Open-source accessibility testing for the modern web

Collaborating to improve Quail, an open-source web accessibility testing tool that will integrate with existing continuous integration processes and developer toolchains.

Project description

As web development and content professionals, we all strive to build systems that are accessible to as many people as possible regardless of their ability. Developers employ numerous tools to ensure code quality in the life-cycle of a project — unit tests, feature tests, performance tests and code linters to name a few. For accessibility, there exists no open-source testing framework that integrates with modern development toolchains that allow for continuous integration.

The Quail Accessibility Information Library is an open-source, MIT-licensed suite of tests that assess web page structure and content. The library is currently developed against WCAG and 508, but additional guidelines may be mapped to tests using a tagging system.

Starting in 2014, the Quail development team, the Quality Institute Dutch Municipalities (KING), Acquia and members of the Drupal and CKEditor communities will launch an effort to develop additional tests for better coverage against the WCAG guideline.

This collaboration will continue through the first half of 2014 as the Dutch team targets the launch of a government-wide testing platform for their web pages and content.


Several groups and individuals will participate in this effort at varying levels of involvement.

Quail: Accessibility Information Library

Quail was started by Kevin Miller in 2009 as a PHP library specifically targeted at checking content accessibility within a CMS. Shortly after announcing Quail, he also developed the Accessible Content module for Drupal, which has been used in several government and higher education websites to give content authors feedback. On the train from Drupalcon Denver in March of 2012, Kevin re-wrote Quail as a jQuery plugin to help expand possible integrations to more projects. Quail continues to evolve through volunteer contribution and the leadership of Kevin.

Quality Institute Dutch Municipalities (KING)

The Quality Institute Dutch Municipalities is committed to building accessible self-service tools and information for its citizens. It has elected to incorporate Quail into the development of a larger quality assurance platform for its web properties. The project team will provide architectural and development resources to Quail in order to increase test coverage as well as improve the instrumentation of the Quail project. It is through their generous support that we can accelerate the project’s development.

Drupal and Acquia

The Drupal project is committed to building accessible tools and formatting accessible content. The Accessibility module is a benchmark implementation of the Quail testing library. Drupal project leaders endorse the development of automated testing tools that improve the project’s user experience for everyone. We anticipate that many volunteer develops will contribute some time to this project.

Acquia is a for-profit company with a commitment to fostering the Drupal project. The Office of the CTO will provide strategy and consulting resources to participants of this project on an as-needed basis.


The CKEditor development team have a strong, committed history to accessibility. They will provide architectural feedback to ensure that Quail tests can be employed to assess content accessibility within the CKEditor application.


Yes! You! If you are reading the announcement, you probably have an interest in improving accessibility on the web. And we all know that assessing conformance to accessibility standards is not simple. The guidelines are comprehensive and dense with information. So help us automate them into tools that you can use in your web project!


The full roadmap is outlined here:

Milestone 1 — Establish this project

Due on January 10th, 2014

The first milestone concerns launching this project. Participant responsibilities will be established. Our project management tools will also be chosen and set up during this time.

List of issues for Milestone 1

Milestone 2 — Test development

Due on February 28th, 2014

The second milestone concerns the development of new tests targeted to the WCAG specification, specifically the Techniques. The tests will cluster around assessment of individual page elements, testable with the current Quail framework.

List of issues for Milestone 2

Milestone 3 — Additional tests

Due on April 30th, 2014

The tests slated for third milestone concern the overall structure of a page in terms HTML specification. We will also address frames.

List of issues for Milestone 3

Further milestones

We will establish additional milestones and attribute issues to these efforts in order to structure the continued development of the Quail accessibility testing framework.

How to participate

Quail is an open-source suite of tests hosted on Github. We follow the standard Pull Request model against the dev branch.

The first and major category of work for Quail involves the creation and refinement of tests that exercise conformance criteria of accessibility guidelines. For example, we need a test for WCAG Technique H56: dir attribute on an inline element. Work is already underway discussing a solution.

The second category of development work involves instrumentation. We could use guidance and code input from individuals who have experience structuring modules for inclusion in larger projects using tools such as NPM and Bower. We are already discussing publishing Quail as a Node module.

If you have questions about participation, you may contact Jesse Beach at jesse.beach (at) acquia (dot) com.

Hero image credit

Philips Koninck (Dutch, 1619 — 1688)
River Landscape, about 1675, Watercolor and gouache
13.5 x 20 cm (5 5/16 x 7 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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