Project Management

Monitor Web site accessibility with AccMonitor

To ensure your organization's Web site is accessible to disabled individuals, you need a tool to monitor the Web pages. Find out how HiSoftware's enterprise-level accessibility monitoring solution, AccMonitor, can do the trick.

AccMonitor from HiSoftware, Inc. provides enterprise-level monitoring and collaboration features for Web accessibility and content quality monitoring. AccMonitor supports many of the main functions as AccVerify, which was reviewed in a previous article, but it includes automation features and Web-based administration and testing for the enterprise.

AccMonitor crawls Web pages hosted on any Web server. It provides reports on Web accessibility and features custom content checks for user-defined requirements on Web pages. Its testing also performs quality and usability checks.

Understanding accessibility guidelines
Several guidelines have been defined to determine accessible Web sites. As amended, Section 508c of the 1978 Rehabilitation Act is the required standard for all federal agencies or those receiving federal grant monies. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) defined a set of prioritized guidelines for Web accessibility that have been adopted by many other organizations.
Estimates indicate that 20 percent of the U.S. population has some level of disability. Accessible design makes navigating the Web easier for anyone with visual, hearing, physical, or cognitive/learning disabilities. But accessible design features for the Web are like curb cuts—everyone benefits. It’s not just a person in a wheelchair who uses a curb cut; people on bikes, pushing strollers, or pulling carts all utilize the feature. Likewise, Web accessibility makes the Web more usable for everyone.

The server-based solution
AccMonitor runs as a Windows service on Windows NT 4.0 SP5 or greater or Windows 2000 Server or Advanced Server. Figure A shows AccMonitor's server console. It also includes a Web interface for easy administration and access to information from any computer with an Internet connection.

Figure A
AccMonitor interface

The distinct advantage of this solution is the ability to schedule daily, weekly, or monthly processes to run unattended. In addition to scheduling verification checks, you can schedule reporting, exporting to the history database, and purging of the database, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B
Scheduler options

AccMonitor can also perform automatic repairs using its repair library database. This allows users to create standard alternative text for images that may be standard to multiple Web sites. AccMonitor can also emulate a variety of browsers during its crawl process and can be set to crawl only through files that have changed since the last verification. This greatly speeds processing time for checking Web pages.

AccMonitor is licensed on a per-web basis with two webs (essentially two domains) at the starting level of $1,295. Additional webs can be purchased for $400. Unlimited Web documents within the Web may be crawled. Discounts apply for volume, educational, and GSA purchases.

Collaboration features for development teams
One of the important enterprise-level features in AccMonitor is the ability for teams or groups of Web developers to work together in the accessibility and verification process. With the Web interface, team members can review and update the central recorder database with verification information. For instance, since some Web accessibility requires visual verification, individual developers can complete the Visual Interview process for their assigned files and update the centralized recorder database with the information.

Because AccMonitor runs unattended, you can set up automatic e-mail notifications to appropriate team members that either link to Web-published reports or can include the reports as attachments (see Figure C). When links are used in the e-mail notification, this text-based message can be accepted by a variety of text-messaging pagers and phones.

Figure C
E-mail options for developer notification

New to version 5.0 of AccMonitor is the workflow definition, which dramatically extends the functionality of AccMonitor by offering the consolidation of multiple webs or the importing of other recorder data. By consolidating multiple webs within AccMonitor into a single report set, you can collect a much better picture of the organization’s Web accessibility status. The import function can import recorder database information from AccVerify projects or other AccMonitor installations.

All of these features add up to significant collaboration abilities for Web development teams or distributed Web development processes.

Integration and extension features
HiSoftware is committed to open API and offers significant add-ins to extend the value of your AccMonitor installation. Like AccVerify, AccMonitor integrates to the Mercury Interactive Testing and Global Test Management Systems. It now also integrates with Microsoft .Net Enterprise Servers, SharePoint Portal Server, and Content Management Server.

Using the AccVerify plug-in for AccMonitor, the new AccMonitor Web Test Edition provides a platform-independent solution for the enterprise. Using a workflow definition to set up the appropriate checkpoints, a Web form allows users to submit accessibility checks for individual or crawled Web pages. The report can be immediately displayed in the browser or e-mailed to the user. Web Test Center is licensed on a pay-per-run basis for the number of pages to be tested in this way.

For 100,000 tests, the basic-level package runs $75,000 and includes four days of professional installation, configuration, and services from HiSoftware. A nice option during the reporting process includes the ability for users to include other individuals in an e-mail copy of the report, and administrators can have any user blind-copied on all reports. All information through these Web-based checks is stored in the recorder database to keep a history of the organization’s Web accessibility and create executive summary reports. Through this simple Web-based form, end-user training is practically nonexistent.

HiSoftware promotes a developer program and offers a software developer’s kit for both AccMonitor and AccVerify. Its open API is well documented and can allow organizations to develop integrations into any content management or Web content authoring system. However, it doesn’t take a programmer to create and distribute custom checkpoints for your enterprise. The custom checkpoint creation is a standard part of AccVerify and AccMonitor Version 5.0.

HiSoftware’s products for monitoring Web accessibility provide a complete package in Web site quality assurance regardless of the enterprise’s development processes. AccMonitor is a complete testing solution for accessibility, usability, privacy, quality control, and custom compliance verification. Trial downloads are available from HiSoftware’s Web site along with detailed product information and case studies.

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