In news sure to be of interest to councils in Australia, an annual UK-wide survey of every local council website in Britain revealed that one third of local government sites failed first-stage testing to find out how accessible their websites are for users with disabilities.
Overseen by the Society of IT Management, the Better Connected usability test examines and evaluates local authority websites on a range of factors, with site accessibility for users with impairments, a high priority. This includes assessing how users with low vision, sight loss, mobility impairments, colour blindness, or dyslexia, along with others using assistive technology or keyboard navigation, can access council websites.
The first stage of the accessibility assessment examined all 416 UK council website homepages, based on 14 testing criteria, which was carried out in December 2016 by English NFP, the Digital Accessibility Centre.
The essential accessibility criteria included:
- Unique and informative page titles
- Good heading structure
- Present and functioning visible skip links
- All-important content reachable by keyboard navigation
- Visible focus indicators on links and form elements
- Clear labels and instructions for forms
- Meaningful links in context
- Appropriate text alternatives for images
- Sufficient colour contrast
- Ability to resize text to 200% without loss of content
- Avoidance of movement on pages
- No auto-starting for audio or video with sound
- No flashing content
- Accessible downloadable ‘non-html’ documents.
Scores were aggregated to provide an overall site score and determine which websites passed or failed the accessibility test. Councils that failed to meet seven or more of these 14 points on their homepages were not allowed to enter the next stage of Better Connected testing.
In addition, if any homepages were found to have ‘keyboard traps’ (elements that make it impossible for keyboard-only users and people with certain vision impairments to move around the screen) or a lack of ‘visible focus indicators’ (which allow users to recognise where on a page they are navigating to and from) these sites failed stage-one immediately.
“This survey serves to highlight what happens when accessibility is not built-in from the beginning,” says CEO of Media Access Australia, Dr Manisha Amin. “We need to ensure that all people are included in our increasingly technology-dependant society.”
“The real tragedy is that it is often difficult for councils to ensure that the services they provide to the citizens within their boundaries are actually accessible to people of all abilities,” says Dr Amin. “That’s because often councils are told that their website and key user forms are accessible, when in actual fact they are not, with the failure being the fault of the provider of their web development services.”
Overall, there was a 36% website accessibility failure rate in the UK councils survey. You can go to the Better Connected website to read more about the assessment criteria and the tasks carried out in the most recent survey and as compared to the 2015 survey.
Stage-two testing of UK councils features a broader accessibility examination for all councils that passed the initial test, and got underway from mid-February 2017. Final results will be published in April 2017.
MAA can assist councils in Australia manage the accessibility requirements of their DIAP. Through the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and the Digital Transformation Agency’s Digital Service Standard, local Government websites need to implement Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 and conform to Level AA requirements.
MAA’s digital accessibility services allow councils in Australia to reach out to the widest possible audience to ensure that ratepayer notices, community services, and other important communications are accessible by community members of all abilities. Not doing so poses a potential litigation risk, and also prevents the one if five people in Australia who have a disability or impairment from engaging with what councils are doing online.
A Case Study on accessible documents training for the Municipal Association of Victoria can be viewed online, as can MAA’s sector-based summary for local, state and federal Government. You can contact Media Access Australia for more information on how to ensure web accessibility.