The Applause Accessibility Tool Goes Open Source

Jonathan zaleski Jonathan Zaleski
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Learn how the Applause Accessibility Tool finds accessibility issues — and how you can access the source code to make enhancements

Earlier this year, Applause Labs launched the Applause Accessibility Tool, an automated check for accessibility issues. This tool is part of Applause’s ongoing commitment to make our digital world a more accessible place for people with disabilities. As the ongoing pandemic has proven, organizations can adjust to become more digitally accessible, and Applause is proud to play a role in that goal.

Now as further proof of Applause’s commitment to accessibility, the Applause Accessibility Tool is being open-sourced. This next evolution of our automated tool enables you to access and tweak the source code for the Applause Accessibility Tool to make it more aligned with your specific use case.

What does the Applause Accessibility Tool do?

The functionality of the Applause Accessibility Tool is staying the same. The Applause Accessibility Tool is designed to be used by web developers. The tool integrates seamlessly into organizations’ development process, and is used early in the software development lifecycle.

The tool flags violations to accessibility web guidelines, such as WCAG, and best practices that can accurately be detected via automation. Specifically, a few examples of what the Applause Accessibility Tool can identify include whether:

  • Elements have alternate text
  • Buttons have discernable text
  • Documents contain a title element
  • Audio elements have captions
  • Each page contains a level-one heading

When it identifies an issue, it provides either a code change that the developer can automatically apply, or highlights the issue for manual correction. The Applause Accessibility Tool’s ability to automatically apply the code updates makes it unique among automated accessibility tools.

HTML code showcasing Applause Accessibility Tool offering to fix issues it finds.

The Applause Accessibility Tool automatically offers to fix issues that it finds.

When the Applause Accessibility Tool identifies an issue, it provides either a code change that the developer can automatically apply, or highlights the issue for manual correction.

As with all automated accessibility tools, the Applause Accessibility Tool can uncover only a small portion of accessibility issues. Many accessibility issues — such as whether the alternative text for an image is appropriate, or if the tab order is correct — require human evaluation and manual testing to uncover. This is where Applause’s accessibility and UX testing practices — which provides access to experts who conduct assessments against WCAG 2.1, inclusive design researchers and real-life people with disabilities — can come into play to help organizations improve their digital accessibility and conform to accessibility guidelines.

What does open-sourcing the Applause Accessibility Tool mean?

You can still access the Applause Accessibility Tool as you did before by clicking here. The tool continues to run as an IntelliJ plugin that is owned and maintained by Applause, which will continue to provide support and enhancements for the Applause Accessibility Tool.

Now, you can access the Applause Accessibility Tool’s source code on GitHub — the command line tool is here and the IntelliJ plugin is here. This enables you to make changes to the Applause Accessibility Tool that better suit you or your organization’s unique needs. You can then build the IntelliJ plug-in locally and install it from your local system, or distribute it internally for others to use. You can also request features, file issues and submit pull-requests.

Applause is making the Applause Accessibility Tool open-source because we truly want to make the world a more accessible place. We believe that putting this source code in the hands of talented engineers, who intimately know the unique problems that their organizations face, will help make the Applause Accessibility Tool more effective for those organizations.

The Applause Labs team is eager to hear about the changes that you make to the Applause Accessibility Tool. Please reach out and let us know if you make any changes to the source code and what results you saw. We’re all together in the battle to improve digital accessibility.

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