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Archive for the 'Public sector' Category

‘Call for Evidence’ launched to help make voting more accessible

The UK Government is gathering public opinion to find out how accessible the country’s electoral system is for persons with disabilities.

The Call for Evidence was launched online by the Cabinet Office to collect information about direct experiences of voters with disabilities in elections.

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EU accessibility legislation: Keeping the public sector accessible

By Carine Marzin.

The EU directive on making the websites and mobile apps of public sector bodies more accessible was adopted at the end of 2016 and is the very first piece of EU legislation on digital accessibility. It will benefit over 500 million European citizens, including an estimated 80 million Europeans living with a disability, by making digital content from the public sector across Europe more accessible.

Governments will have to check that public sector bodies consistently adhere to the accessibility standards and there will be a new enforcement procedure, making it easier for members of the public to complain about inaccessible content and get the situation resolved.

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One third of councils fail web accessibility testing in UK-wide survey

An annual review of council websites across the UK has revealed that one third of local government sites failed first-stage testing to find out how accessible their websites are for users with disabilities.

Carried out by Socitm (the Society of IT Management), the Better Connected survey is a nationwide examination to evaluate local authority websites on a range of factors.

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The NHS Accessible Information Standard: changing standards

At the end of July, the National Health Service (NHS) Accessible Information Standard was implemented throughout England. This means that any organisation providing NHS care or adult social care is now legally obliged to provide information in accessible formats, so that people with a disability or impairment (those who may not be able to access or read text and information in the traditional form) have the same access to health information as any other NHS user.

This includes an obligation for organisations to provide alternative information formats to meet individuals’ requirements, including Braille, electronic and audio formats.

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Government for all: opening up online services – Q&A with James Buller, Home Office Digital

James Buller is a user-researcher at Home Office Digital (HOD) leading on access needs, and has been contributing to the Government Digital Service (GDS) accessibility blog on GOV.UK, the UK government services portal.

Below is a republished, adapted version of the Q&A in James’ GOV.UK post (with some additional material), explaining how he works with service users to meet accessibility requirements, as well as his own use of assistive technology and the wider work of HOD.

James’ original post can be found in full on the GDS accessibility blog, linked to at the end of this article.

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Governments warned not to “exclude millions” by legalising digital barriers

A letter from 20 NGOs has warned European ministers of the severe impact on disabled citizens’ lives that proposed changes to a web accessibility directive would have.

If exemptions to the EU Directive on the accessibility of public sector bodies’ websites are adopted, then electronic communication with public organisations, downloading documents and accessing intranets at work will all be affected, and in some cases made impossible for disabled citizens throughout Europe, say the NGOs.

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Equality analysis vital for council websites, conference hears

Local authorities planning to redesign their websites or make any major changes to them must carry out equality analysis from day one of the project, delegates heard at this month’s ‘Building Perfect Council Websites’ conference in Birmingham.

And suppliers or contractors designing a council’s website or taking on responsibility for uploading web content to the site must be instructed to do so to the same standard local authority staff would be expected to perform, Clive Lever, diversity and equality officer at Kent County Council, told a conference discussion group.

“Make them aware of our Public Sector Equality Duty [introduced by the Equality Act 2010]”, Lever said. “When commissioning others to work on your websites, do not settle for promises of accessibility – get evidence of how they will do it or have done in the past.”

When offering website users content in accessible alternative formats, use content that is appropriate for your target audience, he said. “So ’Keeping safe’ advice specifically for people with learning difficulties needs ‘Easyread’ versions as a matter of course. But minutes of cabinet meetings may not, so you would only provide them in Easyread if asked to do so. This approach means that you may only need to show clearly how people can get alternative formats if they need them. Do this in the files and on the pages which hold them.”

When running usability tests on a website, it is vital to bring in a wide cross-section of members of the public including disabled people; people of all ages; people with low literacy skills; and both experienced computer users and novices, Lever said.

“Remember that a person who cannot reach the information they need may think they are failing. In reality they are being failed by the website. Make sure at the start of the session that testers are clear that we are not testing them. They are testing us.”

While he said it was understandable that local authorities are currently looking to save as much money as possible, he said they should still offer a small payment to members of the public who are asked to test the website. “Travelling to our sites to do test tasks costs them time and money, and the experience of carrying out the user tests may be frustrating and stressful to them.”

Another key accessibility practice is to always use everyday language and terms online, he said.

“Remember that people rarely come to our site to have a look around and find out what we do. They come because there is something specific they want to do. So, our search box could say: ‘What do you want to do?’ instead of ‘Search’”.

The conference was co-hosted by E-Access Bulletin publisher Headstar with the local public sector IT management body Socitm.

One Voice launches 2015 election pledge campaign

A campaign urging all UK political parties to add digital accessibility pledges to their 2015 election manifestos has been launched by the One Voice for Accessible ICT Coalition.

The coalition is an umbrella group of organisations from all sectors including Leonard Cheshire Disability; BT; Middlesex University; Business Disability Forum and Barclays Bank.

Its new campaign has two main parts: a direct approach to the political parties and a petition on the open campaigns website ’38 Degrees’.

It is centred on a call for “all political parties to reaffirm their previously stated goals for equal opportunities and economic growth, by adding a statement to their 2015 election manifestos pledging to improve access by people with disabilities to digital public services, the digital economy and the workplace.

It is vital that action is taken in this field now, to ensure we keep on top of the rising problem of digital discrimination.”

