Wednesday, October 19, 2011

ACT MLAs Need Course in How to Communicate Online

Last week I received an invitation to an event by a member of the local parliament, the Australian Capital Territory's ACT Legislative Assembly, via their official email address ( This consisted of one line of text and a 1.5 Mbyte attached image. The image contained a brochure for the event, with a large photo and a form to fill in. Apart from the problem of downloading the large attachment, a person with limited eyesight would be unable to read the text in the image and will be unable to fill in the form. Under the Disability Discrimination Act, those providing a service to the public must take into account disabled access. It is reasonably simple to make an electronic document accessible (use text) and failing to do so may be illegal. The Australian Human Rights Commission provides advice on World Wide Web and information accessibility (my course notes on web design are also available). I suggest the ACT Legislative Assembly needs to provide advice to the MLAs and their staff, rater than wait and have to deal with formal complaints of unlawful discrimination against the ACT Government.

ACT Assembly Web Page Fails Accessibility Tests

The ACT Legislative Assembly web home page failed a TAW automated accessibility test ( WAI guidelines, W3C Recommendation 5 May 1999), with 32 Priority 1, 107 Priority 2 and 23 Priority 3 problems. The site says at the bottom: "If you have special accessibility requirements in accessing information on this website, please contact the Assembly on 62050018 or send an email to...". Unfortunately this does not appear to meet the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act, which obliges organizations to take proactive steps to make services accessible.

ACT Assembly Web Page Fails Syntax and Mobile Tests

The ACT Legislative Assembly home page also failed a W3C Markup Validation Service test, with 174 errors in the HTML of the web page. It also scored 0 out of 100 on the W3C mobileOK Checker.

While there is no legal requirement for web pages to meet these web standards, it is more likely that those using
Assistive technology, such as screen readers for the visually impaired would have problems as a result of failing to correctly code the web pages. Also as more Canberra citizens are using mobile devices for web access, it would be useful if the ACT Assembly took a few simple steps to make their web pages more usable on such devices.

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