Obligations and Benefits of making Websites and Email Accessible
Information on websites and in emails needs to be Accessible in both a technical and design sense. Information Technology has made it possible to not only distribute information more widely to a diverse audience.
The diverse audience may possess or have access to a wide variety of experience, education, language, cognitive, physical and technology capabilities.
Communicating via Email
Some systems strip attachments from emails to guard against viruses and unneccessary storage and downloads. Email software can also be set up to block images to protect the readers privacy or mark an email, with particular characteristics, as SPAM.
Text typed into an email is more effective than putting the same information into a word processing document or image file designed to be printed. An attachment may require special software, to read and it is unlikely the document will be printed.
While presenting a video may appeal to an audience in a controlled presentation. Not providing information, in text, will mean people visiting your website, who do not want to download your video or are not able to view it because they don't have the right technology.
Search Engines will not index your website either
"Article 9 - Accessibility
1. To enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life, States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas..." - UN Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities
Examples of Organisations Tripping over Technology
Office of Information Commission
- Comment 74
Discussion Paper on FOI Disclosure Logs: Marghanita da Cruz says:
March 11, 2011 at 2:52 pm
Given # Issues Paper 1: Towards an Australian Government Information Policy (1 November 2010) was published as HTML as well as PDF
Is there a particular reason, the Commissioner has chosen to publish this discussion paper in PDF only?
Accessibility and Interoperability should be intrinsic to the Disclosure Log.
- Comment 76
Discussion Paper on FOI Disclosure Logs Marghanita da Cruz says:
March 15, 2011 at 10:44 am
Is there a reason, the OAIC is not able to publish their document for public comment in HTML?
At the very least, you should be able to cut and paste it into this blog. I cannot open either PDF or RTF in my browser, without downloading special software, which I am not prepared to do.
To elaborate on my earlier comment “Accessibility and Interoperability should be intrinsic to the Disclosure Log.”, this is acheived by adopting open standards such as HTML and avoiding proprietary formats such as PDF, RTF, MSWord etc.
- comment-2385 Discussion Paper on Data Centre as a Service (DCaaS):
Marghanita da Cruz says:
March 11, 2011 at 3:00 pm
It would appear agencies’s are wary of being encumbered with services such as this
"Could not detect Adobe Reader
To complete this online, Adobe Reader 9.3 or later needs to be installed. Please upgrade to the latest version by visiting the following link and follow the instructions."
Reply comment-2386 Discussion Paper on Data Centre as a Service (DCaaS):
Marghanita da Cruz says:
March 11, 2011 at 3:02 pm
Sorry, that link should be
“Could not detect Adobe Reader
To complete this online, Adobe Reader 9.3 or later needs to be installed. Please upgrade to the latest version by visiting the following link and follow the instructions.”
NSW Electoral Commission
In the lead upto the 2011 NSW Election, the NSW Electoral Commission published some information, in multiple languages, as images, on their website. The Alternate text they provided, for the images, was in english. This made the information inaccessible to anyone with a sight impairment.
Their feedback and contact information was provided only in English (in Roman Script)
A variety of technology enables people with different physical capabilities to use the Web and Email. This includes:
- Web Browsers are available from different vendors and work on devices with or without large screens, small screens, touch screens, small keyboards, micro keyboards, with or without keyboards and mice.
- Text-to-Speach reads information aloud
- Software can increase the text size and specify colours, to make it easier, for those with poor or deterioratig eyesight, to read
- Braille displays and Notetakers
- HTML supports Alternative Formats - ALT Tag lets you describe an image (this is useful for people with poor eyesight and allows search engine robots to index the image); .
- Users may have their computers set up to use different character sets to support their prefered language scripts - see variety of scripts at www.wikipedia.org and www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au.
- People can be on public transport, with or without an Internet Connection, in a noisy or cramped environment, using a personal or shared computer.
References & Further Reading
- "Adopt Light Technologies and Shared Solutions. We are reducing our data center footprint by 40 percent by 2015 and shifting the agency default approach to IT to a cloud-first policy as part of the 2012 budget process. Consolidating more than 2,000 government data centers will save money, increase security and improve performance..." - Driving IT Reform: An Update (US Whitehouse BLOG 11.49 19 Nov 2010
- "The use of open formats, open source software, and open standards enables the government to make data freely available to the public for a variety of purposes, as well as to create programs that are more efficient and consumer-driven... " - Open Source for America
- A Cautionary Tale of Inaccessibility: SOCOG Case Study
- "Web accessibility encompasses all disabilities that affect access to the Web, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, and neurological disabilities. The document "How People with Disabilities Use the Web" describes how different disabilities affect Web use and includes scenarios of people with disabilities using the Web." - Introduction to Web Accessibility (W3C) (2000)
- Making an Accessible and Functional Website for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Tom Worthington 2003
- Accessible websites provide all people with improved opportunity to access content to an equal or equivalent degree, as well as perceive, understand, navigate and interact with the web..." -
The Australian Government's study into the Accessibility of the Portable Document Format for people with a disability (2008)