Accessibility Asymmetries in Web Localisation

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Accessibility Asymmetries in Web Localisation



Translation inevitably leads to increased access to information for all, particularly when it is made available on the Web. While this might bring up concerns related to digital sustainability, we contend that the potential uncontrolled expansion of localised web content nowadays can be challenged from the perspective of web accessibility ̶ understood as the availability of information and services online that can be perceived, operated and understood by individuals with a diverse range of sight, hearing, cognitive and moving abilities. When looking at information accessibility as opportunity, we are both (i) supporting all forms of intralingual and intersemiotic translation – e.g. captions for media content, text alternatives for visual content, Easy-to-Read versions of standard texts, and (ii) encouraging fully localised websites in contexts where the information and services offered therein are expected to be used by multilingual, multicultural or international communities. Taking the case of multilingual health websites, an investigation was conducted to examine whether accessibility asymmetries exist across [...]

MORADO VAZQUEZ, Lucia, RODRIGUEZ VAZQUEZ, Silvia. Accessibility Asymmetries in Web Localisation. In: 7th International IATIS Conference, Barcelona (Spain), 14-17 September, 2021

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Accessibility Asymmetries in Web Localisation

Lucía Morado Vázquez

Silvia Rodríguez Vázquez

Panel: Perspectives in Translation and Digital Spaces in the Age of Ecological Awareness IATIS, 16 September 2021


Table of Contents


Web Accessibility, Localisation and Health


Research Questions and Methods


Preliminary Findings and Discussion


Limitations and Future work




Web Accessibility Perspectives

“Essential for some, useful for all”

“All users (especially those with disabilities) can perceive, understand, navigate, interact with and contribute to the web”

Dpt. Social Services, Australian Government

Web Accessibility

What is Web Accessibility? (I)



1.1 Text Alternatives:

Provide text alternatives for any non-text content (changeable to large print, braille, speech, symbols or simpler language...)

1.2 Time-based Media:

Provide alternatives for time-based media.

1.3 Adaptable:

Create content that can be presented in different/simpler ways without losing information or structure.

1.4 Distinguishable:

Make it easier for users to see and hear content including separating foreground from background.


2.1 Keyboard Accessible:

Make all functionality available from a keyboard.

2.2 Enough Time:

Provide users enough time to read and use content.

2.3 Seizures:

Do not design content in a way that is known to cause seizures.

2.4 Navigable:

Provide ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are.

2.5 Input Modalities:

Make it easier for users to operate functionality through various inputs beyond keyboard.


3.1 Readable:

Make text content readable and understandable.

3.2 Predictable:

Make Web pages appear and operate in predictable ways.

3.3 Input Assistance:

Help users avoid and correct mistakes.


4.1 Compatible:

Maximize compatibility with current and future user agents, including assistive technologies.

W C A G 2 . 1

P r i n c i p l e s a n d g u i d e l i n e s

( K i r k p a t r i c k e t a l . 2 0 1 8 )

What is Web Accessibility? (II)


What is Web Accessibility? (III)

Website in Multiple Versions

Some websites are available in multiple

versions that are independent of one another in use, that is, using one version does not

require or depend on using another version of the website. For example, a website may have a mobile version and there may be

versions of a website in different

languages that meet this characteristic.

Usually each such website version has a different set of URIs. Such website

versions can be considered as individual websites for evaluation.

WCAG-EM 1.0, Velleman & Abou-Zahra (2014)

Statement of Partial Conformance - Language

A “statement of partial conformance due to language may be made when the

page does not conform, but would

conform if accessibility support existed for (all of) the language(s) used on the page. The form of that statement would be: “This page does not conform, but would conform to WCAG 2.1 at level X if accessibility support existed for the following language(s):”

WCAG 2.1, Kirkpatrick et al. (2018)


2 0 1 3 - 2 0 2 1


Analysis of web documents

+200 subjects

(web accessibility experts, academics, localisation professionals and other localisation industry representatives,

screen reader users)

15,000 web pages (private and public

sector) Interviews Tool review &

creation Controlled Experiments


 Lack of awareness / low level of awareness

 Uncertainty regarding accountability for MWA

 Lack of support in

translation technology

 Insufficient knowledge

Multilingual Web Accessibility (MWA)


Localisation, Accessibility and Health

PwD are more likely than others to use the Internet for health-related activities in general (Scanlan 2021)

 Still, key websites such as the WHO portal, failed to serve the information needs of all citizens during the recent health crisis (Fernández-Díaz et al. 2020)

 Few public health webpages exhibited full compliance with all WCAG 2.0

Levels; most of them lagged behind (Alajarmeh 2021)


Research Question

H: Localised health web pages are less accessible than original web pages

(Casalegno 2018, Pontus 2019)

Are localised health web pages as accessible as original ones?

