The project addresses the challenges people with various degrees of disabilities face when accessing mainstream online products and services, thus being excluded from benefiting from Web content and services on an equal basis as people without disabilities. Marginalising people with disabilities on this level is a critical and problematic issue, especially in today’s “Information Society”, where access to information should be equally available to all . While these challenges have been identified (also by the EC with the published Web Accessibility Directive, WAD), they have not yet been addressed efficiently. In this context and building on ongoing tools, WADcher researched, developed and demonstrated a set of innovative frameworks: an Observatory, a Decision Support Environment (DSE) and a Monitor Service, for large scale hybrid web accessibility assessment services and WAD compliance by implementing the monitoring, reporting and enforcement procedures of the WAD in all European public sector websites, while minimising costs and development-time along with increased scalability, accessibility and usability for all stakeholders, to enable “Web Access by Default”.
While end users, including people with disabilities, older people and all users, will indirectly benefit from the more accessible web applications that WADcher enables, WADcher primarily provides WAD compliance to the following 4 groups of users that WADcher is directly targeting:
- Web Applications Providers and Commissioners that mainly include the public sector bodies whose websites that need to comply with the WAD monitoring, reporting and enforcement procedures. But also, private enterprises and organisations responsible for commissioning the content and graphical layout and multimedia content of these websites.
- Web Developers and Tools Developers/Providers. The former use WADcher to support them in their development and testing of WAD-compliant accessible web applications. While the latter use the WADcher Open API to integrate their tools into WADcher and its WAD compliance processes.
- Expert Accessibility Reviewers, who use the WADcher tools and services, interpret their results, and provide guidance and/or certification of WAD compliance.
- WAD Monitoring Bodies and Policy Groups involved in WAD policy implementation, and eAccessibility generally. These include EU and national WAD Monitoring and Policy bodies. Their endorsement and encouragement of WADcher use are critical to the wide-spread take-up of the service.
WADcher provides a holistic and hybrid approach to Web accessibility assessment. The WADcher project has gone beyond state of the art to provide developers, designers, experts and policy makers with an integrated web accessibility and WAD-compliance support environment. This has been done with a dynamic and personalised environment that enables them, on one hand, to design accessible web applications and, on the other hand, to understand their problems, and analyse and test their accessibility. Within WADcher, the challenge has been to find the way in which technology can be best used to increase accessibility, usability and quality of web applications and services. WADcher integrates both new ICT-driven concepts and user-oriented approaches with methodologies and tools regarding web accessibility assessment. Within this context, and by using lessons learnt from relevant standards, research and best practices (WCAG, EARL, etc.).
WADcher comprises the following WADcher services:
- Observatory – mainly for Web Commissioners and Managers
- Decision Support Environment (DSE) – mainly for Accessibility Experts and Developers
- Monitor Service – mainly for WAD Monitoring Bodies
- WADcher APIs – for providers of Accessibility Evaluation Tools