Monday, June 23, 2008

UK Government fails own web accessibility guidelines

The UK Government's Central Office of Information (COI) has set a minimum standard of accessibility for public sector websites. Unfortunately their web site detailing the policy fails to meet the standard set, makes misleading claims of conformance with the standard and does not comply with their own guidelines.

The COI has set a minimum standard of accessibility for new UK public sector websites at Level Double-A of the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines . This is required as of December 2009 for central government departments and March 2011 for central government executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies.

The COI suggests using free and commercially available automated testing tools as part of measuring accessibility. However, applying one such test, the Web Accessibility Test (TAW), the COI's page failed with eight level 2 problems (excerpt of the report appended). This indicates that the page does not meet at Level Double-A of the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. The problems with the page are minor and easily corrected.

The COI's help page, states that the "... website's objective are to conform to the Guidelines for UK government websites, which support the W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0, Level AA, to ensure a Web accessibility standard have been achieved and are maintained." The statement is misleading, as it suggests the web site meets Level Double-A, when it does not. Also the statement does not use the wording suggested in COI's own policy document.

In contrast the Australian Government accessibility policy requires a lower level of compliance, to Level A of the W3C guidelines. The web page from the Australian Government Information Management Office (Australian equivalent to UK COI) stating this requirement not only meets this requirement, but exceeds it, passing the more stringent automated Level Double-A test (excerpt appended), which the UK COI failed.

UK Government Web Page Test

TAW Logo
TAW 3.0 (6/24/08 1:11 AM) Validation conform to WAI guidelines, W3C Recommendation 5 May 1999
Anar a la pàgina principal de Fundación CTIC
Test summary outcome

AutomaticHuman review
Priority 1049
Priority 2837
Priority 3Not analysed

2. Human review1. Human review1. Human review1. Human review2. Human review1. Human review2. Automatic1. Human review2. Human review1. Human review2. Human review1. Human review2. Human review1. Human review2. Human review
1. Human review1. Human review2. Human reviewImages from COI's public information films: Backwards (Fire Safety); Teacher (Road Safety); Arms Length (Firework Safety)
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This page was printed from the COI website at 00:11 on Tuesday, 24 Jun 2008. It is subject to © Crown Copyright.
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Found issues: ...

Priority 2[WAI] Priority 2 accessibility issues. A Web content developer should satisfy this checkpoint. Otherwise, one or more groups will find it difficult to access information in the document. Satisfying this checkpoint will remove significant barriers to accessing Web documents. 8 automatically detected problems and 37 problems that require human review have been found.

3.5 Use header elements to convey document structure and use them according to specification.

  • Human review required Verify that all headers are properly marked up ("h1"-"h6" elements).
  • Improper header nesting: Header levels must not increase by more than one level per heading. Do not use headings to create font effects; use style sheets to change font styles (1)
    • Line 32:

11.2 Avoid deprecated features of W3C technologies.

  • This HTML element uses deprecated attributes. (7)
    • Line 19:
    • Line 38:
    • Line 38:
    • Line 38:
    • Line 49:
      1. Line 54:
      2. Line 55:

...

From: TAW 3.0 Validation Testing outcome for http://www.coi.gov.uk/guidance.php?page=131, to WAI guidelines, W3C Recommendation 5 May 1999, as at 6/24/08

Australian Government Web Page Test

TAW Logo
TAW 3.0 (6/24/08 1:25 AM) Validation conform to WAI guidelines, W3C Recommendation 5 May 1999
Anar a la pàgina principal de Fundación CTIC
Test summary outcome

AutomaticHuman review
Priority 1030
Priority 2037
Priority 3Not analysed

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Accessibility

1. Human review2. Human reviewThis item is a mandatory requirement

Accessibility is a general term used to describe the degree to which a system is usable by as many people as possible without modification. Web pages often have access issues for people with disabilities or with technological constraints.

Australian Government departments and agencies are also required to maximise their use of new technologies by ensuring that their websites address access and equity issues for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Tell Me About?

The Australian Government aims to achieve fairer and more accessible government services and programs through its Access and Equity Strategy. The strategy seeks to promote fairness and responsiveness in the design, delivery, monitoring and evaluation of government services in a culturally diverse society.

The Government's Access and Equity Strategy is guided by the Access and Equity Framework (Department of Immigration and Citizenship) formerly known as the Accessible Government Services for All Framework. It was developed in 2006 in consultation with Australian Government agencies, taking into account their ability to contribute both as separate portfolios and to whole-of government responses to the challenges faced by our culturally diverse nation.

