Academic journal article Informatica Economica

Web Accessibility in Romania: The Conformance of Municipal Web Sites to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

Academic journal article Informatica Economica

Web Accessibility in Romania: The Conformance of Municipal Web Sites to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

Article excerpt

The accessibility of public administration web sites is a key quality attribute for the successful implementation of the Information Society. The purpose of this paper is to present a second review of municipal web sites in Romania that is based on automated accessibility checking. A number of 60 web sites were evaluated against WCAG 2.0 recommendations. The analysis of results reveals a relatively low web accessibility of municipal web sites and highlights several aspects. Firstly, a slight progress in web accessibility was noticed as regarded the sample evaluated in 2010. Secondly, the number of specific accessibility errors is varying across the web sites and the accessibility is not preserved in time. Thirdly, these variations suggest that an accessibility check before launching a new release for a web page is not a common practice.

Keywords: Accessibility, Computer-Aided Evaluation, Municipal Web Sites

1 Introduction

Active participation in society requires usable and accessible ICT tools. Unfortunate-ly, for a large part of the population the web content is difficult to use if not unusable. The consolidation of an information society in Romania requires equal access to the infor-mation technologies for all citizens. Most public web sites have barriers that affect the access to information for people with disabil-ities.

In 1997, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) launched the Web Accessibility Initi-ative (WAI) in order to improve the web ac-cessibility for people with disabilities [27]. The purpose of WAI is to develop strategies, guidelines and resources to support web ac-cessibility. Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, under-stand, navigate, and interact with the web. According to the ISO 25010 standard, acces-sibility is a sub characteristic of usability that includes disabilities related to age [11]. It could be measured either as the extent to which a product could be used by people with disabilities or by the presence of product attributes supporting accessibility.

WAI developed Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) that provide with a set of recommendations for making the web con-tent more accessible to users with disabilities. In 1999, W3C published the first version of accessibility guidelines (WCAG 1.0) [28]. The second version was published in 2008 (WCAG 2.0) and this is the reference rec-ommended for use in accessibility policies [29]. There are four key principles that un-derlie WCAG 2.0: perceivable, operable, un-derstandable and robust. Three levels of con-formance testing were defined: A (lowest), AA and AAA (highest).

Following the commitment to promote e-accessibility in Europe expressed by the Riga Ministerial Declaration in 2006 [22], several initiatives and documents were published that are supporting the policy of the European Commission on e-inclusion: "European i2010 initiative on e-Inclusion" [4], "To-wards an accessible information society" [5], and several studies regarding the measuring of web accessibility in Europe [6], [7].

Although the access to information for peo-ple with disabilities was stated as a priority at European level, the web accessibility of pub-lic web sites is still a problem. According to the MeAC survey, only a few of key gov-ernment web sites in Europe respect the min-imal accessibility requirements (12.5% passed automated testing and 5.3% passed both automatic and manual testing). [6]

In a previous work we presented a prelimi-nary review of municipal web sites in Roma-nia [21]. A sample of 30 municipality web sites was evaluated in 2010 for conformance with WCAG 2.0 level A requirements (low-est level of conformance).

This paper presents the results of a second study carried on in 2011 based on a larger sample of municipalities. The purpose of this work is twofold. Firstly, by extending the sample we will get a larger view on the ac-cessibility of this category of public web sites. …

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