C. Stephanidis (Ed.): Universal Access in HCI, Part III, HCII 2007, LNCS 4556, pp. 3–10, 2007.
© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2007
Accessibility Guidelines Management Framework
Myriam Arrue, Markel Vigo, Amaia Aizpurua, and Julio Abascal
Laboratory of Human-Computer Interaction for Special Needs, Informatika Fakultatea,
University of the Basque Country, Manuel Lardizabal 1, 20018 Donostia, Spain
firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org,
Abstract. Due to the extensive amount of information regarding web accessibility
developed in recent years, developers find difficulties for creating accessible web
applications. Accessibility knowledge management tools can facilitate this task.
However, existing tools do not provide enough support to all the activities of the
development process. In this sense, developers have to use diverse tools focused
on different stages and they are also required to search for accessibility
information from different sources. The aim of this paper is to present a
framework for managing accessibility guidelines. It serves as a central repository
where developers can search for accessibility guidelines, define new guidelines,
and share them with other developers and evaluating them automatically.
Therefore, this framework facilitates developers' tasks as it gives support to
several activities of different stages throughout the development process.
In recent years, an extensive amount of information about web accessibility in terms of
best practices, techniques and sets of guidelines has been developed. However, some
web developers are not able to produce accessible web content and most of the existing
web sites present several accessibility barriers. In fact, web accessibility aware
community complains about the amount of heterogeneous guidelines and the difficulty
when handling them. Due to the complexity of the accessible web applications
development task, web developers usually have to deal with diverse problems :
• Search for the sets of guidelines which are significant for the current development.
• Select the most adequate sets of guidelines.
• Verify the coherence of the selected sets of guidelines.
• Analyse the applicability of the selected guidelines in the current development.
• Develop directly applicable design rules from the selected guidelines.
• Plan and perform frequent accessibility evaluations based on the selected sets of
guidelines during the development process.
As mentioned previously, the first step towards developing accessible web
applications is to find and select the most adequate sets of guidelines. The most
accepted and used sets of guidelines are the WCAG 1.0  and Section 508 .
These sets contain general purpose accessibility guidelines. However, for some
developments it is necessary to apply also more specific guidelines such as sets of
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guidelines for specific application type (e-learning, tele-working), access device
(mobile devices) or user type (elderly, children, blind, deaf). For example, when
developing a web application for elderly people specific guidelines as the ones
defined in , as well as general purpose guidelines should be considered. The
following figure, Figure 1, shows the taxonomy of the different types of existing web
accessibility sets of guidelines.
Fig. 1. Taxonomy of web accessibility sets of guidelines
Due to the diversity of formats and structures used for defining accessibility
guidelines, finding, selecting, applying and evaluating these guidelines require a great
effort from web developers. There are several automatic tools which assist developers
evaluating the accessibility of web pages but most of them are based on general
purpose sets of guidelines. Therefore, they are not flexible enough to evaluate
guidelines for specific application type, user type or access device.
This paper proposes a framework for guidelines definition, edition and sharing which
feeds an automatic accessibility evaluation tool. It allows centralizing a guidelines
repository from where guidelines can be obtained for customized evaluation purposes.
Due to the centralized nature of the repository, sharing guidelines among developers and
researchers becomes easy. With the help of this web application, the communication
gap between accessibility experts and developers is bridged.
Therefore, this framework is useful during all the development process of
accessible web applications since it makes possible to find sets of guidelines
according to specific characteristics, defining new guidelines and selecting the sets of
guidelines for accessibility evaluations.
2 Related Work
Due to the different formats and level of detail used for defining accessibility
guidelines, it is necessary to develop a unified format which contains the required
characteristics for specifying guidelines from different sets. The uniform format is the
basis for the development of such a management framework. Therefore, it should
guarantee that all the necessary data for guidelines evaluation process is included. In
this sense, several approaches can be found in the literature.
