The COMPARE project
COMPARE (Comparing peer accessibility ratings in evaluation) is a project that documents and compares differences in current evaluation practices of accessibility experts across Europe. It shows best accessibility practices in this online Learning and Exploration module. The partners in the EU-funded Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership are DIAS (DE), Funka (SE) and BrailleNet (FR).
The need for an accessible society
Today, access to online information and services has become a critical requirement for successful inclusion in society. But many digital resources are still not accessible to people with disabilities.
An aging population means that the share of people with disabilities is rising. This, and the digitisation of all parts of society, makes inclusive digital content and services more important than ever.
A new benchmark set by the EU
The EU has recently created a new law that calls for all public web sites and mobile apps across Europe to be accessible for people with disabilities (the Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies , COM/2016/0484 final).
The benchmark for accessibility is set in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) which were developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). As part of the new EU law, the adherence of public web sites and apps to WCAG will need to be evaluated in a uniform manner. The EU is will therefore develop a common evaluation method.
This raises the question about the status quo of accessibility evaluation across Europe. What are the actual differences in EU Member states today?
Diverse accessibility evaluation methods across Europe
Most current accessibility evaluation methods are based on WCAG 2.0 conformance level AA. They are usually defined in more detail on a national or organizational level. It is therefore no surprise that across the spectrum of organisations, many differences exist in the way WCAG success criteria are applied to actual web content. This is partly due to the way the common WCAG success criteria are translated into specific technical checkpoints. Another aspect is that evaluation methods may go beyond WCAG 2.0 to include additional accessibility criteria or usability aspects that are important for people with disabilities.
The COMPARE project has set up a Wiki-based repository of web content and associated accessibility ratings to document actual differences. We want to foster a discussion of rating approaches that can contribute to a consensual rating approach. Expert organisations and individuals from other countries are invited to contribute to the repository.
If you carry out accessibility evaluations and would like to contribute to the COMPARE repository, have a look at the Contribution page. We send login details to anyone who is interested in accessibility and testing according to WCAG - evaluators, developers, but also users with disabilities who would like to contribute usability tests to the web content cases in the repository.
The two ways COMPARE supports learning
The COMPARE project offers two different but connected environments for learning about web accessibility and accesssiblity evaluation:
- The COMPARE repository of web content cases, and
- This Acces & use Learning and Evaluation Module
The COMPARE repository of web content cases
The COMPARE repository is the place where accessibility evaluators and testers as well as designers can look at particular implementations of web content. We call each of these implementations a "case". A case may just be a particular element or construct on a web page, like a drop-down menu, a carousel, a slider control, or a modal dialog. It may also involve the entire page, for example, when looking at ways of structuring a page via landmarks.
How do different people learn by using the repository?
The COMPARE repository offers different things to different groups of people:
- Accessibility evaluators will be interested in how peers in other organisations and countries have rated and commented the accessibility of the cases submitted. The benchmark we use here is WCAG 2.0. Crucially, evaluators can also become contributors (it's free!) and add new cases which they have come across in their own practice. Ohers can step in and rate as well as comment those cases. A picture then emerges how the accessiblity of a particular technical solution is seen across different experts.
- Web authors (developers and designers) may want to find good examples to emulate. They will look at cases which have been identified as "Good practice". The can then link to the actual web content and explore the way it has been implemented.
- Commissioners and project managers that are interested in inclusive design, or "design for all", may want to get inspiration by looking at a range of accessible cases (and the sites they point to). They should also be interested in the results of usability tests by people with disabilities that will be added to the cases over time. Not every case that is technically accessible is also easy to use for all people.
The Access & Use learning and exploration module
The Access & Use learning and exploration module focuses on a small number of important and often used types of content (for example, drop-down navigation menus, tab panels, or modal dialogs). For each element, the Access & Use explains step by step how it works, how it is used in practice, and what makes it fully accessible.
Access & Use focuses on a small range of important elements, one by one, and on a non-technical, easy-to-understand level. Have a look at the components currently covered.
How do different people benefit from Access & Use?
The Access & Use learning and exploration module can also be used in different ways:
- People unfamiliar with operating modern web content can use Access & Use as a primer to learn how to interact with elements. They can link to the cases and practice on them.
- People wanting to learn the basics of accessibility can look at the elements step by step and get familiar with the range of accessibility requirements.
- More advanced learners can use the Access & Use elements as a launch pad to link to the corresponding case types in the COMPARE repository. Here, they get a more technical view and can explore a range of case examples to see how elementa are implemented in current web sites.
- Web authors looking at the videos included gain insight into the range of accessibility and usability problems that people with (and without) disabilities experience.
Compare is a Strategic Partnership project funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Commission.
Project number: 2016-1-DE02-KA202-003453
The COMPARE project has started on 1. January 2017 and will run for two years.