· Notebook for scoring and comments- A notebook was used to keep a record.
· Written task if needed- Six tasks to be performed were written (Appendix G).
Task List (top)
The researcher wrote a short narrative (background information) to be used for the pretest and posttest study. This text would help eliminate discrepancies between test and students.
Participants would be told that the researcher was working on a study for Web Accessibility. It was explained that some screen readers could not make sense of the format or coding of Web pages. Therefore, their participation in this study could benefit their use of the University of South Alabamas Web site. It was also mentioned that the overall usability of Web sites might become easier.
Evaluation Measures (top)
The researcher observed each participant performing the tasks and gave each participant a score for their performance. The criteria used for scoring were:
Criteria for scoring. (5 is the highest possible score for each task)
5 No problems completing task, first attempt
4 Some problems completing task, first attempt
3 Some problems completing task, two attempts
2 Difficulty with task, three attempts
1 Could not complete the task
In addition, the researcher adopted two sets of criteria for evaluating Web page accessibility:
Criteria for Dreamweaver.
The researcher set compliance with all 15 items in the Web accessibility checker extension provided as a part of Dreamweaver as the objective to be met in the Dreamweaver accessibility test (See p. 27).
Criteria for BOBBY.
The researcher set compliance with all Priority I Level requirements as the objective for BOBBY tests. In addition, compliance with as many Priority Level II and III requirements as possible with detailed description of requirements not met and reasons for non-compliance provided was also established as a goal.
The main aspect of this study involved four parts: the first part, the pre-test, observed students with visual disabilities while performing six simple tasks on the testing computer station (Appendix G). These tasks explored the difficulty or ease of navigating a portion of the Universitys Web site and The International Programs and Developments Web site. A questionnaire was presented to the students prior to the pretest to gather background information (Appendix F). The second part of this study involved redesigning the test Web site using the software program, Dreamweaver. The third component involved validating the newly redesigned test Web site using several nationally accepted validation programs, including Dreamweaver and BOBBY. The posttest was the last part of this study. The activity included the same tasks performed in part one, with the same students, but occurred after modifications had been made to the test Web site on the Universitys server (Available: http://www.southalabama.edu/intlprograms/).
The researcher tried to control as many factors as possible, leaving the modified Web site as the variable.
A random sample of eight University of South Alabama students was chosen from a population of 15 students. The members of this population, who are visually impaired, are registered with Special Student Services at the University of South Alabama for the school year 2000. Permission to conduct this study was granted by the Institutional Review Board (permission number M1223-01, see Appendix B). Permission to contact these students was also obtained from Special Student Services.
Some procedures and problems in developing this study included determining what questions to ask and what tasks should be preformed for the pretest and posttest. To help finalize the development of the pretest and posttest study, the researcher asked a fellow student to participate in a beta test for this study. Problems with task order and wording were found and corrected. Other issues also had to be addressed prior to the pretest: what equipment to use, where to conduct the testing, and what screen reader to use. The University did not have an acceptable computer to use for this study, so one had to be located. Due to software conflicts, two other screen readers (JAWS and ZoomText) were used instead of the intended screen reader, e-Reader from Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST). And because a dial up analog modem could not be used in the testing room, the researcher had to find another location. This last issue came to light during the pretest of the first student. Because of time limitations, a unique solution (use of hard drive) applies to this single case.
Overview for pretest.
· Participants were asked to first complete a short survey.
· Participants were asked if they had used a screen reader before.
· If the answer was yes, participants had the choice of using JAWS or ZoomText (one that they were already familiar with so that there would be no learning curve) or none.
· Then the task sheet (Appendix G) was explained to them and any questions were answered.
· Participants were told that there were no time restrictions.
· Participants began the tasks when they were ready.
Start state for pretest.
The pretest was conducted between February 5 and February 9, 2001. The researcher greeted the participants and gave participants an overview of testing procedures and the reasons for undertaking this study. Participants were informed that a code number would be assigned to them and their names would not be disclosed. Before beginning their task, the participants were asked to complete a short questionnaire (Appendix F). The six tasks were explained to each participant and questions were encouraged before they began the pretest. Two participants, due to their visual disabilities, needed each task read to them one at a time.
All participants began their task with Microsoft Internet Explorer launched and the Web page opened to the International Programs and Developments home page. (Because their first task was to open Souths home page, this reference point only affirmed where they would go later.)