In particular, the coalition is asking the main UK parties to pledge if elected to t review of anti-discrimination law to “see if it is fit for purpose in the digital age; and to see how existing laws, guidelines and standards on access to digital goods and services by disabled and older people can be better enforced across all sectors.”

In background information published alongside the petition, the coalition notes that the government has already published reasonable accessibility guidelines in its Government Service Design Manual for the Digital by Default Service Standard.

However, it warns: “We are concerned that such messages are still not strongly enough promoted or enforced across the whole of government. And outside central government, in local government and the NHS for example, the pattern of accessibility of digital services is even more patchy.

“It is also a concern that the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which was set up in 2006 with a mandate to “challenge discrimination”, has undertaken very little research, issued little guidance and carried out little enforcement work in this vital area. This is a clear indicator that review of anti-discrimination law enforcement in this field is urgently needed.”

Andy Heath, a consultant on digital accessibility and One Voice council member who is running the petition on behalf of the coalition, told E-Access Bulletin this week: “Technology can serve us all, or if we let it, it can serve only the few. Accessibility of digital information in the UK is not a done deal, its a work in progress.

“I see the support of the next government it as crucial to the progress of inclusion and accessibility in the UK and making a high level manifesto statement would show a commitment to that. We need the policy vision out there in view so all can see, not buried in a dusty filing cabinet. Whether you believe competition between people, organisations and nations, is a good way to go or not, we cannot afford to waste the talents of any of our people by excluding them – for their sakes and ours.”

Heath urged all readers of E-Access Bulletin to sign the petition, Building an Inclusive Society, and promote it on social media and through other channels, as the parties enter the final stages of their manifesto-setting processes this summer.

Election access at heart of Canadian disability law campaign

The removal of barriers to voting and elections is among key principles of a new Canadians With Disabilities Act which a group of Canadian disability rights advocates is urging all the country’s main political parties to pledge to pass, E-Access Bulletin has learned.

The campaign is spearheaded by a group of five leading disability campaigners led by Donna Jodhan, who in 2012 won a six-year legal battle to force the Canadian government to make its websites more accessible (see E-Access Bulletin September 2013). Other members of the “Barrier-free Canada steering committee” are Steven Christianson, advocacy manager at baby health charity March of Dimes; David Lepofsky, a law professor at University of Toronto; Jutta Treviranus, director of the Inclusive Design Research Centre at Ontario College of Art & Design; and Marc Workman of the Canadian national blindness charity CNIB.

The group is urging all parties to support the principles behind passing a new law ahead of national elections set for October next year. “We believe more work is needed to ensure the rights of Canadians with disabilities remain intact”, Jodhan told E-Access Bulletin this week. “Web accessibility is just one component of our landscape and if we hope to become an equal partner in society then other rights need to be respected and preserved. We need to have equity with the mainstream world.”

The group has drawn up a list of 14 principles for the new law, which would echo the US Americans with Disabilities Act.

These include that it “should require providers… to ensure that their goods, services and facilities are fully usable by persons with disabilities”; that the government of Canada should lead other sectors in achieving the aims of the new law; and that it should provide for a “prompt, independent and effective process for enforcement”.

The law should also require the government to review all current and future federal legislation and regulations to identify possible accessibility barriers that they may impose or permit, pass new legislation to address these barriers, the principles state. “As an immediate priority under these activities, the Government of Canada should get input from voters with disabilities on accessibility barriers in election campaigns and the voting process, and should develop reforms to remove and prevent such barriers.”

The final principle says: “The Canadians with Disabilities Act must be more than mere window dressing… It must have real force, effect and teeth.”

Only a quarter of UK council websites accessible, report finds

Only a quarter of UK local authority websites are accessible to people with disabilities, significantly fewer than last year, according to this year’s ‘Better Connected’ council website review by the public sector Society of IT Management (Socitm).

Overall, 105 councils (26%) were rated by the Socitm report as at least ‘satisfactory’, defined as having few serious and practical accessibility problems, with just one– Preston City – rated ‘very good’. Last year, 194 councils (44%) were rated at this level.

Some 311 sites (76%) this year were rated as ‘poor’, and 12 (3%) as entirely ‘inaccessible’, according to tests checks carried out for Socitm by non-profit accessibility testing firm Digital Accessibility Centre, based on the WCAG 2.0 global web access standard. The tests checked website ‘top level’ pages – the main index pages for each council service – as well as the accessibility of carrying out sample tasks such as reporting flytipping to a council using a mobile phone; or finding out about a care home for an elderly relative.

The drop in standards this year is attributed by the report to the introduction of accessibility tests on the site carried out using mobile devices, which resulted in scores on average only half as good as those recorded in tests using desktop computers.

The most common accessibility problems for council websites accessed by desktop computer were lack of clear labels for form fields and associated controls; downloadable ‘non-html’ documents such as pdf files being inaccessible; poor heading structure; and insufficient colour contrast. For access by mobile devices, common problems also included a lack of mobile alternative option for the desktop site.

The report recommends all councils should build accessibility into their criteria for web site procurement; build accessibility checks into their web publishing process; and carry out user testing with disabled people.

The figures emerged just a few days after the European Parliament voted to strengthen a proposed European Directive on the Accessibility of Public Sector Bodies’ Websites, which would require EU member states to ensure all public websites are fully accessible.

The new law could come into force as early as next year, suggesting UK councils would struggle to comply, although member states would be likely to be allowed a further year to comply for new public sector web content, and three years for existing content.