Government websites do not meet accessibility guidelines

Friday, 06 February, 2009

A new report conducted by usability experts UsabilityOne has revealed that 12 federal government websites do not meet even the lowest level of accessibility required by the latest guidelines.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0), published in December 2008 by the World Wide Web Consortium, provide a reference for web producers to develop websites that are accessible to all users, regardless of physical, sensory and cognitive disabilities or technological barriers.

UsabilityOne’s report, released this week, used the WCAG 2.0 guidelines to test 12 government websites for their compliance to the minimum level of conformance. The report also shows that most of the websites did not even comply with the outdated WCAG 1.0 guidelines, which had been in place for over nine years.

The report reveals that some of the accessibility shortcomings of the federal government websites included: not making key details of a website (such as PDF documents and form field names) available to assistive technologies such as Braille displays and screen readers; the lack of appropriate alternative text for images; and the lack of fully accessible keyboard functionality (including forms and navigation).

As government websites often provide important information to the general public, it is critical that they offer fully updated accessibility for all users, as recommended in the new guidelines.

UsabilityOne’s Senior Accessibility Reviewer, Emanuela Gorla, said, “We have identified some common mistakes which, if rectified, could vastly improve the accessibility of these government websites, providing better availability for the Australian public.”

Gorla added, “With government websites often setting a benchmark in accessibility for web development in general, they have a responsibility to make the necessary updates in order to set the standard of accessibility according to the guidelines.”

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