The researcher observed each participant, made notes concerning their reactions, and gave each participant a score based on his or her performance according to evaluation criteria established before this study began. When the pretest tasks were completed, the participants were allowed to comment. These comments were recorded. The participants were thanked and given a box of Cracker Jacks as a token of appreciation. They were reminded that they would be contacted again in one month for posttesting. In order not to influence posttesting, the researcher did not tally a final score for participants until the entire study had been completed.
The researcher reviewed comments from participants, notes on observed performance of students in the pretest, and the responses to the questionnaire. Based on these three sources of information and Dreamweaver's accessibility checklist, the researcher began to identify problems that inhibited the usability and accessibility of the University of South Alabamas home page of the Universitys Web site along with two other University Web pages. The Universitys home page is the main entry to the International Programs and Development departments Web site, which was used in this study.
One of the problems discovered was the need for the navigation to be at the top of each Web page in order to cut down on excessive scrolling. Other problems included the need for larger fonts and buttons; an index or table of contents; a help button; and the removal of bright neon colors and flashing banners. Also, one participant reported that parts of the Web site were clumsy and needed a simpler design. Dreamweaver was then used to redesign a portion of the University of South Alabamas Web site and the International Programs and Developments Web test site.
Dreamweaver is a Macromedia product and includes a Web accessibility checker extension that can be downloaded and installed as a Dreamweaver component. This became an invaluable tool in testing and validating Web pages. This extension checks each Web page according to a list of Web accessibility items. The list follows (Dreamweaver, 2000):
1. Checking for missing ALT tags
2. Checking for missing NOSCRIPT tags in pages with scripts
3. Checking for Style Sheets
4. Checking for Absolute Units
5. Checking for missing List parents
6. Checking for Blink tags
7. Checking for Meta Refresh tags
8. Checking for click here links
9. Checking for window open0 calls
10. Checking for missing Lang attribute on HTML tag
11. Checking for missing Tabindex attributes
12. Checking for redundant image map links
13. Checking for missing Summary attributes on table tags
14. Checking for missing ABBR attributes on TH tags
15. Checking for empty values on text fields
A report is then generated informing the user of problems that exist in the code. The report also provides hyperlinks to the W3C guidelines and Technical specifications.
Once Dreamweaver had validated all of the Web pages, a second validation program was used. This program is called BOBBY version 3.2. BOBBY, an online automated tool, is designed to test, rate, and analyze Web sites for Web accessibility problems (Available: http://www.cast.org/bobby). This service is provided by the Center for Applied Special Technology (Technology, 1996). There are three levels to this test defined by the Web Access Initiative: Priority Level I, Priority Level II, and Priority Level III (W3C, 1999). BOBBY can be used online to check one Web page at a time or a free copy can be downloaded which will allow multiple pages to be checked at once. BOBBY was updated in late 2000 and is an excellent tool for checking validation for Priority levels. Two other validation programs were also used in this study, WAVE (Available: http://www.temple.edu/inst_disabilities/piat/wave/doc/index.html) and W3Cs HTML Validation Service (Available: http://validator.w3.org). Most of the changes made in this project were based on Dreamweaver and BOBBY results.
To determine the degree of accessibility to the Universitys Web site, tests were performed on several Web pages of the University of South Alabama by submitting them to BOBBY.
After the validation test had been completed, the results were sorted and analyzed to evaluate what changes were necessary to make the Universitys home page along with two other University Web pages and the International Programs and Developments Web site Web accessible. Steps included interpretation of the reports from BOBBY, WAVE, and W3Cs HTML Validation; comparisons of these reports to the guidelines from the W3C; consideration of feasible modifications; and consultation with two University of South Alabama professors. Changes were then implemented on the Office of International Programs and Developments Web test site on the University of South Alabamas server (Office of International Programs and Development, 2001).
Overview for posttest.
· Participants had the choice of using JAWS, ZoomText or none.
· The task sheet then was explained to them, noting the tab key modifications and the Web Contents link (Appendix G).
· Questions were answered.
· Participants were told that there were no time restrictions.
· Participants began the tasks when they were ready.
Start state for posttest.
All participants began their task with Microsoft Internet Explorer launched and the Web page opened to the International Programs and Developments home page. (Because their first task was to open Souths home page, this reference point only affirmed where they would go later.)
