Government accessibility standards and WCAG 2

This posting summarizes some detailed research into the state of government accessibility standards around the world, as of March 2016. Usually these evolve fairly slowly, although the Jodhan vs. Attorney General of Canada case may change that (governments don’t like being successfully sued by their citizens). In general, these standards apply to government agency websites (and not commercial web sites) with the exception of Australia and Norway where commercial sites are also required to comply.

WCAG 2.2 Released

It’s finally here! Welcome one and all to the long-awaited release of WCAG 2.2. It first went into the works in early 2020. Come 2023, and its long-anticipated release finally made its way to the public on October 5, 2023. SortSite 6.50 was released the same day with new rules for WCAG 2.2. WCAG: What’s the Deal? WCAG was created with the intention of making the web more accessible to users with disabilities and impairments.

Our New Space

In light of the pandemic, we decided that we needed to reconsider our priorities for our working environment. So, in September, we packed ourselves up and moved into a new office! We had a few considerations to make when choosing the perfect space. Most importantly, we needed somewhere that was a convenient location for everyone. Our new office is situated right in the heart of Edinburgh and is easy to get to by all modes of public transport.

International Assistance Dog Week 2022

Happy International Assistance Dog Week! It’s that time of year to give our special helping hounds a big round of applause. International Assistance Dog Week gives a massive thank you to all the dedicated service dogs that provide support for individuals with disabilities and other medical conditions as they navigate daily life. Here at PowerMapper, we would also like to give particular recognition to the trainers who dedicate so much time to training these dogs.

Isobel Rogers - author profile

Jul 11, 2022

Isobel is responsible for the copywriting at PowerMapper. She holds a BA (Hons) in English Studies from the University of Stirling. She has over two years of personal experience at running blogs and has been writing for over five years.


Website accessibility: disability statistics

This post is a compilation of disability statistics from government agencies and researchers in the US, UK and Canada. The statistics shown have most impact on website use, and help assess the impact of accessibility problems, in terms of numbers of people affected, and likely commercial impact. Incidence of key disabilities Reading difficulties Up to 10% of people in the US have reading difficulties, including dyslexia (source: University of Michigan). A study in 2009 by Cass Business School found that around 20% of UK entrepreneurs and 35% of US entrepreneurs are dyslexic (Bill Gates and Richard Branson are textbook examples).


Accessibility, search engines and social media: how they overlap

Nov 12, 2020

Search engines can’t see and can’t click, so there’s a big overlap between making sites accessible and making sites perform well in search engines. Social media also uses several features that improve accessibility.


Layout table vs data table detection

Jun 26, 2020

Summary The table element in HTML is not always treated as a table by assistive technology. Historically HTML tables have been misused for layout. Before the introduction of CSS Grid in 2017 there was no reliable CSS method to layout HTML on a grid, so tables were often used instead (and some legacy browsers still don’t support CSS Grid). This means there are two types of table: Data tables containing data where rows and columns have meaning (e.


Prioritizing accessibility fixes

Apr 28, 2020

Often scanning a large site finds a large number of issues. What’s the best way to fix these? Fix template issues Issues in page templates are often repeated on every page on a site, so fixing these has the maximum benefit. Template issues often affect site navigation, so even fixing minor issues has positive impact for users trying to navigate around the site. It’s not uncommon for template issues to account for 50% of the issues by volume, so fixing a single page template can resolve half of the issues found.


Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Apr 6, 2020

Our contingency plans have been activated to deal with the Coronavirus outbreak. Response times may be affected as noted below: Our main office is closed until June 2020 and staff are working remotely based on government advice Phones have been routed to a 24x7 answering service Some support issues requiring specific software or hardware may take longer to diagnose


Screen reader tests - January 2020

Jan 11, 2020

We’ve just released a new batch of screen reader test results. We started testing screen reader support for accessibility features in 2012. Since then we’ve run over 10,000 individual tests covering 54 browser and screen reader combinations. New tests in this release cover: NVDA 2019 with Chrome, Firefox and IE11 JAWS 2019 with Chrome, Firefox and IE11 VoiceOver with Safari on macOS 10.14 and iOS 12 This is the first release with tests results for Chrome.


Screen reader tests - April 2019

A new batch of screen reader test results is now available. New tests in this release cover: NVDA 2018 with Firefox and IE11 JAWS 2018 with Firefox and IE11 VoiceOver with Safari on macOS 10.13 and iOS 11 A key finding is aria-label no longer works when reading links in JAWS 2018 with Firefox 60, but did work in previous versions of JAWS and Firefox as far back as 2012.


