Latest Accessibility News on Accessify

Government Web Site Failure - Is It So Shocking?

Yesterday the BBC reported on a study released by Southampton University in the UK that found a 60% failure rate in UK government websites where standards compliance is concerned. Since that report on the BBC I’ve noticed a bit of commentary on it and received a few emails along the lines of "have you seen this?" from shocked individuals. The biggest shock for me is, frankly, that people are shocked and surprised at all.

The BBC report certainly highlights an important issue but it also blurs some important points when it says:

"Some 60% of UK government websites contain HTML errors"

Then it later quotes the author of the study as saying:

"Although 61% of sites do not comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guide, the 39% which do is encouraging."

Is the 60% failure figure one of HTML validation issues, as the first quotation above suggests, or is it a 60% failure in terms of accessibility pass/fail ratio? If it’s the latter, this is a little more worrying. As for the former, well, we all want the sites to use to validate, but with the general mush of various layers of in-house web development, outside agency involvement and hideously bad content management systems (CMSs), quite honestly I’d be amazed if the validation rate were anything even close to 40%.

For my money, this story tells me largely what I suspected about UK government sites (but couldn’t be bothered to go out and collate the figures for myself). The best part of the story, I think, is the finishing quote from an anonymous

’spokesman for the Cabinet Office’:

“One difficulty is that many authoring tools do not generate compliant HTML and make it difficult to edit the coding … This is an issue that the IT industry must address and we are working with them on that.”

It’s refreshing to see a government official correctly identify that the authoring tools are often to blame here (cough, ATAG, cough!) . But just who is ‘them’ in that sentence and who are the ‘we’ in that sentence (given that the source is unnamed). If you have any further light to shed on this story - specifically about what those figures actually relate to - and also what action is being alluded to towards the end, I’d love to find out (use the comments please).

This post has been cross-posted at - please add any comments there


Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Ian on Friday, March 31, 2006

Book Review: Dom Scripting

Just a little heads-up to say that there’s a new review on the site - for Jeremy Keith’s book Dom Scripting. It’s been out a few months now, I know, but I’ve only just got around to reading the darn thing. Thankfully, it was worth the wait. You can check out Dom Scripting book review here.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Ian on Friday, March 31, 2006

What Would Tim Say?

Well, how many accessibility-related presentations have you seen online or in the real world that started with the quote from Tim "inventor of the World Wide Web" Berners-Lee:

"The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect."

Bored of it? I know I am. So, thanks to Bruce and Patrick for coming up with some alternatives. I suspect that there may have been beer involved when they came up with this idea. Who’s gonna use this one in their next accessibility presentation?

“Why would blind people be using a computer anyway?”

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Ian on Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Joe Clark on PAS 78

Typographic connoisseur and accessibility guru Joe Clark finally receives his copy of PAS 78:

The specification has a lot of typos and is inconsistent in several places, to be discussed below. However, I believe the authors have succeeded about 85% in achieving a document that teaches untrained people how to manage developers and user testing to arrive at an accessible Web site.

Joe Clark’s review of PAS 78.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Wednesday, March 22, 2006

WAI-TIES Update 5

This update provides information on activities of the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), for the “Web Accessibility Initiative: Training, Implementation, Education and Support” (WAI-TIES) Project in Europe.


  1. Improving the Accessibility of Your Web Site
  2. Why Standards Harmonization is Essential for Web Accessibility
  3. Using Combined Expertise to Evaluate Web Accessibility
  4. Inaccessibility of CAPTCHA
  5. Information about W3C, WAI, and WAI-TIES

1. Improving the Accessibility of Your Web Site

Improving the Accessibility of Your Web Site provides guidance for fixing accessibility barriers in existing Web sites. It describes strategies for identifying priorities, developing a retrofitting plan, and repairing accessibility barriers efficiently.

2. Why Standards Harmonization is Essential for Web Accessibility

Why Standards Harmonization is Essential for Web Accessibility describes the benefits of adopting a consistent set of international technical standards for Web accessibility. It explores reasons why people develop different standards, as well as the accelerated progress that can be made through adoption of a common standard.

3. Using Combined Expertise to Evaluate Web Accessibility

Using Combined Expertise to Evaluate Web Accessibility explores how to conduct higher quality evaluations of Web site accessibility by combining diverse kinds of expertise from different evaluators.

4. Inaccessibility of CAPTCHA

The W3C Note “Inaccessibility of CAPTCHA: Alternatives to Visual Turing Tests on the Web provides an updated explanation of why these increasingly frequent features of Web sites, often required to gain permission to sign up for services on a Web site, present accessibility barriers to many people with disabilities.

5. Information about W3C, WAI, and WAI-TIES

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international forum which develops interoperable technologies (specifications, guidelines, software, and tools) to lead the Web to its full potential.

W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) addresses accessibility of the Web for people with disabilities, through a variety of activities, including technical and guidelines development and educational work.

If you are interested in ongoing news from WAI, sign up for WAI news feeds.

WAI Training, Implementation, Education and Support (WAI-TIES) a project of WAI, was funded by the European Commission Information Society Technologies (IST) Programme to increase training and implementation support on Web accessibility in Europe. This is the final WAI-TIES Update.

