Archive: November, 2006

Petitioning for accessible governmental websites

Following the disappointing redesign of the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) website earlier in the year, an online petition has begun to collect signatures on the Prime Minister’s website in an attempt to highlight the issue of accessibility standards for UK Government websites.

A little background

Earlier in the year, the DTI re-launched their website after investing £200,000 to rebuild it, the requirements for which included meeting the Government’s accessibility requirements.

In December 2005, Alun Johnson of the DTI had the following response to a question from Charles Hendry, Conservative MP, regarding the level of accessibility the DTI intended to achieve:

DTI follows the Guidelines for UK Government Websites which mandate Level A of the W3C‘s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. DTI aims to go beyond this by meeting the AA standard, along with those elements of AAA which are considered best practice.”

Trade and Industry: Departmental Websites

However, the new site was launched failing even basic accessibility guidelines, hence failing to meet those standards and the requirements specified in official documentation.

Since the launch, two respected professionals in the Web community, Dan Champion and Bruce Lawson, have contacted the DTI in an attempt to ascertain how a Government body could allow such a failure to occur, and what plans are in place to rectify the situation. You can find out more on Dan’s and Bruce’s websites. Suffice to say that the DTI are lacking in useful responses, but an accessibility audit of the website is being carried out.

So, a Government body who claim to champion equal access to online services – and indeed should be attempting to do so – have instead seemingly wasted a large amount of resources and public funds on producing something that is far from adequate in the eyes of the Web design industry. And it’s only going to cost more to rectify the situation.

We the undersigned…

An important question now is one of how to ensure that the mistakes of the DTI are not repeated in other government organisations.

If you are a British citizen (or an expatriate) and think that websites launched by the UK Government should be accessible to disabled people, you can show your support by signing the online petition on the Prime Minister’s website, which has attracted over 100 signatures in its first week.

If you are a Digg.com user, you can digg the petition and help by increasing its circulation.

Updates

21 Mar 2007

The Government has dodged the point in its response to this e-petition. It’s a shame, but probably to be expected judging by the responses from the DTI concerning their website. Read more in Government responds to website accessibility e-petition.

A few changes due to comment spam

Due to an increasing amount of spam comments on my site, I am trying out my own version of a plugin (mrw_spamkeywords_urlcount) that should fish out a large majority of the offending posts.

The plugin uses some new features in the latest textpattern (version 4.0.4) that allows for comments to be processed by plugins before being saved. As a result, my live comments preview has been disabled for now – the plugin that runs the previews (nhn_livecommentpreview) is not yet fully compatible with the new handling of comments submission.

This also means that comments have gone back to the defauilt textpattern process of having to preview your comment before finally submitting it to the site. This is a bit ugly and I don’t like making people have to step through a preview of their comment first, but until I tidy things up, it will hopefully help to curb the spam a little further!

Support for Aural Style Sheets and the CSS Speech Module

Questions concerning current support for aural CSS have come up on Accessify Forum and a couple of other places recently, so I decided to collect my knowledge of aural CSS into a single resource to share with all you lovely people.

After some discussion on the GAWDS mailing list at the end of September, I ran some tests to see whether or not there was scope for using aural CSS to control how a screen reader says different types of abbreviation. In turn, this involved determining the level of support for aural CSS properties in current software. The tests failed in JAWS and a bit of research that followed uncovered various suggestions that there is very little support out there.

So, expanding on and supplementing my notes from those tests, I have written up a page covering my knowledge of aural CSS for anyone that is interested. Perhaps having this information in one place will be useful to people:

Aural CSS: Support for CSS 2 Aural Style Sheets / CSS 3 Speech Module

If you find any of the information to be incomplete or inaccurate, please let me know so that I can update the page.