Accessibility Guidelines Management Framework 5
Vanderdonckt and Bereikdar proposed the Guidelines Definition Language, GDL
 and recently Leporini et al. the Guidelines Abstraction Language, GAL . These
guideline specification languages make possible adapting quite straightforwardly to
new guideline versions or novel guidelines.
However, these guidelines specification languages are mostly based on general
purpose accessibility sets of guidelines. Consequently, some specific purpose
guidelines may not be defined as any previous study of specific accessibility sets of
guidelines and their definition in those languages is not provided. In addition, the
developed definition languages are quite complex and appropriate tools for defining,
editing, sharing and searching for accessibility information are needed.
In one of our previous work , UGL a new language for guidelines definition
developed based on a comprehensive study of different sets of guidelines is described.
This language has been selected for the development of the management framework
proposed in this paper.
In respect of guidelines management tools, previous research has been carried out.
SIERRA  is one of the first approaches for managing usability knowledge by a
software tool. However, this tool does not support any evaluation process. Sherlock
 manages usability guidelines by a client-server system and evaluates automatically
only some of the defined guidelines. Another system, called GUIDE, for managing
usability guidelines and storing the guidelines applied for a particular application
development is presented in . Nevertheless, none of this approaches support
completely the development process.
More recent approaches, such as Mariage et al.  and Leporini et al.  are
useful throughout the development process of web applications including the
evaluation stage. Both aim at abstracting the interaction with accessibility guidelines
with graphical interfaces. Unfortunately, both are standalone applications which have
some drawbacks compared with a web application. Moreover, the guideline formats
used by these applications are not proven to have been developed based on the results
obtained from an analysis of the different types of sets of guidelines. Therefore, some
guidelines may not be adequately evaluated or either specified.
3 Guidelines Management Framework
Expert users may prefer to directly specify guidelines in UGL in order to gain
efficiency and accuracy. Yet, editing UGL directly may turn out to be a difficult task.
Mastering its structure could make novel users reluctant to adopt UGL. Therefore, the
proposed framework aims at abstracting the interaction with guidelines sets defined in
UGL. The framework consists of a web application which guides the user through all
the process of guidelines creation, edition and management. The fact that it is a web
application has some advantages over a stand alone application such as:
• It is universally accessible from the browser so there is no need to install software
• Since the application is WCAG 1.0 compliant users with disabilities are
empowered to make their contribution to the guidelines corpus.
• Collected data are stored in the same server where the web application is hosted.
The centralization of resources makes feasible access by other users and data are
easier to manage.
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The framework works jointly with an online accessibility evaluation tool called
EvalAccess  and is capable of evaluating web pages against the guidelines
defined in the framework.
3.1 Characteristics of the Framework
An UGL document contains information regarding web accessibility guidelines in
different abstraction levels. The information a level contains is called PACK item which
stands for Piece of web ACcessibility Knowledge. Guideline-set item contains general
information about the guideline set such as the owner, guidelines application
environment (general, mobile devices, e-learning...), guidelines end-users (people with
disabilities in general , deaf, blind, elderly...), priorities distribution among checkpoints
(priority 1/2/3, required/recommended...) and so on. On the other hand, at the lowest
level, evaluation techniques specify information with regard to mark-up (HTML
elements, attributes and their respective values) which is necessary for evaluation
purposes. A Guideline item is a container which groups Checkpoints by their similarity.
As stated in the previous section, the application will lead the user during the
process of guidelines creation/edition. The XML-Schema defines the constraints and
hierarchical structure of every UGL document: Guideline-sets contain Guidelines
which at the same time contain Checkpoints and these contain Evaluation Techniques.
Therefore, high level PACKs are containers of low level PACKs.
Guidelines creation task is top-down driven and makes possible filling in all the
necessary nodes or PACKs in a UGL document. More information about the XML-
Schema1 and which facts led its development can be found at . The following
sections describe in detail the functionalities of the management framework.
