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 user, you can digg the petition and help by increasing its circulation.


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.