Focus: EN-ES language pair





MedilinePlus -> List of 705 health-related organizations and agencies

“Our mission is to present high-quality, relevant

health and wellness

information that is trusted and easy to understand,

in both English and





 Adaptation of localisation levels proposed by Jiménez-Crespo (2013):

 Level 0 to 2 were discarded:

 Translation powered by third-party MT services (Level 0)

 Isolated documents (e.g. PDF) or list of resources only (Level 0)

 Just one short text or single page localised (Level 1)

 No localised menus (Level 2)

At least one of the main menus should be localised



74 websites in English and Spanish (only home pages, total of 148)

68 (92%) US

6 (8%) International


Accessibility Evaluation

Automatic tool

Google Lighthouse:

General accessibility score

Manual inspection Title of the page

Language of the page


Accessibility Evaluation

Automatic tool

Google Lighthouse:

General accessibility score

Manual inspection Title of the page

Language of the page


Accessibility Evaluation

Automatic tool

Google Lighthouse:

General accessibility score

Manual inspection Title of the page

Language of the page


Manual Evaluation – Title of the Page

WCAG 2.1

WCAG 2.1, G88 Technique


Manual Evaluation – Title of the Page


Manual Evaluation – Title of the Page


Manual Evaluation – Title of the Page


Manual Evaluation – Language of the Page

WCAG 2.1

Language Codes

The W3C (Ishida 2016) recommends to use IANA’s language subtag registry.

<html lang="en-US">

language region



General score


Automatic Evaluation – General Scores

90.1 90.0

0.0 10.0 20.0 30.0 40.0 50.0 60.0 70.0 80.0 90.0 100.0


General Score

Google Lighthouse



Language Definition


Automatic vs. Manual – Language Definition


Automatic vs. Manual – Language Definition


Automatic vs. Manual – Language Definition

Lighthouse Manual

EN 95% 95%

ES 93% 59%

10% 0%

20% 30%

40% 50%

60% 70%

80% 90%

100% Language Definition

EN ES Linear (ES)


Manual Evaluation – Language Definition

o 41% (n=30) of the language definitions in the ES pages were not correct:


17 8

Language Definition Errors in ES Pages

No lang en en-US





Manual Evaluation – Title

Lighthouse did not find any errors (all the pages had a <title> element).

But, the manual evaluation:


Titles without errors 54% 30%

Titles with one or more errors 46% 70%













Manual Evaluation – Title

0 5 10 15 20 25

Too long Abbreviation without expanded form

URL It does not identify the subject of the web page It does not make sense when read out of context Repetition

General Errors



Manual Evaluation – Title Examples

Too long -> more than 64 characters (Berners-Lee. 1992)

The American Kidney Fund (AKF) fights kidney disease on all fronts as the nation’s leading kidney nonprofit. - American Kidney Fund (AKF)

American Kidney Fund


The title does not identify the subject of the web page


Life Options Rehabilitation Program

Manual Evaluation – Title Examples


Manual Evaluation – Title Examples

Abbreviation without expanded form

Home | NIDCD

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders


Manual Evaluation – Title

0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14

Text in English Not translated Mix of EN an ES

Additional Errors in the Spanish Pages


Home Page - Office of Minority Health (OMH)

Manual Evaluation – Title Examples

Text in English

Title in EN page Title in ES page

Office of Minority Health (Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health)

HOME - Spanish Office of Minority



Home - National Osteoporosis Foundation

Manual Evaluation – Title Examples

Not translated

Title in EN page Title in ES page

National Osteoporosis Foundation

Home - National Osteoporosis



Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD) – an NCATS Program | Providing information about rare or genetic diseases.