The posttest was conducted between March 5 and March 9, 2001. The researcher again greeted the participants and gave participants an overview of testing procedures. The same six tasks used in the pretest were again explained to each participant but this time they were prompted to use the tab key. (A TABINDEX tag had been inserted into the HTML code for easier access.) Again some participants, due to blindness, needed each task read to them one at a time.
The researcher observed each participant, made notes concerning their reactions and gave each a score based on his or her performance according to evaluation criteria established before this study began. When the posttest tasks were completed, the participants were asked to comment. These comments were recorded. The participants were thanked and given an Easter egg filled with candy as a token of appreciation.
Results from this study were complied and analyzed using data from all sources. Conclusions and recommendations drawn from this study will be presented to the University of South Alabamas manager of Web Services, James C. Kotis III. The researcher will offer assistance in implementing changes to the Universitys Web pages so that they will meet standards set by the World Wide Web Consortium Web Accessibility Initiative (W3C, 1999). This research paper will also be sent to Nancy Schick, CAST, Inc., as a result of a prior agreement that allowed the researcher to use eReader software for this study.
One limitation of this study is the fact that only six out of the eight students in the random sample came to take the pretest. One of the six (totally blind) was so frustrated after making her way down some long steep steps that led to the door of the Student Center that she did not agree to take the test after arriving at the test site. Five students in the random sample did complete the study. Another USA student with low vision was asked to participate and joined the study. In all, six students completed this study.
Due to some technical difficulties during pre-testing, one student could not perform the first of the sequenced tasks and another student could not perform the last task.
The small-12 inch monitor also seemed to present a problem to some of the participants using the screen reader, ZoomText. This did not hinder the study because the same monitor was used during posttest.
The International Programs and Developments Web site and a few pages duplicated from Souths Web site were tested using a PC, with Windows 95 and Microsoft Internet Explorer 5. Other platforms and browsers were not included in this study.
Statistical Analyses from Study
Pretest and posttest study.
(Correlated-samples design of repeated measures)
Based on the statistical data, the researcher can confidently say that the findings clearly support that Web accessibility modifications to Web sites do make a significant difference.
The students selected for participation in this study were selected from a random sample of students who were visually impaired and who had a need to access the Internet and the University of South Alabamas Web site.
· Out of a population of 15 registered students with visual disabilities at the University of South Alabama, a random sample was selected: 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, (8, 10, 13 backup)(0 was an additional participant).
Tables Not available online at this time
Tables 2 and 5
Final Reports from BOBBY
BOBBY is a critical research instrument that tests whether or not a Web site meets Priority Level guidelines set by the Web Accessibility Initiative.
The modified Web site pages that are a part of this project passed all Priority Level I guidelines as assessed by BOBBY. Some passed all three levels. Most pages had a Priority 2 problem (separate adjacent links with more than whitespace) that could be fixed if sufficient time were available. One Priority 2 issue remains unclear to the researcher. This problem involves the recommendation: Group long lists of selections into a hierarchy using the OPTGROUP tag. It refers to the drop-down menu on the Universitys home page. The OPTGROUP tag allows access devices to expand and collapse grouped items like an outline. The researcher tried the example given by BOBBY but was unable to make it work. The researcher did implement the TABINDEX tag into the drop-down menu and as a result JAWS and ZoomText can access and read the menu.
Discussion and Recommended Guidelines
The findings of this study reveal that a need exists for Web designers to provide Web access to Web sites. By taking the first steps in providing at least Priority Level I access, the Web designer can design a Web site that benefits a larger audience and keeps the end-user from being locked out of the Internet. The researcher endorses the W3C guidelines and recommends the following technical tips.
Recommended Technical Tips (top)
· CSS- Cascading style sheets are especially helpful in consistently formatting Web pages. They provide flexibility and ease in controlling the Web site.
· Top Navigation- This study shows that consistent navigation residing on the top of Web pages allows easier access and less confusion.
· Web Contents (site map)-Having a Table of Contents in a book is very helpful because it allows the reader to skim his or her interests. Creating a Web Contents page can have the same benefit. Directions on how to use contents may be needed.
· Color- Color is an important tool to a Web designer. Use it wisely for design effects and breaking up text. Also remember to use high contrast and non-florescent colors.
· No Animation- Some people with photosensitive epilepsy can have a seizure if animation is too fast or flashy. Refrain from animation or slow it down whenever possible.
