Accessibility Conformance Test Rules Format 1.0 reaches Proposed Recommendation status

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It’s a common question with accessibility verification and reporting. How did someone arrive at their test results? Are their results accurate, or are the issues being reported really not required by the accessibility standards? As a developer, it can be really frustrating when you’ve done the accessibility work and validated using robust automated tools and sound test methodologies only to be told that another test had different results. You’re left wondering, which test is right?

It would be nice if everyone involved in accessibility work could understand what steps a tester had taken and easily reproduce their test results, even if validating with a different tool or methodology. It might ease a developer’s workload to focus on fixing issues instead of struggling to understand or validate the test results.

The Accessibility Conformance Testing (ACT) Rules Format 1.0 was just published as a W3C Proposed Recommendation standard by the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C). With multiple implementations and several reviews completed, this standard is one step closer to being a Recommendation, or final version.  The remaining step is for W3C member sign-off.

So how will this standard help to solve these problems? The ACT Rules Format 1.0 provides a consistent format for documenting test rules used to validate conformance to accessibility standards.  It enables developers of test tools and test methodologies to document their test rules for greater transparency. The rules format also includes a requirement to develop test cases so that implementations of the rules can be verified to ensure their findings match the expected test results.

This effort has the potential to harmonize rules used to check for accessibility conformance to standards. There is an ACT Rules Community Group which is developing a repository of rules for testing conformance to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1.  It is an open community for anyone interested to contribute.  The rules they are developing are documented using the ACT Rules Format 1.0.  The ACT Task Force and Accessibility Guidelines Working Group will be reviewing rules to ensure they correctly interpret the accessibility requirements and correctly apply the ACT Rules Format. The intent is to strengthen all test tools and test methodologies to create an environment where accessibility testing will have more consistent results.  Hopefully this will lead to a higher level of accessibility for products and services tested using these tools.

To learn more, read the W3C announcement of the publication of the ACT Rules Format 1.0 Proposed Recommendation.

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