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Someone told me something about something called Bobby...I guess it has to do with making sure your site is handicapped accessible, or something. Do you know?


Bobby is a software tool designed to determine whether your site meets standards for accessibility. It looks for things like ALT text in your images, context irrelevant links (such as "Click Here"), text which is set apart based on color, and many other accessibility issues. The best part is, Bobby is a free tool*. Just type in your URL, and Bobby will tell you if you pass. If you don't pass (which you probably won't!) Bobby will tell you all the things that are wrong with your site.

If you work hard enough, you can make your site entirely Bobby Approved, and you can get a little logo saying so. Even if you don't want to take the time to make your site fully compliant, using Bobby and studying the results will help you get a much better idea of the problems disabled persons may have trying to access your site. At the very least, you should try to take care of the most glaring problems.

* 2016 Update: Bobby was shut down several years ago, but has lived on in various incarnations. Rather than linking to it here, since it'll probably change locations again, just go to Google and search on "web accessibility evaluation tool".


A year after responding to this question, the following question was received:

Dear Professor Puzzler I was reading your blog, and in particular I saw your answer to the question about "Bobby." Can you tell me why YOUR website does not pass Bobby's analysis? 


This is a good question! In my previous Bobby post I said:

"Even if you don't want to take the time to make your site fully compliant, using Bobby and studying the results will help you get a much better idea of the problems disabled persons may have trying to access your site. At the very least, you should try to take care of the most glaring problems."

This is exactly how I use the Bobby tool, for a variety of reasons:

  • This site has design features that serve no practical purpose for navigation, but are purely for visual aesthetic. For instance, if you go to the home page and hover over any of the game links, they will slightly change color. This is just an attention grabber, and serves no real purpose. Bobby complains that the code doesn't run when the element has keyboard focus. Except...it's not possible for that element to have keyboard focus, so Bobby's suggestion is not practical or sensible, because he doesn't know the purpose of the code.
  • Similarly, I have features that run off either a mouse click event or a link click. Bobby recognizes that I have mouse-click events that aren't keyboard accessible, but has no way of knowing that I have accessible links that do exactly the same thing.
  • By the nature of this particular site, which contains a lot of educational games, some of the features may not be accessible to someone with certain disabilities, and it would be virtually impossible to make them so (in some cases it might be possible, but because this is a free site, and we would need a sizeable grant in order to be able to afford to incorporate handicapped accessibility into the games!)
  • There are some links on this site which have no text in them. For a very specific purpose. They lead to secret, hidden, "easter eggs" on the site.  Adding text to the link defeats the purpose of the link. Besides, since these links are designed to be non-obvious, they're actually more accessible to someone who navigates by keyboard, since the focus will stop on the link.

For the most part, the reasons have to do with the fact that an automated tool can't guess at the purpose of an element on the page, and therefore I consider it to be more important to follow the spirit of the law instead of the letter.

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