· No Flashing- Refrain from flashing text because some screen readers get stuck in a loop reading the flashing text over and over again.
· High Contrast- Keep Web pages simple without distracting backgrounds and use high contrast between background and foreground.
· Relative Font Sizes- Set font sizes using em, ex, and percent. These font descriptions are recommended because they provide flexibility in browsers and adaptive hardware and software.
· No Horizontal Scrolling- Most users would prefer not to scroll horizontally. It takes away from the design and causes some printing problems. This study shows that horizontal scrolling presents a major problem for persons using ZoomText, which enlarges the screen. This results in many horizontal scrolls unless the designer takes steps to avoid such a situation. When any user is forced to scroll horizontally to read a sentence or paragraph, the task is much harder. The difficulty is multiplied in the case of the persons with disabilities.
· Do Not Auto Refresh Screen- Persons with disabilities usually perform at a slower rate than others. If the user is not finished tabbing through a Web page or checking out links with JAWS, the user has to start over again if the screen automatically refreshes.
· Do Not Auto Start Selections- Do not automatically initiate an action when a selection is made in a drop down menu. Require a separate event since some screen readers must select an action in order to read it to the user. This causes enormous frustration if an action is started without a specific request for such action on the part of a user.
W3C/WAI Guidelines-Priority 1 Checkpoints (top)
There are specific techniques to be used in order for a Web page code to meet Priority Level requirements. Some techniques are listed in the following tag/attributes examples, which follows the W3C Priority Level I checklist.
1.1 Provide a text equivalent for every non-text element (e.g., via "alt", "longdesc", or in element content). This includes images, graphical representations of text (including symbols), image map regions, animations (e.g., animated GIFs), applets and programmatic objects, ASCII art, frames, scripts, images used as list bullets, spacers, graphical buttons, sounds (played with or without user interaction), stand-alone audio files, audio tracks of video, and video.
2.1 Ensure that all information conveyed with color is also available without color, for example [use the] context or markup [to convey the information conveyed by color].
4.1 Clearly identify changes in the natural language of a document's text and any text equivalents (e.g., captions).
6.1 Organize documents so they may be read without style sheets. For example, when an HTML document is rendered without associated style sheets, it must still be possible to read the document.
6.2 Ensure that equivalents for dynamic content are updated when the dynamic content changes.
7.1 Until user agents allow users to control flickering, avoid causing the screen to flicker.
14.1 Use the clearest and simplest language appropriate for a site's content.
1.2 Provide redundant text links for each active region of a server-side image map.
9.1 Provide client-side image maps instead of server-side image maps except where the regions cannot be defined with an available geometric shape.
5.1 For data tables, identify row and column headers.
5.2 For data tables that have two or more logical levels of row or column headers, use markup to associate data cells and header cells.
12.1 Title each frame to facilitate frame identification and navigation.
6.3 Ensure that pages are usable when scripts, applets, or other programmatic objects are turned off or not supported. If this is not possible, provide equivalent information on an alternative accessible page.
1.3 Until user agents can automatically read aloud the text equivalent of a visual track, provide an auditory description of the important information of the visual track of a multimedia presentation.
1.4 For any time-based multimedia presentation (e.g., a movie or animation), synchronize equivalent alternatives (e.g., captions or auditory descriptions of the visual track) with the presentation.
11.4 If, after best efforts, you cannot create an accessible page, provide a link to an alternative page that uses W3C technologies, is accessible, has equivalent information (or functionality), and is updated as often as the inaccessible (original) page.
Tag/attributes Examples. (Adapted from the W3C/WAI Priority Checklist)
The W3C/WAI Priority checklist also provides numerous examples of coding, which should be reviewed by all Web designers attempting to address accessibility and usability issues in their Web sites.
Alt- The alt tag is used to describe an image.
<IMG SRC="chart.gif" ALT="Chart of cash flow for each month">
Longdesc- The longdesc tag is used for a lengthy description of an image. This requires a link to a separate page describing the image.
<IMG SRC="chart.gif" ALT="Chart of cash flow for each month"
Title- Title your pages to make sense.
<TITLE>How to use Form Solutions Inc. Web site</TITLE>
Lang- Identify language in document
Summary- The "TABLE" element should contain a summary attribute that describes the purpose and structure of the table.
<TABLE border="border" summary="This table reports the number of cups of coffee consumed by each senator, the type of coffee, and whether sugar is added or not."> </TABLE>
Caption- Captions help users understand tables.