HTML vs XHTML version statistics

Mar 20, 2019

As part of the online demo at we collect summary statistics about pages scanned by our service. One interesting statistic covers versions of HTML and XHTML in common use. As of March 2019: HTML 5 DOCTYPEs account for over 90% of pages scanned (up from 8% in 2011) XHTML 1.0 DOCTYPEs account for under 5% of pages scanned (down from 60% in 2011) XHTML 1.1 DOCTYPEs have vanished, and account for 0% of pages scanned (down from 1% in 2011) HTML 4.


Waiting for Section 508: a tragicomedy in 10 acts

Update - January 2017 On January 5th, 2017 the US Access Board announced that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) cleared the Section 508 Refresh, with the compliance deadline set for January 18, 2018. Introduction Welcome to a series of articles on accessibility laws, standards, and statistics around the globe. These articles will help web professionals to understand accessibility legislation within a wider policy context. Every accessibility law has both strengths and weaknesses which can offer valuable lessons for other countries and systems.


European accessibility law in 2016

Accessibility professionals can look forward to the passage of two European laws pertaining to web accessibility: the public sector accessibility directive and the European Accessibility Act. Both of these laws will bring much-needed clarity to the drive towards better accessibility in Europe. There are, however, a number of issues which will need to be resolved before the laws can be allowed to achieve their full potential.


Screen reader detection - pros and cons

This article explores both sides of a longstanding debate: should screen readers be detectable in analytics? It’s an issue that pits accessibility against privacy, with legal complications thrown in for fun. When these aspects are taken into consideration, screen reader detection emerges as a technique which carries serious technical, ethical and privacy risks. Analytics Designers and developers live for analytics data. We can spend hours digging into fascinating insights on everything from shopping cart abandonment to social media conversions to browser use.


Table cell header calculation for AT

Feb 14, 2016

Summary This post describes how table cell headers for screen-readers are calculated. TH with SCOPE=ROW or SCOPE=COL is unambiguous and widely supported TD with SCOPE is non-conforming in HTML 5, and is ignored as a header on some browsers (works in Apple WebKit, but ignored in Chromium WebKit). On tables with headers in the top row, or first column, TH without SCOPE usually works. TD HEADERS is problematic because it assumes a single list of headers for each cell, but accessibility APIs expose row and column headers as separate properties On any other table, TH without SCOPE produces wildly varying results.


PowerMapper for macOS

Aug 17, 2015

PowerMapper Desktop is now available for macOS, providing one-click site mapping for the Mac. The Mac version has the same site map styles as the Windows version, but with an easier to use interface. This release is functionally identical to PowerMapper 5.18 for Windows, with the exception of some map customization options. The Desktop Suite (which bundles PowerMapper and SortSite) is now also available for Macintosh. You can download a free 30 day trial of PowerMapper.


SortSite Developer Edition

Jul 31, 2015

SortSite Developer Edition is now available for Macintosh and Windows. Developer Edition is aimed at agile software teams, and is designed for integration into continuous integration (CI) systems like Jenkins. You can download a free 30 day trial.


Page title length for search engines

Apr 23, 2013

Ever been wondered why there's a lot of conflicting advice about longest page title allowed in search results pages (SERPS)? The short answer is different search engines have different limits and these limits keep changing. The current official guidelines, as of April 2013, are: W3C recommends a maximum of 64 characters for page titles. Bing recommends a title around 65 characters long. Yahoo used to recommend a maximum title length of 67 characters, but this advice is now obsolete since Bing now supplies Yahoo's search results.


HTML 5.0 becomes W3 candidate recommendation

Dec 18, 2012

After 4 years of development HTML 5.0 finally exited draft status and became a W3 Candidate Recommendation on Dec 17, 2012. HTML 5 will now go through the final stages of the W3 standardization process before becoming a full Recommendation in 2014 (the final published standard). The only changes now to HTML 5.0 will be bug fixes, fixing typos and the possible removal of "at risk" features. New features will be added to the HTML 5.


SortSite 5 now available

Dec 6, 2012

SortSite 5 is now generally available with over 700 quality checkpoints. New features in version 5 include: Record and replay form actions (Professional version only) Enhanced browser compatibility checks allowing ability to choose which browsers to check Analyze and check changes made to pages by JavaScript ARIA support HTML5 validation Performance improvements - twice as fast scanning some sites Record form actions SortSite Professional allows you to record form actions and replay them during scans to check the results of the form action.


Edinburgh winter festivals

Nov 13, 2012

The winter festival has just finished in Edinburgh. For 6 weeks, from the start of December to the start of January, the city centre streets come alive day and night with: Outdoor skating in Princes Street Gardens (photo below) Christmas markets with plenty of tasty food and Glühwein Ferris wheel, helter-skelter and other rides The Hogmanay street party - about 80,000 people crowd into Princes Street to celebrate New Year and watch the annual fireworks display Our office is just round the corner from the Christmas Market, so our usual lunch stops have been dropped in favor of a stall selling Bratkartoffeln (German sautéed potatoes).


