Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cautionary Tales of Inaccessibility Not Learned by Victorian Government

The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (W3C WAI)has released a set of "Cautionary Tales of Inaccessibility" to help promote good web design. I was contacted about details for "A Cautionary Tale of Inaccessibility: Sydney Olympics Website". Regrettably the Victorian Government Country Fire Authority Web Site may be added to this list. An automated test indicates that the CFA home page failed a W3C WAI Version 1 test, with 1 error at level 1, 36 at level 2, and 15 at level 3. The page also failed a W3C HTML Validation test, with 230 errors and 37 warnings. The page also failed the W3C mobileOK Checker tests.

The 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission identified deficiencies in the online distribution of bushfire information by the Victorian Government. Some media reports indicate that the CFA web site failed yesterday.

Any ICT professional involved with bushfire web sites must be aware that they have ethical as well as legal obligations to ensure that the systems they provide are operating correctly. Arguing that the web site is not essential and that citizens can get information from radio or other sources is not a valid defence, nor is arguing that they do not have sufficient resources, nor that they did not have the authority, or were ordered not to fix the flaws in the system. Professionals are required to act in the public interest, regardless.

The design of web sites for emergency use, including in bushfires is not a new field and there are some established approaches. I outlined some of these, along with methods of using the web for investigations, for the staff of the Victorian bushfire inquiry:

Role of ICT in Emergency Management


Maxious said...

I participated in the ACT Government phone alert trial today. One element was a text message asking me to access the ESA site for further information. Unfortunately the ESA site does not degrade gracefully/have a special layout for mobile browsers so all I could really see was the side bar of links. Even if I had been able to find the news item about the emergency warning test, it was in PDF format which my smartphone does not have a reader for.

Tom Worthington said...

Blogger Maxious wrote December 17, 2009 2:14 PM:

>I participated in the ACT Government phone alert trial today. ... ESA site does not degrade gracefully ...

One of my students prepared a report on bushfire web sites and gave a
seminar about this at the ANU in Canberra, which staff of the ACT
Government attended. It may be that the ACT Government has a good reason
for not acting on that advice, but I can't think of one.