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The effectiveness of the web accessibility audit as a motivational and educational tool in inclusive web design

The effectiveness of the web accessibility audit as a motivational and educational tool in inclusive web design

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

David R. Sloan

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date2006

Abstract

The importance of Web sites that can be accessed and used regardless of an individual?s disability is critical. One barrier to improved accessibility of Web sites relates to the gap between Web authors? technical knowledge of Web accessibility guidelines and a broader understanding of the challenges facing disabled people when interacting with Web sites.This thesis describes the development and evaluation of a Web accessibility auditing methodology with the dual aims of accurately identifying accessibility barriers present in a Web site, and presenting the audit findings and recommended actions in a way that informs, educates and engenders an improved understanding of accessibility amongst the audience.The methodology was piloted amongst a sample of Web sites, validated against other published accessibility evaluation methodologies, and adopted for subsequent audits carried out on a commercial basis. The impact on recipient organisations and individuals of a sample of 14 commercially commissioned audits was then evaluated. Audit recipients were surveyed, and each Web site audited evaluated to identify any changes to accessibility, and the presence of evidence of changes or improvements to accessibility strategy.Strong indications were found that the audits had a positive impact both on individuals and on the commissioning organisations. The audits were identified as having a particularly positive educational and motivational impact on recipients who did not identify themselves as having expertise in Web accessibility. There was also evidence that the design approach promoted by the audits had been adopted and applied by some of the commissioning organisations. The majority of respondents cited the recommendations for improvement as the most valuable feature of the audit. This illustrates a tension between the importance of presenting specific recommendations for actions and providing richer narrative accounts of evaluation stages to encourage a more holistic appreciation of accessibility.The particular benefits of the study are found in the identification of evidence of impact of commercially-commissioned Web accessibility audits over a period of time to recipients of varying characteristics. A number of areas for further investigation have been identified, focusing on investigating the potential value of the accessibility audit in providing more ?experiential? evaluation stages.

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