Delivering Inclusive Websites: Part 1 of 3

Monday, June 9, 2008 0:51 | Filed in Accessibility, Public Sector, Standards

The Public Sector Web Management Group provided some input into the COI’s consultation document ‘Delivering Inclusive Websites’ in November 2007. In December, I had a conversation with Adam Bailin, which was reported on the PSWMG Forum, which seemed to suggest they were at least looking at taking a stance less based on WCAG 1.0 and more around the end-user experience.

And then things went silent for a while… until last Thursday when I got an email to let me know that the document has now been published.

Go and look at Delivering Inclusive Websites for yourself, read the report and draw your own conclusions.

Or… if you can’t be bothered with that, I’ve drawn my conclusions — you can just borrow them :-)

This first part covers the intro, the guidelines and the minimum accessibility standard.

What’s It About?

This document sets out the minimum standard of accessibility for public sector websites and contains practical guidance on how to achieve this.COI: Delivering Inclusive Websites

Well, as an objective, I don’t think anyone can argue with that. It makes reference to PAS 78 (a publicly available specification aimed at those commissioning sites), and also references the Disability Equality Duty.

At this point I’m going to nit-pick. Given that it’s taken them more than six months to produce the document, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for someone to check that the links actually work, and the in-content link to PAS78 doesn’t.

It also references the Riga Declaration which is often quoted in relation to accessibility in the EU. This specifically states that inclusive eGovernment should be promoted by:

Promoting and ensuring accessibility of all public web sites by 2010, through
compliance with the relevant W3C common web accessibility standards and guidelines.Riga Declaration (PDF)

Interestingly — as I’ve often heard that the Riga Declaration mandates WCAG 1.0 compliance at the Double-A level, it’s interesting to see that the Riga declaration doesn’t mandate any level or version of the guidelines. What it says it that all public websites should be accessible, and this should be achieved through the relevant W3C standards and guidelines.

This obviously poses the question — which is more relevant? And do we have to take an entire set of guidelines, or simply those particular guidelines which are deemed to be relevant?

However, WCAG 1.0 was specifically referenced in a 2002 European Parliament Resolution

Minimum Accessibility Standard

It says that “the minimum standard of accessibility for all public sector websites is Level Double-A of the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines”. Currently this is based around WCAG 1.0, which (as I’ve said before) is out of date and problematic, but the COI have said:

At such time that version 2.0 becomes a W3C Recommendation, this policy will be reviewed within six months. Consideration will be given to the adoption of version 2.0 as the minimum standard for public sector websites.Delivering Inclusive Websites [2]

That’s not ideal in my opinion, as the current Candidate Recommendation version of WCAG 2.0 is far better than WCAG 1.0, but it’s a compromise and it at least acknowledges WCAG 2.0 and indicates that it will be reviewed once that is a formal recommendation.

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