Its four principles, and the corresponding performance indicators, address key responsibilities of government:
  • Responsiveness – Extent to which programs and services are accessible, fair and responsive to the individual needs of clients
  • Communication – Open and effective channels of communication with all stakeholders
  • Accountability – Effective and transparent reporting and review mechanisms
  • Leadership – A whole of government approach to management of issues arising from Australia’s culturally and linguistically diverse society.

The framework suggests strategies for the implementation of these principles. It aims to assist agencies to analyse their performance and better share good practice responses to challenges and opportunities.

Progress in implementing the Access and Equity Strategy is published in the Access and Equity Annual Reports (Department of Immigration and Citizenship).

Why Must I?

Under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 agencies must ensure that people with disabilities have the same fundamental rights to access information as the rest of the community.

Under the Commonwealth Disability Strategy, (Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs) Australian Government agencies are obligated to remove barriers which prevent people with disabilities from having access to their policies, programs and services.

Under the 2000 Government Online Strategy departments and agencies are required to comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (World Wide Web Consortium).

Agencies must achieve level "A" conformance (all Priority 1 checkpoints are satisfied), and it is recommended that agencies achieve level "AA" conformance (all Priority 1 and Priority 2 checkpoints are satisfied).

The W3C guidelines explain how to make web content accessible to people with disabilities. However, following them will also make web content more available to all users. These guidelines do not discourage content developers from using images, video, etc., but rather explain how to make multimedia content more accessible to a wide audience.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

The W3C guidelines provide a series of checkpoints that can be used to ensure that websites are accessible. Each checkpoint has a priority level assigned by the Working Group based on the checkpoint's impact on accessibility.

Priority 1

W3C states that a web content developer must satisfy this checkpoint. Otherwise, one or more groups will find it impossible to access information in the document. Satisfying this checkpoint is a basic requirement for some groups to be able to use Web documents.

Level of Compliance: The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission's view is that compliance with the W3C WCAG 1.0 guidelines to the Single-A level is a minimum rather than a desirable outcome. Websites that demonstrate such compliance may still be difficult or impossible to access for many users with a disability.

Priority 2

W3C states that a web content developer should satisfy this checkpoint. Otherwise, one or more groups will find it difficult to access information in the document. Satisfying this checkpoint will remove significant barriers to accessing Web documents.

Priority 3

W3C states that a web content developer may address this checkpoint. Otherwise, one or more groups will find it somewhat difficult to access information in the document. Satisfying this checkpoint will improve access to Web documents.

How Do I?

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission provides information on World Wide Web Accessibility standards, guidelines, tools and techniques.

Government resources

Other resources

Who Can Help?

A list of workshops and training is available from HREOC - World Wide Web Accessibility.

For queries and assistance contact Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission - 1. Human reviewdisabdis@humanrights.gov.au.

For further details regarding access and equity requirements, contact:

Multicultural Affairs Branch
Department of Immigration and Citizenship
1. Human reviewaccess&equity@immi.gov.au

What's Related?

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From: TAW 3.0 Validation
Testing outcome for http://webpublishing.agimo.gov.au/Accessibility
conform to WAI guidelines, W3C Recommendation 5 May 1999, 6/24/08 1:25 AM


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1 Comments:

Blogger Sebastian Crump said...

Hi Tom,

Declaration of affiliation:
I am responding as the person that currently maintains COI's website. I have an accessibility background and have worked closely with various interest groups, both within government and industry in the UK.

Thank you for your interest in the new guidelines. You are correct in pointing out that our accessibility statement could be updated (it was based on best practice templates that were around a couple of years ago) and we are currently in the process of reviewing it.

However, I cannot agree that the COI's site 'fails' on accessibility, which implies that it is not accessible. The two errors that are highlighted by the particular automated tool you used are open to interpretation.

Firstly, the 'incorrectly nested header' (an h2 for the navigation heading) was a deliberate addition when we designed the site to make the site more accessible for screen-reader users, so that when they use the heading shortcuts they can easily find it, we are certainly not using the h2 tag for just text formatting (one of the main purposes of the guideline checkpoint). If you know of a better way of doing this, then we will certainly consider it.

Secondly, the 'deprecated HTML' I agree should be avoided if possible. But I think its occasional use to provide appropriate backward compatibility for older browsers is acceptable. The page validates to it's declared Doctype (XHTML 1.0 Transitional) and I believe this is probably a more important indicator. I will look again at those code snippets to see if they can be removed without causing problems in old browsers.

Thanks,

Sebastian Crump

June 27, 2008 8:20 PM

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