Deque Experts Reveal their Ideal Accessibility Tool Wishlist

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high tech Santa using a laptop and tablet, representing accessibility experts accessibility tools wishlist

In the spirit of the holiday season, here's our wishlist for the perfect accessibility tool! 

Accessibility tools: the weapons used by accessibility experts to combat the dark forces of inaccessible web content! This may sound a bit dramatic, but for those working within the web accessibility sphere, the importance of accessibility tools can't be emphasized enough. These are the instruments that experts used to break down barriers (literally and figuratively); the tools  that are paving the way towards digital inclusion.

That's why we've been focusing on accessibility tools quite a bit in recent blog posts. In one post, we asked our experts to talk about their favorite early accessibility tools and checkers. In another post, our experts discussed the merits of their current preferred accessibility tools. Rounding out the series, in this post we asked our experts to describe their ideal accessibility tool. Specifically we asked, "What's your dream accessibility tool? What kind of features would it have?" Then we quietly stepped back and let their imaginations run rampant.

Everything in (Color) Contrast

One of the most sought-after features mentioned by nearly all of our experts had to do with color contrast. "My dream tool is an accessible color contrast analyzer that spits out the hex numbers so that they are readable by a screen reader," said Senior Accessibility Consultant Jeanine K. Lineback. While Jeanine praised the capabilities of analyzing colors with FireEyes and WorldSpace Assure, she wishes there was a standalone tool like the one that exists for sighted users such as Colour Contrast Analyzer. "This would mean I could independently do color contrast on non-web site screens," she explained.  "For example when testing Android and iOS background and foreground colors for native apps,it would be terrific if the app could not only tell me the background and foreground colors of the screen, but if it could also use things like label tags to identify buttons and provide the background and foreground hex numbers for colors for the button to the text." Best of all, as Jeanine said, " A tool like this would really level the playing field and [it] would be the first tool [of this kind] that was accessible to screen readers."

Many of our experts were equally enthusiastic about a comprehensive color contrast tool. Accessibility Consultant Roberto Perez said "Sometimes I use the WebAIM Color Contrast Checker to validate color contrast, but in order to obtain the hex codes I have to dig into the code if the information is not provided by comply or other tool, which can be very time consuming as well as frustrating."

Color contrast was also a topic of concern for Accessibility Consultant Arpana Jain, who wants a tool that can identify large color contrast issues. She also listed some other dream accessibility tool features. "I want a tool that could provide some hint of the possibility that there's a false positive issue," she said. She also wanted a tool that would alert about missing instructions error messages, session time outs and visual-related issues. "I also want an accessibility checker that can export issues to some test management tools, so that the team can get an idea of the defects that remain in open and closed status. It should also be able to tell me how many of these issues are closed on a daily basis. I think this will help the team work more efficiently together," she said. "And the accessibility tool should be able to schedule an automated test run to save time. For example, I can schedule the run during the night for 50 pages, so I can verify the results during regular working hours."

Works Cross-Platform with a Plugin for all Major Browsers

Senior Accessibility Consultant Dennis Lembree agrees wholeheartedly with Jeanine's vision for a color contrast tool, and added that he would like "an auto checker that can test color contrast in all cases, including text over images, opacity, etc." He also listed some other dream features. "The tool should be able to test keyboard access, and would be able to export results easily to different formats," he said. "There should be a plugin for all major browsers, and it would be able to determine whether a duplicate ID is actually a problem. Plus, this accessibility tool will provide a level of language difficulty. It would be able to test for animation with no pause/stop button, and it would have the ability to do screenshots."

Senior Accessibility Consultant Paul J. Adam liked several of Dennis' dream accessibility tool features. "I also like the feature that finds UI controls that are not keyboard operable automatically," he said. "A tool can test for JavaScript events on elements that have no role or focusability, so we need this!" And Paul agreed, "The plugin for all major browsers is a must; I had to make my own for Safari as it has no a11y testing tools. And then there should be a feature that can auto detect and fail moving content violations." He also echoed some of Jeanine's thoughts on a tool that works with screen readers. "We need a11y testing tools that can help screen reader users find problems that are only determined visually."

Paul went on to describe his ideal accessibility tool in more detail. "I want JIRA Capture for Accessibility. It takes a screenshot of the page and highlighted Accessibility error automatically and uploads that to WorldSpace Assure so you do all the work inside the browser extension, rather than logging into the website. That means that page title, OS version, browser, version etc. are automatically uploaded." Plus, Paul wants his testing tool and testing web application server that hosts the results to work from all devices, including Safari on iOS and macOS.

"I'd also prefer a native application on iOS and macOS that you can use to enter and review issues if you don't want to use the web application," he added.  As Paul explained, an automated tool would be able to test if a UI element has matching JavaScript keyboard keypress events based on the role chosen (like role=button needs enter and spacebar events) so there's no real necessity for human users to always test for this. "Basically I want a tool that can save me time by entering the issues automatically for any accessibility error that can be detected in the code," Paul said.

From Dreams to Tangible Accessibility Tools

Of course everyone has their own idea of what comprises "the perfect accessibility tool," but there are clearly some common must-haves: a comprehensive, cross-platform accessibility tool that works across all browsers, can test for keyboard access and has advanced color contrast capabilities (just to name a few features).  Who knows? Maybe our product team will use these dream accessibility tool ideas to fuel their future designs. After all, that's how some of the very best products are created: It all begins with a dream, and the passion to make that dream a reality.

Special thanks to our accessibility experts for their contributions to this post.

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