508 Compliance product updates

If you're just looking for potential Section 508 violations -- and you're comfortable with HTML code -- you'll want to take a look at InSight.

InSight/InFocus

If you're just looking for potential Section 508 violations — and you're comfortable with HTML code — you'll want to take a look at InSight.

InSight displays its results in plain text in three floating, resizable windows. One window displays the page's HTML code. Another window lists all suspected violations, grouped by type and sorted by priority. The third window, dubbed "Element Inspector," displays tag attributes for the currently highlighted item. If you highlight a violation in the second window, it will automatically take you to the appropriate location in the HTML code in the first window.

InSight's interface is not the most elegant, but experienced HTML programmers will probably find it the most complete and efficient environment of the products we tested. Experienced users will also appreciate the fact that InSight can be customized. First, you can set tolerances for flagging violations. You might, for example, set the program not to flag an image simply because its "alt" attribute has no entry. You can also use the program to check pages for attributes you specify, not just those called for by Section 508.

For more help in fixing your pages, check out InFocus. InFocus offers the same HTML window and violation listing found in InSight. In addition, however, you'll find a Fixer window to help you edit your page. For example, if you select Image Fixer in the Fixer window, InFocus will offer you a preview of each image on the page and prompt you to enter a description. Similarly, if you select Form Label Fixer, the program will step through each violation of the requirement — that all form fields have text labels — and will prompt you to enter labels that will be inserted into the HTML code.

Finally, InFocus lets you preview pages after you've made fixes by loading them directly into your browser.

Of the compliance software we've seen, InSight and InFocus offer the most power. They're also the most expensive.

AccVerify Pro AccVerify from Hiawatha Island Software Co. Inc. (HiSoftware) offers the slickest and easiest-to-navigate interface of any program tested. All functions are integrated into a cleanly designed window that offers tabs for setting requirements to check for, for selecting Web pages to check and for viewing results.

You can also quickly summon either an HTML report or a "checklist" report in your browser. The HTML report lists each violation, grouped according to type. The checklist report lists all Section 508 requirements and gives you a concise view of problems in your page. The checklist report does not, however, list specific violations.

Like InSight/InFocus, AccVerify lets you check both local pages and pages over the Internet. Unlike the SSB Technologies Inc. solution, however, AccVerify doesn't offer a view of suspected violation in the content of your HTML code. Instead, the program simply reports the line and column where the violation occurs and you must locate it in your HTML editor.

HiSoftware offers three versions of AccVerify. The Standard edition, which we tested, is the lowest-priced version (and is also available for Microsoft Front Page). For additional features, such as batch processing and customization of variables for testing, try the Professional version. There's also a Server version that offers automated enterprisewide compliance checking and runs as an NT or Windows 2000 service.

As with InFocus, AccVerify thoroughly snags potential violations, and no program did a better job of presenting results and compliance information in an accessible and easy-to-understand manner. However, AccVerify does not offer tools to fix Section 508 violations.

Bobby

Bobby has a couple of obvious virtues. First, as a product of the nonprofit Center for Applied Special Technology, it is available for download at no charge. Second, in addition to the usual line- specific reporting of violations, Bobby offers a marked-up display of the Web page being analyzed.

For simple Web pages, Bobby's graphic display of violations is effective. The program inserts British bobby-style hats to indicate violations that can be automatically detected, such as images that lack text tags. For possible violations that need visual verification, Bobby inserts question marks.

With complex pages, however, Bobby's insertion of symbols makes for such a mess as to be unhelpful. In such cases, you're better off just referring to the text reports. Another advantage of the text reports is that the suspected violations are grouped into three priority levels so you can first tackle the problems most affecting your site's accessibility.

As with InSight and InFocus, Bobby displays the HTML code so you can more easily locate the suspected violations.

In our testing, alas, we found that we were not able to access some sites on the Internet. We also found that Bobby couldn't produce reports on files larger than 150K.

Bobby has clear limitations, but if you're looking for a quick way to check compliance on relatively simple sites, this free application is well up to the task.

REPORT CARD

InSight/InFocus

SSB Technologies Inc.
(415) 975-8000
www.ssbtechnologies.com

InSight costs $1,501; InFocus costs $2,317. Both products bundled cost $2,488.


REPORT CARD

AccVerify Pro

HiSoftware
(603) 229-3055
www.hisoftware.com

The Standard edition costs $99, the Professional version is $495 and the Server version is $1,295.


REPORT CARD

Bobby

Center for Applied Special Technology
(978) 531-8555
www.cast.org/bobby

Price and availability: Bobby is free to use.


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