This WAI-TIES Update may be circulated to other mailing lists as appropriate, avoiding cross-postings. Additional materials produced through this project can be found at the WAI-TIES site.


  • Sylvie Duchateau, for the WAI-TIES Project.
  • Shadi Abou-Zahra, W3C Web Accessibility Initiative and WAI-TIES
  • Judy Brewer, W3C Web Accessibility Initiative
Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Monday, March 20, 2006

Brian Rosmaita SIGCSE 2006 paper proposes “accessibility first” pedagogy for web design

Spotted via an entry on Matt Bailey’s blog: Brian Rosmaita, assistant professor of computer science at Hamilton College in New York, presented a paper, Accessibility First! A New Approach to Web Design at the Association for Computing Machinery SIGCSE 2006 Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education in Houston on 3 March 2006.

His paper proposes an “accessibility first” pedagogy for web design, developed at Hamilton, in which the course is organized around therequirement of implementing web pages accessible to visually impaired computer users, as opposed to the traditional method of teaching accessibility only after students havealready learned web design.

News item on Rosmaita’s paper on Hamilton College’s site. This ought to be of interest to the WaSP Education Task Force.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments (1) Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Monday, March 20, 2006

Usability Exchange - disabled users to test websites

The Usability Exchange website launches on 16 March 2006…

…to provide instant user testing with disabled users. Organisations can now find out what disabled people think of their website by logging on to This launch comes just as the British Standards Institution (BSI) published new guidance last week (PAS 78) for those who commission or maintain websites, to ensure that any site they make or maintain is user-friendly for disabled people.

The Usability Exchange allows website developers to receive direct feedback from disabled people regarding the accessibility and usability of their websites - developers can even watch testers attempt to navigate their website through the use of remote viewing software. [...]

Through the Usability Exchange, website developers can create simple or complex usability tests and submit them to a range of disabled users. Once a test has been submitted to testers, organisations can monitor users’ feedback in real time, with some testers providing feedback within hours of being contacted. All testers receive payment for testing websites, offering a flexible source of income for disabled testers.

The service is aimed at organisations who want to conduct usability testing of their websites with disabled users, as well as charities and consultancies who require an effective platform for conducting disabled user testing on behalf of clients. Organisations or consultancies intending to submit large numbers of tests can sign up as ‘premium partners’ to receive volume discounts.

Full press release on the newly launched Usability Exchange.

The BBC has an interesting news article on the subject, including some good comments from Julie Howell:

Although she welcomed the arrival of the service, Ms Howell said she had a couple of concerns.

Firstly, she said Usability Exchange had to demonstrate the quality of the testing work being done.

It’s one thing to put businesses in touch with disabled people, she said, but what’s the quality of the process involved here?

The company would have to work hard to ensure the information fed back to clients was useful.

That does not mean making it all positive but making it all honest, said Ms Howell.

The last thing any business would want was to test with Usability Exchange and then find that disabled people cannot use their website.

Ms Howell said she also had worries about the well-being [ed.: meaning "best interest of" with regards to their welfare benefit payments] of the disabled testers employed by Usability Exchange.

She urged those taking part to let the government know they were taking on employed work.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Monday, March 20, 2006

Julie Howell to present at MDAWG

Just a quick note to give you first option on the next MDAWG which will be on Thursday 20th April at 18:00 at the MDDA premises as usual.

We have just secured a presentation from Julie Howell, Digital Policy Manager for the RNIB, who was very heavily involved with the development of PAS 78.

Register by sending an email to

Rescheduled: to accommodate the rather heavy demands on Julie Howell’s time, the presentation has been brought forward. We will now be starting a little earlier at 15:45 pm in the Cube Gallery next door to the MDDA on the 20th April. This is one to be very prompt for as Julie has very little time and will be starting at 16:00.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Monday, March 20, 2006

Mike Davies’ summary of PAS 78

Mike Davies, aka Isofarro, has published his summary of the recently launched PAS 78.

Businesses want a clear DRC-approved direction on creating accessible websites. With the DRC’s collaboration with the British Standards Institution, businesses now have access to that guidance in the form of PAS 78.

For web accessibility professionals and experts, PAS 78 introduces nothing new. It’s based on web standards and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. PAS 78 brings the web standards and disability discrimination act requirements together into one overarching document.

Update: read about Mike Davies’ personal reflections on PAS 78, including a scary photo of Bruce Lawson and me…

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Thursday, March 16, 2006

Web Standards Project (WaSP) site relaunch - now with added sting!

We’ve teased you for far too long, asked you to wait, to be patient. We’ve made promises you probably began to think we wouldn’t ever keep. Well, here’s our long awaited gift to you, the new WaSP redesign.

And the new daring design of the Web Standards Project is a thing of beauty. Once again a shining example of how it’s possible to build standards-based, accessible sites without having to sacrifice aesthetics and design. Here’s hoping that this revamped presence, together with the tireless efforts of all involved, will spread the message of web standards even further among the web design community.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Wednesday, March 15, 2006
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