The Accessible Web Author's Toolkit
There are a number of helpful tools out there that can make life much easier for the author of an accessible web site. These include networked and local evaluation tools, correction and repair utilities, WYSIWYG and "raw HTML" editors, and specialized browsers for testing purposes.
These tools can look over your web page and identify potential problems for you to fix, including problems with HTML validation and accessibility pitfalls. Validation and correction should be a standard part of any web development process!
W3C's HTML Validation Service
Run by the World Wide Web Consortium, this online validation tool will download and check your page for conformance with HTML 4.0 or other published standards.
CAST's Bobby Service
Bobby should be an integral part of your web authoring toolkit. In addition to checking for accessibility, it will also provide information on browser incompatabilities, download time, and some HTML errors.
Run Bobby Locally
As Bobby is written as a java application, you can download and run the program locally. This is useful for testing pages (in bulk) before putting them on the web, or if you're behind a firewall.
Correction and Repair Utilities
Some tools not only find the problems but assist you in correcting them. Here's some useful links to those.
Dave Raggett of the W3C has developed this utility for cleaning up your web pages by identifying and correcting HTML errors -- including accessibility problems. This runs on Windows 95/NT, MacOS, BeOS, OS/2, Amiga, and Linux and a variety of other Unix platforms.
Developed by the Adaptive Technology Resource Center at the University of Toronto and the Trace Center at the University of Wisconsin, A-Prompt is a toolkit for embedding in other HTML editors to prompt web authors to create more accessible websites. An alpha version of the program that runs under Windows 95/98/NT can be downloaded.
A project to generate and/or rewrite missing or broken ALT text; academic in nature but test applications that run in a Win32 console window can be downloaded.
WWW HTML Accessibility Tool (WHAT)
Another project in alpha stage, this will prompt the user to provide missing ALT, TITLE and LONGDESC attributes for images. It runs on Windows 95/NT.
Text-Only Maker (TOM)
Accessibility people like cute acronyms. (The AWARE Center is guilty of this, of course.) TOM is a web-based service that will take a URL and prompt you to add alternative text, then generate the new page for you or email it to you.
Web Authoring Programs
There are a multitude of web authoring programs out there, but unfortunately very few of them, as yet, generate accessible or even valid HTML code. Those listed below are useful for web authors who wish to produce accessible web sites.
HoTMetaL Pro 5.0
SoftQuad's HoTMetaL program for web authoring and publishing features support for accessibility such as prompting for missing information and generation of valid HTML.
The 3 "Tions" (shuns) of Accessibility-Aware Authoring Tools
An essay by Jan Richards of UToronto's Adaptive Technology Resource Centre on what a good authoring tool should do for you.
WAI Authoring Tool Working Group
What must an authoring tool do to support accessibility? The W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative has an entire working group devoted to answering that. Read over the draft guidelines; does your favorite authoring tool measure up?
Many times it's useful to "see" (or hear) a page the way that someone else may see it. The browsers below are useful for that purpose.
The Lynx text-only browser is used by many people who can't use a graphics-based browser, such as visually impaired users with screen readers. Lynx is available for VMS, various shades of Unix, Windows 95/98/NT, and DOS. It makes an excellent tool for testing web pages under development -- if it runs on Lynx, you are most likely 75% of the way to an accessible web site.
Productivity Works produces this speaking web browser that will read pages out loud as well as displaying a text-only version of the page in large print. Want to hear what your web site "looks like"? pwWebSpeak runs on Windows 95/98/NT.
Productivity Works has made a special discount on the purchase of pwWebSpeak available to members of the HTML Writers Guild who wish to use it to create accessible web pages. Please see the Productivity Works' For Web Designers Only page for more details.
Home Page Reader
IBM'S Home Page Reader works with Netscape Navigator to read web sites out loud. It runs on Windows 95/98/NT, and is another way to hear what your site sounds like.
While not strictly a browser for special needs access, the Opera browser includes features such as turning off or on frames, stylesheets, and images that can be useful when developing websites with an eye towards accessible design.