Accessibility development and evaluation tools

When it comes to finding software to help build and evaluate an accessible Web site, there's no one-size-fits-all solution.

There is a range of software for developing different types of Web content, such as graphs and images, and for maintaining a site's compliance with the accessibility law, said Martin Gould, senior research specialist with the National Council on Disability. Each tool presents a different level of examination and guidance.

"It may be that even though they are all calibrated to [Section] 508, it may or may not be the case that they all do the same thing," Gould said. The key is finding the right tool to meet an agency's needs, he added.

Macromedia Inc.'s Dreamweaver MX and SSB Technologies Inc.'s InSight are widely used tools for developing accessible sites, experts said. Other tools include SSB Technologies' InFocus, which automatically tests and finds areas that need repairs, and the Center for Applied Special Technology's Bobby, which guides automatic and manual evaluation and tests for browser compatibility. USA Services initiative leaders use much of the software, including the JAWS screen reader for Microsoft Corp. Windows by Freedom Scientific and Crunchy Technologies' PageScreamer, General Services Administration officials said.

IBM Global Services Inc. officials recently introduced new software, called Caption Me Now, that makes Webcasts and audio materials accessible. The tool automatically captions the audio on the user's command. The alternative is relying on costly stenographers or letting the audio go unheard, IBM officials said.

"The on-demand concept makes sure it's available when you need it, but it doesn't put the burden on the creator" to provide captioning for all the audio on the site, said Sara Basson, program manager for accessibility services at IBM Global Services.

The World Wide Web Consortium provides a detailed list of tools for site evaluation and repair at www.w3c.org.

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