Bobby is a comprehensive web accessibility software tool designed to help expose and repair obvious barriers to accessibility and encourage compliance with existing accessibility guidelines.
Bobby tests for compliance with government standards, including the U.S. Government’s Section 508. It offers prioritized suggestions based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines provided by the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Access Initiative. Bobby allows developers to test web pages and generate summary reports highlighting critical accessibility issues before posting content to live servers.
Bobby tests web pages using the guidelines established by the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Access Initiative (WAI), as well as Section 508 guidelines from the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) of the U.S. Federal Government.
Watchfire recently purchased the Bobby Website Accessibility Tool and have their own fantastic website accessibility tool you can access via Accessibility101.
It must always be remembered that the W3C WAI is not a standard but a set of guidelines. There is no automatic way in which an organisation can get its website validated against all the guidelines.
A page can be compared against the guidelines to raise a Web manager’s awareness of certain issues. The leading tool is The Center for Applied Special Technology’s (CAST) Bobby software.
Individual pages can be run through the Bobby service by visiting the site and typing the page URL into a specific box. The service will scan the page and then return an automated report highlighting areas of concern and suggesting what could be done to rectify them.
It must be noted that this application has a number of limitations:
- It will highlight areas that need to be looked at, but will not correct them
- It also suggests using attributes that are not supported by any web browser at
- It does not validate a web page. This should be done using the W3C
- A Bobby approved certification does not necessarily mean it is usable by all.
‘Bobby Approved’ does not mean your website is accessible
Bobby is a very useful tool but it is all too often misunderstood. Many organisations however, falsely believe that simply passing the Bobby test will satisfy their accessibility obligations. For them, the measure of accessibility is whether or not their pages can attain the Bobby Approved icon. In many ways, this is an understandable perspective. The Bobby icon represents an achievable standard and a tangible, cost effective reward for efforts made towards web accessibility.
It should be remembered that the Bobby test does not ensure ‘real’ accessibility. Firstly, “Bobby Approved” is based on passing the Priority 1 checkpoints alone. Many now believe that if a site is to be truly accessible it should pass the Priority 2 checkpoints also. Indeed, if we are to look at initiatives at European Union level we should expect Priority 2 compliance to be the benchmark going forward. Bobby tests for these Priority 2 checkpoints but compliance is not part of getting the icon. Secondly, Bobby cannot even warrant that a site has passed all of the WAI Priority 1 checkpoints it has evaluated as Bobby is only one interpretation of the WAI checkpoints.
Indeed, in the absence of a complaint, CAST does not actively regulate the use of the icon. There seems to be abuse in some instances and sites have been observed to display the icon even though they are not compliant. This usually occurs where the test’s subjective Priority 1 ‘user checks’ have not been addressed, where only the homepage on a site has been tested or where new content is not assessed for accessibility when added.
UK Government recommendations:
‘The reports can look extremely daunting at first because of their length and quantity of detail but it is (BOBBY) a service worth persevering with.’
Guidelines for UK Government websites
Illustrated handbook for Web management teams