<TABLE border="border" summary="This table reports the number of cups of coffee consumed by each senator, the type of coffee, (decaf or regular) and whether sugar is added or not.">
<CAPTION> Cups of coffee consumed by each senator </CAPTION>
<!table cells here-- >
Tabindex- The tabindex attribute is used for specifying the tabbing order among links or form controls.
<A href="search.html" tabindex=1>
<INPUT tabindex="2" type="text" name="field1">
Label- A label is used for tables and form fields. A specific form control through the use of the "for" attribute is required. The value of the "for" attribute must be the same as the value of the "id" attribute of the form control.
<FORM action=http://somesite.com/foo method="get">
<LABEL for ="name">Name:</LABEL>
<INPUT type="test" id="name" size="50">
Fieldset- The fieldset element is used to group form controls.
<FORM action=http://somesite.com/adduser method="post">
<LEGEND> Personal information</LEGEND>
<LABEL for="firstname">First name:</LABEL>
<INPUT type="text" id="firstname" tabindex="1">
<LABEL for="lastname">Last name:</LABEL>
<INPUT type="text" id="lastname" tabindex="2">
<LEGEND> Medical History</LEGEND>
<!-- Medical history information -- >
Blockquote- Blockquote and Q are used to mark up quotations.
As she walked up she said, "<Q>Hi, my name is Natasha.</Q>"
<P> Remuneration! O! Thats the Latin word for three farthings.
--- William Shakespeare (Loves Labor Lost). </P>
Accesskey- Accesskey is used to add keyboard shortcuts to frequently used links or form elements. On Windows system hold down the Alt key while pressing the letter to access. On Macintosh systems use the Command key.
<A accesskey="C" href="doc.html">XYZ company home page</A>
<FORM action="submit" method="post">
<LABEL FOR="user" ACCESSKEY="U">user name</LABEL>
<INPUT TYPE="text" ID="user">
<INPUT TYPE="radio" NAME="sex" ID="male">
Suggested Research (top)
More research is needed, especially for persons with disabilities other than visual in nature. Research in cognitive disabilities and how they relate to Web access and usage would certainly be helpful. The researcher found little information regarding this issue.
Another recommendation is that University libraries conduct studies to obtain specific solutions to their specific needs regarding persons with disabilities in research and Web access. Some research was found relating to libraries. It would also be interesting to know how many Universities and University libraries comply with Web accessible standards.
Further testing needs to be prepared with different browsers interfaces and different platforms. When using version 4.5 of Microsoft Internet Explorer on a Macintosh computer, the researcher noticed that some tags did not work as they had done on the PC testing station.
Others who could benefit from additional research are: Web developers, developers of software for Web designers, and developers of assistive technologies who should continually update their products.
Through the course of this research on Web accessibility, the researcher found at least three updates for standard guidelines and laws. Because technology continually changes, it is recommended that further research on Web accessibility continue in order to stay current with these changes and legal developments. Whether you are a business, a developer, a University, or a user, Web accessibility can only improve if we all work together to increase our access to this global resource.
Our world has evolved from sign language to a text-based language and presently an icon language. We have become a Webbed nation, dependent on emerging technologies, especially the Internet. People all around the world use the Internet to increase their abilities in communication, research, and job performance. We depend on the advancements of technology to increase our social and economic lives.
Most of us advance, but others do not due to the lack of accessibility to electronic information. There are many groups that make up this digital divide. Some include the poor and some include persons with disabilities. The focus of this project is centered on persons with visually disabilities, the visually impaired and the blind.
You might ask, How can persons with visual disabilities use the computer or access the Web? They can and they do! People with visual disabilities sometimes use adaptive technology, like screen readers, to read them the information on a Web page. These screen readers are software programs that are dependent on the HTML code that is used to create Web pages.
When screen readers do not work, the problem most often is the result of improper coding. When images and other elements on a Web page are not labeled properly, the screen reader cannot read them. Take for example, a navigation bar designed as an image. The screen reader will not see this image but will recognize the presence of links. So the user will hear the screen reader say, Link, Link, Link, Link. The user does not know which link to follow.
Design problems are another issue that can cause inaccessible Web pages. An example of a design problem would be a Web page organized into two columns, with text in both columns. The screen reader reads in a linear manner. When information is read back to the user, the first line of text is read from the first column, then the first line of text is read from the second column and so forth. The user is confused. The result is the same whether the cause is incorrect code or inappropriate design. The user does not receive the intended message.
