Creating Accessible Web Pages And Mobile Apps Made Easy
According to estimates, at least 44 million people with disabilities in the EU have to overcome unnecessary barriers to using the Internet. This is due to the fact that, apart from a few public administration websites, most web pages are not (fully) accessible. To improve the situation, the EU Commission provided about 2.1 million € funding for the WADcher project coordinated by Fraunhofer FIT. WADcher will develop a platform and tools for automatically or semi-automatically evaluating the accessibility of Websites and mobile apps. Standardized interfaces to Web content management systems will help make new Websites and apps accessible from the start.
People with disabilities are by no means a small minority. The lowest current estimate is some 44 million* people, a little below 13 percent of the EU population. If people with minor or age-related disabilities are included, the number almost doubles: According to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, there are about 80 million people with disabilities in the EU.
If the effects of the ageing society are factored in, work towards an accessible Internet is money well spent from a social as well as from an economic point of view. Also, the 2016 European Web Accessibility Directive requires public administration agencies and enterprises with a public service remit to offer accessible websites.
By developing a platform with tools for the automatic or semi-automatic evaluation of websites, the European WADcher (Web Accessibility Directive Decision Support Environment) project aims to assist web designers in creating accessible websites.
”In the first step we make available automatic testing tools and their components already developed by the partners in the WADcher project, e.g. Web crawlers, Web rendering engines or markup tools. Beyond that we are developing a decision support environment that will assist Web developers, designers and experts in manual evaluations and will support Website operators in producing, testing and evaluating Website accessibility”, says Dr. Carlos Velasco, coordinator of the WADcher project and head of the Web Compliance Center of Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology FIT.
The decision support environment will aggregate the findings of automatic evaluation and supports, where necessary, additional manual tests of Web pages. The project also plans to develop ‚observatory tools‘ for long-term monitoring of dynamic Websites, which will visualize the results of automatic and manual tests in evaluation reports.
Another important objective is to develop standardized interfaces to the WADcher platform, which will let existing Web content management system link up easily. Thus development environments that are widely used today to design and implement Web pages or mobile apps will be able to produce accessible results right away without later corrections.
Fraunhofer FIT coordinates the R&D work of the WADcher project consortium. Further project partners include: The National Microelectronics Applications Centre Ltd. (Ireland), Consiglio Nazionale Delle Ricerche (Italy), Hilfsgemeinschaft der Blinden und Sehschwachen Österreichs (Austria), Agenzia per L’Italia Digitale (Italy), Dextera Consulting Limited (Cyprus), Ministry of Health (Greece) and Ethniko Kentro Erevnas Kai Technologies Anaptyxis (Greece).
*Eurostat: Disability statistics – barriers to social integration (2015)