IBM on Monday announced a new set of open source tools for developers and testers that want to ensure their websites and applications are accessible to people with disabilities. The new Equal Access Toolkit and Checker incorporate accessibility directly into developer workflows.
Accessibility features have become an increasingly important consideration for designers and developers, as digital tools become a ubiquitous, critical part of everyday life. According to the CDC, around one in four adults in the US has some kind of disability.
At the same time, most websites have some kind of accessibility issue. Earlier this year, WebAIM, a nonprofit based at Utah State University, analyzed 1 million home pages for accessibility issues and found that more than 98 percent had at least one detectable accessibility error.
The technology industry is becoming more attuned to the issue, offering tools for developers and end users that improve accessibility. It's also an issue that's surfaced in legal and policy discussions -- last year, the Supreme Court opened up the door for lawsuits challenging websites and mobile apps that aren't accessible to people with disabilities.
The new IBM Equal Access Toolkit is a public set of guidelines for all members of a team creating an enterprise tool. It provides phase-based guidance, so that team members get the appropriate accessibility guidance when they need it.
Meanwhile, the Accessibility Checker is part of an open suite of automation tools. It's a browser extension that can run diagnostics on code in any point of the development process. It generates a list of issues to address, explains the problem and shows where to fix it.
The tools are built on the same rules engine, which is kept up to date to meet the latest accessibility standards.