There is a simple solution to these problems. There is a group called the Web Accessibility Initiative in partnership with the World Wide Web Consortium, better known as the W3C. They have set forth guidelines to aid in Web page development.
There are also validation programs, such as BOBBY, that can check your Web pages for accessibility problems and direct you to the specific W3C rule. In addition Dreamweaver, a program widely used by Web designers, now has the capability for checking Web pages for improper accessibility coding.
The researcher conducted a study that involved six students from the University of South Alabama. These students are visually impaired or blind. The researcher asked the participants to perform six simple tasks using the International Programs and Development Web site and the home page, index page, and a Special Courses form page from the University of South Alabama Web site. Then these Web pages were modified to comply with the Web Accessibility guidelines. Approximately 30 days after the first test, the researcher had the same students perform the same six tasks on the modified Web site. The results were outstanding. All six students showed a significant improvement in accessing the modified Web site. If similar modifications were made to the entire University of South Alabama Web site, significant improvement in accessibility and usability would result.
The benefits from this study could be crucial to the University of South Alabama because a new policy is being implemented in the fall of 2001. This policy will require all students to have Internet access. If this policy is enforced, then the University should, in the authors opinion, make its Web site accessible to all students.
Also under the American with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, the University may be required to update their Web site to comply with the W3C Web Accessibility guidelines.
If disability is a permanent or temporary restriction on the use of sight, sound, color, or motor skills, we can all be affectedand our disability will increase as we age (Lescher, 2000). Our world has become digitally divided and if we dont act now, then the separation will widen and we will no longer be a United nation.
Web designers can initiate technological compatibility by evaluating and formatting resources to correct Web accessibility problems (Sprague, 1999) using the guidelines released by the W3C. These guidelines are essential for Web site development.
Some Appendices not available online at this time (top)
Tables 1,3, and 4
Request and Approval From Institutional Review Board (not available)
1. Do you know what Web Accessibility means?
2. Do you think that the University of South Alabamas server should be accessible to all students?
3. How many students attend the University of South Alabama?
4. How many University students are registered disabled?
5. What kinds of disabilities do the Universitys students have?
6. How many students are visually impaired and have learning disabilities?
7. How many students with disabilities access the Web?
8. How many students with disabilities use adaptive technology to help them access the Web?
9. How many students with disabilities have problems navigating and accessing information on the Universitys Web site?
Other Questions for People Outside the University
· What provisions do you provide for people to access the Web?
· What problems do you encounter?
· What can web designers do to help make Web sites more accessible?
Number of USA Students (2000), by Disability
1. Wheelchair- 3
2. Cerebral Palsy- 2
3. Hearing Impairment- 7
4. Visual Impairment- 15
5. Specific Learning Disability/ADHA- 266
6. Substance Abuse- 5
7. Mobility Impairment- 18
8. Head Injury/Traumatic Brain Injury- 13
9. Psychiatric/Psychological Disorders- 23
10. Other/Physical- 190
11. Epilepsy- 4
Interview Questions for USAs Attorney
1. Does the University and/or its members know about the problem of Web accessibility?
2. How does the University view the legal implications that surround the American Disability Act concerning public accommodations and Web accessibility?
3. Does the University have any data on this matter? (Ex. Yes, a & b; Follow with what about c,d,e questions)
4. What research can the University afford to obtain if more data is needed? (time or money to pursue legal investigation of law and continual compliance)
5. If changes are necessary to make the Web server accessible to all students, what schedule could the University follow?
6. Who is responsible for the policies concerning the Universitys server?
7. If USAs policy requires students to access the Internet, what provisions will be made for the student with disabilities?
8. Does the Library provide adaptive technology for disabled students to access the Web?
Questionnaire for Students with Disabilities
What is your sex? CIRCLE ONE (Male or Female)
What is your age?
What is your school status? CIRCLE ONE (Freshmen, Sophomore, Junior, Senior)
What is your disability?
How long have you been diagnosed with this disability?
Do you own a computer?
Can you type?
Do you have previous computer experience?
Do you access the Internet?
Do you use e-mail?
Do you use any special hardware or software (like a screen reader) to access the Internet?
Do you have any problems navigating or accessing information on the Universitys Web site? If YES, please explain.
