Accessibility review of

Following the completion of the JISCPress project, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, requested an accessibility audit of the plugin.

BIS wants to enable stakeholders, citizens and businesses to comment on the detail of policy papers and consultation documents easily, in line with government strategy on digital engagement and moving services online. BIS commissioned an accessibility audit of the online commenting tool to establish to what extent it could help meet this requirement, and to support the development of this open source project.

We’ve just received the completed report [PDF], which is incredibly helpful; something we never managed to address ourselves during the project.A very condensed summary of the audit is:

Overall the Digress-it plug-in did not perform well in terms of accessibility. Nine Single-A and four Double-A accessibility issues were identified which failed to meet the requirements set by the WCAG 2.0.

However, many of the Single-A issues, such as the lack of alternative text and skip links should be straight forward to address. Achieving Single-A accessibility should be part of a quick win strategy.

By far the biggest issue to address relates to the accessibility for keyboard users. Several elements such as the commenting icon and add/expand comment icon elements were not keyboard accessible which means it would be very difficult for a keyboard user to access the content and post their reply.

Although JavaScript support is given more flexibility under the WCAG 2.0 guidelines, Nomensa still recommends that progressive enhancement techniques are used to ensure that users with JavaScript disabled or unavailable are still able to perform actions on the site. Testing of the Digress-it plug-in found that when JavaScript was disabled, the user was unable to read or post comments on the site, preventing them from carrying out a core component of the Digress-it plug-in.

Some of the issues can be addressed quite easily, while others require some thought. To be honest, none of it comes as much of a surprise. We’ve discussed keyboard accessibility and the reliance on javascript of the comment box among the Team, but instead concentrated on developing the prototype platform as a whole during the time we had.

We’re waiting to hear from JISC about whether we’ve been successful for applying for further funds, which will be used to address the accessibility of, as well as produce better supporting materials for administrators and users.

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