What web accessibility evaluation and repair tools are available?
There are a growing number of tools that allow web developers to evaluate the accessibility of their web pages and sites. Many tools also prompt the developer to make specific repairs. Some tools automatically follow links to evaluate multiple pages within a site or within an entire domain. The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI™) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C®) maintains an extensive list of such tools in their document Complete List of Web Accessibility Evaluation Tools.
Although tools such as these can be very useful in identifying accessibility problems, many accessibility issues are subjective and cannot be assessed without manual inspection. For example, a software tool can identify when ALT text is missing, but it cannot determine if the text of an ALT tag is appropriate.
At least one organization, IBM® Japan's Tokyo Research Laboratory, has been working on developing a tool that attempts to intelligently add appropriate ALT tags based on context. Their tool additionally analyzes the content of a page and automatically adds a "skip to main content" link, as required by the Section 508 web standards. A third feature of IBM Japan's tool is an enhanced search and replace feature, which identifies common interface elements across pages (e.g., pages created from templates) and corrects accessibility problems on a site-wide basis. As of March, 2002, no official documentation was available about this product, still in the early stages of development, but more information is available in the developers' conference paper, An Automatic Web Content Accessibility Compliance Tool for Section 508.