Thank you for your participation!
Task for Students with Disabilities
Students can choose a screen reader (Jaws, ZoomText or none) if they are familiar with one. Browser will be Internet Explorer 5.
TASK FOR STUDENTS
Posttest participants were asked to use the tab key and the Web contents link to complete these tasks:
1. Open USAs Web site by typing in this URL address www.southalabama.edu and press enter.
2. Find the index link and press enter.
3. Find INTERNATIONAL PROGRAMS AND DEVELOPMENTS Web page.
4. Locate courses to be studied abroad.
5. Send an email telling us which course appeals to you.
6. Find the Registration test form on Special Courses located on www.southalabama.edu/intlprograms/testform.htm page. FILL it out and send it.
Thank you for your participation!
Test Results from BOBBY Before Modifications (not available)
Test Results from BOBBY After Modifications (not available)
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98-2046, 11-99-2055 & 11-99-2142, [World Wide Web]. ICDRI. Available:
http://www.icdri.org/north_carolina_state_university_letter.htm [2001, January 23].
Vaas, L. (2001). Disability laws take flight: Regulations make Web sites be more
accessible, eWeek, [World Wide Web]. Available:
http://www.zdnet.com/eweek/stories/general/0,11011,2690593,00.html [2001, March 9].
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Commerce Washington DC.
Week of Hours Tasks
Oct 31 32 Attended the Web Accessibility Conference
Gathered information and resources.
Dec 11 15 Met with advisor and began general reading.
Dec 18 15 Continued reading and compiling sources.
Read W3C Guidelines.
Met with advisor and reviewed project.
Jan 8 15 Read legal and Web design literature.
Looked for a form (any form) on the University of South Alabama Web site.
Jan 15 40 Met with advisor to discuss strategies.
General reading. Set up appointments.
Conducted Beta testing. Met with Bernita Pulmas, Pam Horner, David Speed, and Ana Burgamy. Contacted students for study.
Jan 22 40 Interviewed attorney and tested Web site.
Installed eReader on test machine.
Contacted Mobile Association for the Blind (Mr. Bullock); met with advisor; Ron Thompson, Adaptive Solutions, Inc.; and Keri Brown, Evans Augusta Special School.
Jan 29 30 Adaptive Solutions installed software.
Received training on Jaws and ZoomText
(screenreaders). Worked with screenreaders and met with Dr. Mollise and advisor. Prepared and set up testing computer at South. Called students reminding them of their appointments for study.
Feb 5 30 Set-up testing computer in different
location at the University of South Alabama. Conducted pretest for students with disabilities and met with advisor.
Feb 12 30 Analyzed research and evaluated guidelines.
Met with Ana Burgamy and began modifications to Web site. Met with advisor to discussed pretest and met with Dr. Hannum. Also met with Steven Sullivan, Alabama Institute for the Blind.
Feb 19 15 Continued modifications to Web site and
met with advisor to update progress.
Feb 26 30 Matched guidelines to the Universitys
Web site and modified Web site. Met with advisor and Pat Miller about technical issues.
Mar 5 20 Ran posttest for students with disabilities.
(tested modified Web site) Analyzed research.
Started writing outline and met with advisor.
Mar 12 15 Continued writing paper and met with advisor.
Mar 19 30 Met with advisor and Dr. Mollise.
Continued rewrite of first draft.
Mar 26 30 Met with Dr. Hannum and Dr. Mollise.
Began rewrite for second draft.
Met with advisor.
Apr 2 20 Met with advisor and Brad Martin
(a JAWS user at WHIL). Continued rewriting.
Apr 9 15 Worked on third draft and met with advisor.
Apr 16 15 Met with advisor and worked on final paper.
Turned in paper to Dr. Hammun, Apr 20.
Prepare for presentation on Apr 23.
TOTAL HOURS 437
Jeannine Griffin, AIS student
John H. Strange, Ph.D., College of Education, and Senior Project Advisor
 Indicates actual participants of the completed study.
 Priority 1 checkpoints are extracted from http://www.w3.org/TR/WAI-WEBCONTENT/fulchecklist.html. Please use this link for Priority II and Priority III Levels.
The numbers preceding the techniques listed are links (on W3C's Web site) to additional relevant information.
 Specifications on HTML coding for Web accessibility available: http://www.cast.org/bobby/html/gls/g240.html