An automated test of accessibility was carried out on the home pages of all available Australian Federal Government (Commonwealth) agency web sites. A list of sites was obtained from the A - Z of Government Sites. The list was submitted to the downloadable version of the Bobby test tool. The summary results for Bobby Approved rating, Priority 1 accessibility, Priority 2 accessibility, Priority 3 accessibility and browser compatibility were tabulated. Detailed reports for each web page were not examined, nor were tests made on other than the front (home) page. Five secure web sites were not accessible to the test tool.
In June 2000 ministers from the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments agreed to the adoption of the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines as the common best practice standard for all Australian government websites:
This decision should ensure that people with disabilities or technical constraints can use online resources provided by Australian governments. The Guidelines are widely recognised internationally, and have the support of Australia's Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, disability groups and rural groups.
Adoption of common standards by all Australian governments will promote the confidence of users in online services, and the accessibility of online government information and services. The guidelines set out ways to present information which will enhance access, for example, by providing website material on a text only basis to facilitate the use of screen readers by those with visual impairments, and reducing the use of graphics to enhance download times. <http://www.dcita.gov.au/nsapi-graphics/?MIval=dca_dispdoc&ID=5092>
However, there appears to have been no public reporting of the level of conformance to the standard by Government agencies. An automated test was therefore devised to provide a simple first approximation as to the level of compliance by agencies.
The Bobby test tool was created by the Center for Applied Special Technology to identify changes needed to web pages for users with disabilities. The "Bobby Approved" status checked by the tool is equivalent to Conformance Level A for the W3C Web Content Guidelines. However, it should be noted that this automated test cannot only approximate a full manual examination of each web page. Also only the home page of each web site, that is the single web page listed in the A - Z of Government Sites, was tested. A full analysis would require testing of all pages of each site.
All 611 sites tested acheived Bobby Approval. There were no P1 errors found. Only one site had any P2 errors. All sites but one had a P3 error and a browser error. The exeptional site was the Australian Defence Force Academy <http://www.unsw.adfa.edu.au/> with three P2, two P2 and eighteen Browser errors.
Five secure web sites were not accessible to the test tool:
- Australian Research Council Grant Application Management System (GAMS)
- Employment and Community Services Network (ESN)
- Literacy and Numeracy Programme (LNP)
- Provider Registration and International Students Management System (PRISMS)
- Training and Youth Internet Management System (TYIMS)
It is planned to publish an updated report during 2002.
Automated testing is of benefit and changes could be made to allow the tests to be run routinely:
- Skip dead links: Where a web site fails to respond with a set time (perhaps 60 seconds) the test system could not this and move on.
- Tabulate Access Time: The estimated time it takes a web page to download using a dial up modem and the text to image ratio would be useful measures to add to the tabulated report.
- Tabulate Technology Used: The type of web authoring tool and server technology used for the web site can be obtained automatcially, to see if there is a correlation with accessibility rating or download times.
- Deeper test of each site: More web pages of each site could be tested. While a test of all pages would not appear feasible, perhaps one level of links could be tested.
- Distributed test: The testing of a site could be undertaken by distributed processors, perhaps using the web site's own system or that of a web search engine.
- Check Accessibility Claims: A Bobby logo on the site could be detected and compared with the automated results, to detect false claims of accessibility.
- Crawler search:The bulk test relies on a list of web sites. Where this is not available some form of web crawler, or search engine interface might be used to prepare a list.
- "Automated Benchmarking Of Local Government Web Sites", Brian Kelly, University of Bath, Bath, UK, 2001: http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/conferences/euroweb-2001/wordxp-full-paper/
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Copyright © Tom Worthington 2001.