Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Number 10 website fails own accessibility guidelines

Clearly the disabled, especially those who might be blind and using braille readers (how ironic) are not expected to look at the new Number 10 website. After all, it fails on numerous occasions to conform to accessibility compliancy which are apparently Government policy.
And before anyone points out that this site doesn't meet compliancy guidelines, I don't make a claim too, and I;m certainly not a Government body, so let's put that argument to bed right now.

The bottom line is this, the new Downing Street website may very well be "open source" (Wordpress) but it was clearly hacked up with the same attitude in mind. This is OK for a personal blog, but when you have policies on accessibility that you end up breaking you look stupid.

Not to mention, doing it in Wordpress is just silly. I'm willing to bet that as soon as an exploit is found for the latest code base someone hacks it and has great fun with it, because you can guarantee that checking for updates and patching immediately will not be the number one priority,


Jon Worth said...

So if Wordpress is such a danger what would you have used? Chances are there are more security flaws with something that is programmed on a proprietary basis.

Plus it's surely good the government is using Open Source software and keeping costs down?

While my own blog runs on Wordpress I would have not used it for a project like this because it's not a very good system for organising a load of complex information, but it must surely be as vulnerable (or not) as any other Open Source system.

Tory Bear said...

"I'm willing to bet that as soon as an exploit is found for the latest code base someone hack the Downing Street website and has great fun with it, because you can guarantee that checking for updates and patching immediately will not be the number one priority"

Is that a threat Dizzy?

dizzy said...

Jon, I would have used some sort of commercial CMS or a slightly more customised framework one. I don't have a problem per se with money being spent on websites if the spending is actually sane. It's a balancing act at the end of the day and from a security standpoint a site like Downing Street is screaming out to be a target anyway so you'd think you would reduce that as greatly as possible.

Tory bear, of course that wasn't a threat. The fact is though that any Government website is going to be a target, and Downing Street now appears to be begging for it more.

Incidentally, when I looked at the site originally I thought it was done in Drupal.

Stu said...

I think you're right about Wordpress, Dizzy, but I don't agree with you about standards. Your own validation report lists more that 9 times as many errors as the Number 10 site and your argument that it doesn't matter because it's a personal blog just doesn't hold water. (do you have 666 errors deliberately, or is it a cheeky easter egg?) Besides, if you've got so many validation errors, why is your DOCTYPE calling itself XHTML Strict?

It doesn't take that much to work to standards, and it makes the net a nicer place. It's like cleaning up litter. The more blogs and personal sites that do it, the more companies will start doing it. Now that all the non-Microsoft browsers have got pretty reasonable standards compliance, the only excuse is laziness.

Number10 does look a little Drupaly, though, doesn't it.

Mike Rouse said...

Agree with Dizzy.


dizzy said...

I couldn't care less if my site was compliant or not.

Devil's Kitchen said...

As someone who has become something of an expert on the subject (it is my company's main selling differentiator), I feel that I should point out that accessibility is not the same as valid markup.

Having valid markup is a good place to start, but it is not the be all and end all. First, some issues with the validators:

1) The W3C validators do not check for CSS3 or some of the more advanced HTML selectors, e.g. HTML 5. Nor are they very good at validating scripts (Javascript, etc.).

2) This means that semantically correct markup, e.g. rounded corners in CSS, are flagged as errors, even though they work in targeted browsers and do not affect those browsers that do not support such innovations.

3) The W3C expects to finalise CSS3 in about 15 years: many of us cannot be bothered to wait that long.

On Web Accessibility:

1) Just about the only Accessibility issue that these validators pick up is images that lack alt tags. Almost every other Accessibility issue cannot really be checked by such validators.

2) More important issues, such as colour contrast, are not picked up. The colour contrast of the number 10 site is good, in general.

3) However, when text is resized, the site breaks enough to render it unreadable. That definitely is an issue.

4) The site breaks when resized to 800px width. This is also an issue.

5) All videos should have written transcripts.

There are a number of other issues, but you get the point...


jamie said...

If you don't care less if it compliant, then you don't care that people using some browsers may not be able to view it properly.

Therefore extrapolating from this, it shows that in certain respects you don't care about your readership.

Non-standard coding is sloppy, lazy, and just plain bad. you should be ashamed of yourself.

It's like writing a letter and just putting the full stops and commas anywhere without any proper regard to grammar.

dizzy said...

1: I'm first to admit that I'm lazy. I hack things.

2: This site works in 1024, go any less and you will get a horizontal scrollbar. If you're using less than 1024 then buy a bigger screen.

3: Extrapolation? More like fallacious slippery slope reasoning.

Geoff said...

Love that you can still find pages where the code says:

meta name="description" content="10 Downing Street website, the official website of the British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Anonymous said...

Web Accessibility Initiative
The site aims to achieve overall compliance with the Web Accessibility Initiative’s (WAI) guidelines, to priority 2 (AA) and aims to conform to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0. The Accessibility Guidelines explain how to make Web content accessible to people with disabilities. Conformance to these Guidelines helps to make the Web more accessible to users with disabilities and benefits all users.

There may be some pages that do not conform to all the guidelines. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the whole site conforms, this is an ongoing process and some content may not yet reach the standards in all areas, and will be working hard to address them by the end of the year. For example, the use of fixed widths means that the page will not scale to a smaller window easily.

If you have any problems accessing any information on the site, please contact the Number 10 Digital Communications Team and we will endeavour to fix the problem or provide the information in an appropriate format. The web team can be emailed at mailto:admin@number10.gov.uk.

Liz said...

I used to write for and edit web materials for a few different government agencies, when I worked for one of the firms they subcontract to. I'm surprised at the No. 10 site, simply because on every single project I took on, accessibility was treated as being of paramount importance...all very well up to a point, but not only did my various government clients tie us in knots insisting we use old versions of Flash (which aren't compatible with screen readers for blind people) and then expect us to get round the problem using *magic*; they also made accessibility demands in situations where accessibility wasn't remotely necessary (but still took several months to implement, and cost the agencies paying for it a fortune). Case in point: the literacy and numeracy project for rail workers. The RNIB, who keep tabs on this kind of thing, told me that not a single blind person worked in that industry. The blind can't easily handle financial transactions or timetables, so that's customer-facing jobs out, and there's also all the obvious stuff with speeding trains. I pointed out to the appalling woman at the DfES that she could save a vast amount of time and money by *not* having recordings made of all the text and *not* having trite little spoken descriptions of every single picture in the enormous website. All the same, the entire product, including several chapters specifically aimed at *train drivers*, had to come with full support for the blind.

There was a long section where we had to teach railway workers that there are not, in fact, 100 minutes in an hour, and if you believe that there are, you are likely to be surprised by a train. Perhaps the DfES woman was worried that the people using the product would be blinded by the bleedin' obvious. God - it's years since I went freelance and stopped doing this stuff, but just thinking about the trains project is making me perspire lightly and want to injure bureaucrats.

Forge Lindin said...

I haven't heard of the idea of a 'braille reader' for a blind person to access a website before. I think its more likely though that they would use a screen reader.

You can easily try out the site for a screen reader by downloading one, and closing your eyes. They probably want us to close our eyes anyway.

Andi said...

Leaving aside the fact that accessibility isn't the same as having good markup, I think its a good idea that they are using an open source platform to keep the costs down.

I have to say that it does strike me as odd though: Wordpress, though fine for blogs, isn't much in the way of content management. Joomla might have been a better choice...