16 March, 2007

UK Governement doesn’t really care about Web accessibility

10 Downing Street logoI can’t remember when exactly, but Segala took part in a public petition addressed to the British Prime Minister to ensure that any Web site launched by the government complies with accessibility standards (W3C Web Content Accessibility Double-A at least).

Details of petition:

“In June 2006 the DTI launched their new website. Despite an approximate cost of £200,000, the website failed to meet basic accessibility standards. In short, this meant that the information on the website was inaccessible to some UK citizens – this is absolutely inexcusable. Further work (requiring further taxpayer money) was promised to bring the website up to Level AA of the Web Accessibility Initiative.

The purpose of this petition is to ensure that all future government websites meet basic accessibility requirements from launch.”

I’m sad to say, that the government’s official response is far from responsive.

The Government is committed to ensuring that all government websites are accessible and easy to use for people with disabilities.

Action 7 of the Prime Minister’s Digital Strategy is to ‘improve accessibility to technology for the digitally excluded and ease of use for the disabled’.

This strategy is to be implemented by DTI with support from OGC and eGU (now the Cabinet Office Delivery and Transformation Group). A cross-government review of the Digital Strategy is currently under way under the supervision of the DTI).

In true government style, there are no timescales or information about quality measures and importantly, ‘who’ exactly is going to be held accountable to ensure the DTI’s Web site makes the necessary adjustments to make their site inclusive.

Furthermore, I think the government should have made a public apology for the DTI’s failure to abide by it’s own rules and promote best practice to industry. This is called eating your own dog food!

No wonder most organisations don’t respect the DDA (Disability Discrimination Authority) for enforcing what can only be described as fluffy legislation!

Web accessibility is not only a corporate and social responsibility but it is now also a legal requirement in many countries such as the USA with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 508 and the UK, under the 1995 Disabilities Discrimination Act (DDA) Part 3.

What’s the point in the DDA coming out with legislation if its own government is breaking the law? It wouldn’t be as bad if they provided revised timescales for future compliance.

The government’s failure to help is the reason why companies that provide accessibility services should promote the real commercial benefits to their clients. The stick of legalisation is likely to work better in the future, but until then, we should promote all the positive things about Web accessibility.

There are a number of significant benefits that have a direct commercial impact, either by enabling a potential increase in business, or by cutting costs for your business.

  1. Broaden the reach of audience that can use the site
  2. Increase traffic to the Web site
  3. Expand potential market share
  4. Increase search ranking potential
  5. Improve the site and increase usability for all visitors
  6. Generate positive PR and brand awareness
  7. Demonstrate a commitment and care for people with disabilities
  8. Comply with legislation to reduce legal liabilities
  9. Protect the brand
  10. Standardise Web design, build and maintenance
  11. Cut overall production costs

The rest of this post is a little commercial…

o2Web sites that are certified by Segala or one of its Certified Partners provide a Trustmark to help organisation demonstrate their commitment and conformance to accessibility standards and legalisation.

More importantly, sites that have been certified for accessibility compliance, are also given a Content Label to ensure future search engines and browsers can detect them. This will enable users to search and find sites that make conformance claims about accessibility and filter out anything that doesn’t.


3 Responses to “UK Governement doesn’t really care about Web accessibility”

  1. Lal 29 March 2007 at 10:08 pm #

    Education, education, education …. which takes a long time.

    I really can’t c most sites moving over to be compliant unless someone can come after them with a big stick (if individual govn’s ain’t doing it – who will – EU?)

    I’ve seen similiar “lack” of accessibility within most sites and its a slow progression towards ‘standards’. I mean take a look at how many sites just code for IE!

    There have been some legal lawsuits against website owners regd accessibility and have won but how long is that approach gonna take?


  2. Paul Walsh 29 March 2007 at 10:29 pm #

    Lal – I share your frustration. I do believe however, that the situation is continuously improving, albeit slower than we’d like.

    Our partners (agencies and freelancers that design, build and test Web sites) now find it easier to sell and deliver accessibility services to clients who see added benefits of our Seal programme – i.e. Trustmark, Certificate and Content Label. So, it’s about making Web accessibility more accessible… I could go on and on but don’t want to turn a blog post into a sales pitch!

  3. drumcore 1 May 2007 at 4:59 pm #

    as a professional of the internet, I’m not really surprised unfortunately :(

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