3.1.1 Guidelines Creation and Edition
First of all the user must sign up in the system and fill in a form regarding to his
personal information. Hence, the system has to deal with user management but this
task is not a mere personal information collection task, it has to do with the guideline-
sets the user creates and shares. Once the user has signed up in the system is able to
do the following tasks which are applicable to the following PACKs: Guideline-sets,
Guidelines, Checkpoints and Techniques.
• Create a new PACK.
• Edit an existing PACK.
• Delete an existing PACK. This implies that all the PACKS that it contains will be
• View the information of an item. Its title and description are showed together with
mark-up information in the case of evaluation techniques.
Note that if an evaluation technique is going to be defined (as depicted in Figure 2),
all the high level PACKs or containers have also to be defined. It is necessary to define
the UGL document from the PACK of higher level, in this case the Guideline Set, then
Guideline, Checkpoint and finally Evaluation Technique. Since this task can be tedious
1 XML-Schema of UGL: http://sipt07.si.ehu.es/evalaccess3/ugl.xsd. Its representation: http://
Accessibility Guidelines Management Framework 7
Fig. 2. Element definition in Web Accessibility Guidelines Framework
we are studying the use of predefined UGL templates with the minimum information
required so that the evaluation engine will be able to automatically evaluate it.
The process of guidelines definition can be interrupted in any step and the framework
will store the state and retrieve it next time the user logs in. Once that a set of guidelines
has been completely defined, data are stored in the centralized XML database.
3.1.2 Guidelines Sharing
Once the user has created the PACKs, permissions can be set to them. They can be
not shared, that is, they will be for personal and private use, shared and shared but
not editable which implies that other users can access, retrieve and use them but the
former cannot be changed while the later can be edited. As previously mentioned the
system also manages user information such as his personal sets or shared guidelines.
Note that permissions of high level PACKs are inherited by lower PACKs.
In order to not to redesign an existing guideline, checkpoint or technique, the
system allows users to search for specific information. Search results only show
guidelines or techniques which are shared or shared but not editable. Different search
criteria are provided:
• General search: the search will be performed through the accessibility guidelines
• Specific search: this search is specific to PACKS focused on specific users or
applied to particular applications, e.g.: accessibility information (guidelines,
checkpoint and so on) about deaf users or e-learning environments can be obtained.
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• Search according to hypertext criteria such as HTML elements and attributes: the
users can seek for evaluation techniques that contain determined HTML labels or
attributes. If they wish they can access the container PACKs such as Checkpoint or
The following figures show the interfaces for web accessibility guidelines searching
(Figure 3) and the results yielded after a query (Figure 4).
Fig. 3. Interface for guidelines searching
Fig. 4. Results produced after query
Accessibility Guidelines Management Framework 9
Obtained results can be selected and added to a predefined set of guidelines called
"My borrowed set" which will keep all guidelines defined and shared by other users.
In addition, the PACKs labeled as "shared" could be edited in order to get more
personalized accessibility knowledge. Both a copy of the original PACKs as well as
the edited version are stored in the XML database in order to keep the consistency
since some users may still use the original version (especially the owner).
4 Conclusions and Future Work
The proposed framework assists web developers in creating accessible web
applications. It is useful and reliable throughout the development process as different
functionalities have been included. In this sense, web developers can edit, update,
search for guidelines, include new accessibility guidelines as well as select guidelines
for performing automatic accessibility evaluations. Consequently, it is flexible enough
to facilitate the development of web applications according to diverse sets of
In addition, all the functionalities included in the framework would allow creating
a comprehensive repository of accessibility guidelines which could be shared among
developers community. Moreover, the implemented language for guidelines definition
UGL includes the components for defining diverse types of test cases. Therefore, it
guarantees that new guidelines will be easily integrated to the framework.
Acknowledgements. Work of Markel Vigo is funded by the Department of
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