Manual Evaluation – Title Examples

Mix of EN and ES

Title in EN page Title in ES page

Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

En Español | Genetic and Rare Diseases

Information Center (GARD) – an NCATS






o Method: Importance of combining automatic and manual evaluation methods

o Limitations of current accessibility evaluation tools when assessing MWA

o The language of the lang attribute corresponds to the language of the page o The title of the pages are pertinent

o Study Indicators:

o More language-related accessibility issues found in localised web pages

o CMS settings

o Access rights ( title element, lang attribute)

o Lack of knowledge and know-how by web editors & localisation professionals

o In the case of the lang attribute, value often set as non-translatable


Avenues for Future Work

o Web document analysis

o Other linguistic accessibility aspects:

o Text alternatives for images

o Language of the parts (SC 3.2.1, WCAG 2.1)

o Translation quality & language variants

o Involving the target population

o Usability studies with screen reader users and non-disabled users

o Technical issues with bilingual titles?

o Use of EN & ES by Spanish speakers

o Parallel studies

o Spanish health websites (ES-EN)


Thank you!

Lucía Morado Vázquez –

Silvia Rodríguez Vázquez –


References (I)

• Alajarmeh, Nancy. 2021. ‘Evaluating the Accessibility of Public Health Websites: An Exploratory Cross-Country Study’.

Universal Access in the Information Society.

• Casalegno, Elisa. 2018. Usability of Partially Localised Websites in Switzerland: A Study with Screen Reader Users. MA Dissertation. Geneva: University of Geneva.

• Fernández-Díaz, Elena, Patricia P Iglesias-Sánchez, and Carmen Jambrino-Maldonado. 2020. ‘Exploring WHO

Communication during the COVID 19 Pandemic through the WHO Website Based on W3C Guidelines: Accessible for All?’ International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17 (16): 5663.

• Google (2021) Lighthouse | Tools for Web Developers [online], Google Developers, available: [accessed 15 Sep 2021].

• Ishida, R. (2016) Language Tags in HTML and XML [online], available: [accessed 15 Sep 2021].

• Jiménez Crespo, Miguel Ángel. 2013. Translation and Web Localization. London: Routledge.


References (II)

• Kirkpatrick, Andrew, Joshue O Connor, Alastair Campbell, and Michael Cooper, eds. 2018. ‘Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1’. W3C Recommendation.

• Pontus, Volha. 2019. Evaluating the Accessibility of Localised Websites: The Case of the Airline Industry in Switzerland.

MA Dissertation. Geneva: University of Geneva.

• Scanlan, Mark. 2021. ‘Reassessing the Disability Divide: Unequal Access as the World Is Pushed Online’. Universal Access in the Information Society.

• Velleman, Eric, and Shadi Abou-Zahra, eds. 2014. ‘Website Accessibility Conformance Evaluation Methodology (WCAG- EM) 1.0’. W3C Working Group Note.


Back-up Slides


Backup slides Manual Evaluation – Title

To study further with users in the ES titles:

o Presence of “Español” or similar expressions. 24% (n=18) of the titles.

o Name of the organisation in English:

o 47% (n=35) of the titles

o 15% (n=11) considered errors


Backup slides

0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50

Contrast. Background and foreground colors do not have a sufficient…

Navigation. Heading elements are not in a sequentially-descending order Navigation. The page does not contain a heading, skip link, or landmark…

Names and labels. Links do not have a discernible name Names and labels. Form elements do not have associated labels Names and labels. <frame> or <iframe> elements do not have a title

Tables and lists.…

Best practices. [user-scalable="no"] is used in the <meta name="viewport">…

ARIA. ARIA input fields do not have accessible names ARIA. [role] values are not valid


ARIA. [aria-*] attributes do not have valid values

Errors per category (Lighthouse)



Backup Slide– Language Definition

Language variants:

Language variants en en-US en-GB

EN 51 18 1

Language variants en en-US es es-es es-us es-mx

ES 17 8 34 5 4 1


Backup Slides – US vs International

Source: Google Lighthouse


US 90.1 90.2

International 90.2 87.3

0.0 20.0 40.0 60.0 80.0 100.0

General Score

US International

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Pan American Health

Organization UNESCO


World Health Organization

World Organisation for Animal Health


Backup Slides – US vs International

US International

EN 51% 67%

ES 28% 50%







Correct Titles



Manual Evaluation – Title Examples


Organ Donor | Organ Donor

National Organ and Tissue Donation Initiative (Health

Resources and Services Administration)


Manual Evaluation – Title Examples


Consumer Product Safety Commission


Backup slides /More avenues for Future Work

MWA Guidelines

o Definition of best practices for the

localisation of web page titles




Related subjects :