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A-Prompt toolkit

A-Prompt (Accessibility Prompt) assists HTML authors create web pages that offer greater accessibility and improved functionality for all users – including those with disabilities.

A-Prompt is made available through the collaborative efforts of the Adaptive Technology Resource Centre (ATRC) at the University of Toronto and the TRACE Center at the University of Wisconsin.

Funding for the project was provided by the Networks Ontario Telecommunications Access Partnerships (TAP) program and the U.S. National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR).

A-Prompt not only evaluates web documents for accessibility barriers but also repairs most problems through a series of automated dialog boxes. The software application performs its assessments based on guidelines established by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) – the accessibility arm of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

"The advantage of using A-Prompt to correct accessibility problems is that the user doesn't have to know anything about HTML elements or attributes or the WAI guidelines," says designer/programmer, Chris Ridpath.

Internet users with disabilities must often rely on adaptive technologies to access web pages. Web compatibility with assistive technologies such as screen readers, magnifiers, and alternative pointing devices has improved considerably over the last few years. But it is also essential for web pages to be designed with accessibility in mind to ensure adaptive technologies and their accompanying features are available to users.

A-Prompt enables web authors to select individual files for evaluation and repair. If an accessibility problem is detected, A-Prompt displays the necessary dialog boxes guiding users step-by-step through the repair process. Most repairs (and many repetitive tasks) are automated.

"A-Prompt was created for the novice web developer, the professional, and everyone in between," says Ridpath, a member of the WAI Evaluation and Repair group. "The WAI guidelines can be quite daunting and complex – especially to the novice – but A-Prompt makes it easy to complete virtually all accessibility repairs."

The program is also a great timesaver for professionals.

"It can be a slow and arduous process for a professional web developer to conduct a thorough check of a large site," says Ridpath, "even for something as simple as missing 'alt' text. It's much easier to let A-Prompt do it for you."

While users aren't required to be knowledgeable about the WAI guidelines, A-Prompt does make an excellent teaching tool. In addition to offering step-by-step instructions for completing each repair, A-Prompt's Help files also provide a clear and concise explanation of corresponding WAI guidelines.

"A-Prompt is a great educational tool," says Greg Gay, a Project Manager for the ATRC whose duties include supervising the University of Toronto's Web-Savvy Inclusive Web Design team. "Once you use A-Prompt a couple of times you start to become aware of the issues involved in developing accessible web sites and it becomes part of your 'best practices' routine."

When all accessibility issues have been resolved, the repaired HTML code is automatically inserted into the document and a new version of the file can be saved to the author's hard drive.

A-Prompt runs on a basic Pentium 133 (and higher) PC and is compatible with Windows '95, '98, ME, and NT editions. Version 1.0.5 can be downloaded for free by visiting the A-Prompt Home Page.