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UK Cabinet Office: eAccessibility is an issue for all of us

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Reply with quote It's a report researched and written by a project parnership involving RNIB, AbilityNet, Dublin City University (Barry McMullin) and Socitm, on behalf of and working with the eGovernment Unit in the Cabinet Office, into the accessibility of public sector services on the Web, across the EU (25 countries). Looking for examples of best practice, and correlations between accessibility strategies (legislation, logo schemes, monitoring schemes, government policies, etc) and actual improvements in web accessibility. Has occupied most of my time (and the same for the other project team members in the other organisations involved) for the past 6 months. Confused Very glad to see it published at last! Smile

Full text of the report is available on the Cabinet Office website (HTML and accessible PDF):

"eAccessibility of public sector services in the European Union"
http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/e-government/resources/eaccessibility/index.asp

Report was formally announced and published at the Ministerial e-Government Conference in Manchester on Thu/Fri (24-25 November). Was going to put a post up here myself before tomorrow, but you guys beat me to it. Smile Probably not a lot in it that will be a surprise to anyone who frequents this forum, but hopefully some interesting / useful findings nonetheless. Main aim was to establish what standards of accessibility are being achieved in public sector websites across the EU, and to propose recommendations that Cabinet Office can present at European level (as part of UK presidency of the EU) for moving accessibility forward at an EU level.

Donna Smillie / Senior Web Accessibility Consultant, RNIB
Web Access Centre / WAC Blog
Reply with quote Just finished reading it. Fascinating statistics and I particularly liked the insertion of, 'empty' as an alt attribute value for images in one example. The recommendations also good reading. Looks like a huge survey and lots of hard work with a genuinely valuable outcome. Congratulations to all involved. It will be interesting to see the eventual output of the recommendations. One thing I wondered is whether a detailed report of the site by site results was available?

On a frivilous note, the ,'In section navigation' buttons for navigating the pages of the report in the html version are badly formed visually and overlap the footer at the bottom of the page in FF 1+/Win XP- should be an easy fix for the webmaster ?
Reply with quote Oooh, very interesting. I'll read this over lunch.

(EDIT) Finished reading it. This is a really exhaustive report which provides a great reference for the reality of how far Web accessibility has to go. It provides a very useful international perspective and presents the techical challenges in an easily understood manner. Five stars!

I noticed quite a few bits of minor errata in the report. There seems to be a formatting error in the title of "Step 2" within section 4.4 of the report. Missing full stops, missing spaces between some words, a chart without a caption, a misspelt alt description, incorrect use of plurals, repeated words, repeated links, etc. There is inconsistant treatment of abbreviations, where some are not marked up, some abbreviations are marked up inconsistantly, some abbreviations are not expanded and some abbreviations are always expanded. The images of tables and charts could probably do with long descriptions which could be accessed via a hyperlink.

There could be some members of government and the public who are interested in this document but find parts of it difficult to comprehend due to these aspects?


The Twelve features of Good Practise provide a very practical, reasoned list for the essential elements of accessibility which I hope the various governments adopt. Additionally, 4.4. Priority actions for improvement also gets my full support (for what it's worth (which isn't very much)).

4.3. Common reasons for failure at Level Double-A wrote:
[Standards based web design has] a particular impact on users with disabilities. Many of these users are heavily reliant on special-purpose assistive technologies. By their nature, these technologies are devised for relatively specialised and small user groups. So, whereas users of dominant or mainstream technologies can generally assume that websites and services will be explicitly tested and guaranteed to work with those technologies, users of specialist or minority systems must rely much more heavily on sites being generically interoperable – through conformance with open technical standards.

However, despite recent progress towards ‘standards-based’ web design, the vast majority of web-based resources continue to demonstrate very poor conformance with technical standards. Hence, the finding in the current study, that 99% of the sites evaluated still have significant problems in this area, is completely consistent with findings from other similar studies.
It also goes on the mention the comparitive benefits of fluid layouts over fixed layouts and meaningful <title> text with regard accessibility. Looks like my bitchings in the Site Critiques area are not entirely for naught, then! Very Happy

On the whole, it has confirmed my suspicions (which were based on previous studies and the experiences of other designers), specifically about public sector sites leading the drive to accessible design. It seems to me that governments could best bring about significant improvements in accessibility through leading by example. Government websites could become case studies of accessible design which the private sector could refer to and learn from. As governments work to improve their websites, they will create a greater demand for the development of accessible CMS software, which should lead to better quality tools being readily available. In addition, the goverment's use of accessibility audits, combining automated and manual testing, along with training for Web professionals and content authors would increase demand in those fields, again making them more readily available.

We live in exciting times!
Reply with quote Many thanks for those comments, JonTan and Cerbera. Much appreciated! I'll forward a link to this thread to the others in the project team and the eGU in case they're not aware of it.

Cerbera, I'll bring your comments re the report to their attention.

JonTan, I'll also point out the issue re the section navigation buttons and the footer. Someone else already spotted that, and as you say, it shouldn't take a lot to fix. Smile

JonTan wrote:
One thing I wondered is whether a detailed report of the site by site results was available?

'Fraid not. That was something that we discussed with eGU early on in the project, and their decision was that it should be largely an "aggregated statistics" report, and not a site by site report.

Donna Smillie / Senior Web Accessibility Consultant, RNIB
Web Access Centre / WAC Blog
Reply with quote
dms wrote:

JonTan wrote:
One thing I wondered is whether a detailed report of the site by site results was available?

'Fraid not. That was something that we discussed with eGU early on in the project, and their decision was that it should be largely an "aggregated statistics" report, and not a site by site report.


Hi Donna

The decision is understandable politically. Publishing site by site detail might have added an incentive for change but positive incentives are away better than negative and I have a feeling that only the 13 or so sites that passed Level A would be happy!

I posted the test results with numbers of sites achieving different standards, and the chart describing the effectiveness different channels of communication as xhtml tables in a weblog article. In the html report the stats were in paragraph text and the chart was an image. Please let me know if I've calculated right if you get chance to look.

Jon
Reply with quote
JonTan wrote:
The decision is understandable politically. Publishing site by site detail might have added an incentive for change but positive incentives are away better than negative and I have a feeling that only the 13 or so sites that passed Level A would be happy!

Indeed! Smile And it is essential that the various EU member states are not being held up for comparison with each other in the way that would happen if the report included a site by site (which would immediately become a country by country) assessment. While being accurate and truthful in overall statistics, the report needed to focus on whatever was positive when it came to individual examples and illustrations, so that all member states can learn from these examples, and also so that all can be encouraged by examples of what can be achieved.

JonTan wrote:
I posted the test results with numbers of sites achieving different standards, and the chart describing the effectiveness different channels of communication as xhtml tables in a weblog article. In the html report the stats were in paragraph text and the chart was an image. Please let me know if I've calculated right if you get chance to look.

Sure. Might have to wait until the weekend before I've got time to go over it properly, but I'll certainly do that as soon as I can. Already had a quick read through, and it looks like an excellent article.

Donna Smillie / Senior Web Accessibility Consultant, RNIB
Web Access Centre / WAC Blog

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