Accessibility test tool for OpenDocument files

I just got word from Dr. Jon Gunderson that a team of students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has developed an Open Document Format Accessibility Evaluation tool. This tool (currently at version 0.9) runs a series of tests on ODF text, spreadsheet, and presentation files to verify whether a list of known accessibility features have been appropriately included. Tests include XML validation and conformance to the ODF schemas; whether the appropriate metadata is present (document title, document description, etc.); and alternate text for images. There are also tests specific to the type of document being analyzed (e.g. checking for titles on slides for presentation files). One of the more novel aspects of the test tool is a measure of the proportion of the document text that is contained within text headers.

To the best of my knowledge, tools like this only exist for three types of files: HTML files, PDF files, and now ODF files. Perhaps that is because HTML, PDF/A, and ODF are open standards which contain a lot of accessibility features put there through the thoughtful evaluation of and feedback from a community of accessibility experts.

With the development of tools like this, enterprises will be able to ensure that documents they publish (or circulate internally) have all of the accessibility features they should. The next challenge will be to integrate such tools into document workflow (either for publishing documents to the web, or for sharing them internally). Which has me thinking... At Sun as at many companies, the corporate e-mail system scans all e-mail attachments for viruses. It shouldn't be that hard to incorporate tools like this into e-mail systems, to scan for the accessibility of ODF attachments (and perhaps produce a report that gets added as an additional attachment, noting how well or poorly the attached ODF file implements all of the accessibility features). Hey Jon, do any of your students wanna take a crack at that?

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Peter Korn

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