How disabilities affect website use

This post follows on from the one on Disability Statistics, and shows how the most common disabilities affect website use.


Christmas cards for people with limited vision

Dec 13, 2011

Well, it’s that time of year again. While I consider myself one of life’s formidably organised Christmas present buyers (I started in August) I seem to fall sadly short when it comes to finding the time to write and post my Christmas cards. I know that to many, card writing seems an outmoded way of sending Christmas greetings, but for many of my ageing relatives, some of whom now live alone, a hand written card arriving in the mail is still much appreciated.


Having something to say beats slick presentation

Oct 29, 2011

Today is World Stroke Day, which aims to raise awareness of the condition. Earlier this week I saw a conference keynote speech by Clayton Christensen, author of The Innovators Dilemma and a Professor at Harvard Business School. He introduced himself by apologizing for hesitating while speaking because he'd suffered a stroke a few months earlier. In spite of this he was an engaging speaker - much better than the other professional conference speakers.


Can website accessibility declarations be trusted?

Jun 19, 2011

The Design for All Research Group at Middlesex University have produced a report called Declaring conformance on web accessibility asking the question: can website accessibility declarations be trusted? Sadly the conclusion was no, for both self-declared and third-party certifications, confirming the findings of earlier studies. Using a sample of 100 European government and commercial sites claiming accessibility standards conformance, more than 95% were found to have accessibility issues. The study used our automated tool, SortSite, in conjunction with manual testing performed by the accessibility group at the Shaw Trust (see the report for details on methodology).


Giving accessible presentations

A few days ago I attended a presentation given by some UK Government departments - the main topic was providing equality of access to government contracts. There was the usual torrent of PowerPoint slides filled with facts, figures and addresses of websites which publish government contracts.  At the end of the presentations the question and answer session started: Chief Official: "Does anyone have any questions?" Lady in Audience: "Will any of the slides be available after the meeting?


Timeline of web standards: 1994-2010

This diagram shows how web standards have developed since 1994. Originally HTML and related standards were discussed and agreed by a small group of interested parties on a mailing list. Later the W3 was formed, and it put in place increasingly rigorous processes, with increasing amounts of public consultation. While solid process and consultation is a good thing, one striking point is how long it now takes to get W3 standards from Draft to Recommendation status.


Usability disasters

Nov 11, 2010

Today is World Usability Day, so I’m going to talk about some famous usability disasters. As web developers we’re lucky - our usability shortcomings almost never kill anyone. Some famous examples of fatal usability problems include: The Airbus 320 crash in Jan 1992 was partly caused by a mode switch in the wrong position. The mode switch changed the meaning of descent rate numbers entered into the autopilot and was toggled by a small switch in a large bank of other switches.


Web standards implementation process

Oct 31, 2010

The HTML 4.01 standard was introduced in 1999, but 11 years later, no major vendor fully implements it.

Controversial, perhaps, but also true. A lot of flak is rightly directed at Internet Explorer’s lack of standards support, but the other browser vendors aren’t blameless either.


Heather Burns - author profile

Oct 23, 2010

Heather Burns is a digital law specialist in Glasgow, Scotland. Her focus is researching, writing, and speaking about internet laws and policies which impact the professions of web design and development. She has been designing web sites since 1997 and has been a professional web designer since 2007.


Mark Rogers - author profile

Oct 23, 2010

Mark is CEO of PowerMapper Software, and has over 25 years experience in the software industry. He previously held senior positions with Electrum, Panasonic, and Office Workstations Limited. He holds a BSc (Hons) in Computer Science from The University of Dundee.


Pam Nairn - author profile

Oct 23, 2010

Pam is responsible for PowerMapper sales and marketing. Prior to PowerMapper Software, Pamela held senior positions in the beverage and tourism industries. She holds a BA (Hons) in Design from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design.


New offices in Edinburgh

Oct 12, 2010

The new offices fit the bill perfectly, with the bonus of a great view across to Edinburgh Castle. The square itself is currently a hive of activity due to the Edinburgh Festival - Krakow Opera did an open air performance there yesterday. We've just moved to new offices in Edinburgh in the rather stunning St Andrew Square. We spent a long time choosing offices since they had to match quite strict sustainability criteria:


Shaw Trust accessibility testing

Sep 21, 2010

I had the privilege of visiting the Shaw Trust's accessibility testing center recently. The Shaw Trust is a UK charity which supports disabled and disadvantaged people prepare for work, find jobs and live more independently. As part of their work they provide accessibility testing services to a range of organizations worldwide. Their accessibility testing team employs people with a range of disabilities, using different assistive technologies. This means their testing is very thorough and sets a gold standard for the rest of the accessibility community.


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