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Councils Urged To Mix Technical Web Tests With User Tests

Local councils should carry out both technical accessibility testing and
user testing of their websites to minimise exclusion of people with
disabilities, and not just take one or other approach, a new report from
the local government Society of IT Management (Socitm) finds.

The report, a special supplement to Socitm’s annual ‘Better connected’
review of all UK council websites, examines the reasons behind an
alarming downward trend in accessibility in 2008. The accessibility of
UK local council websites fell by almost 50 per cent since last year,
with just 37 out of the UK’s 468 council websites achieved the most
basic technical standard of accessibility in 2008 – level ‘A’ of the
World Wide Web consortium’s web content accessibility guidelines
(see E-Access Bulletin issue 99, March 2008 for further reporting on
the Socitm findings).

The society’s new supplement says that to avoid future problems
councils should combine technical accessibility testing with user
testing. The former is defined as measurable points that allow access;
the latter as evaluation of actual attempts to perform tasks on a website.

“A site that offers good technical accessibility might not be usable by
disabled people, if the layout and other issues do not take their needs
into account,” the report says. “It is not the case that organisations
should follow one approach or the other. They should follow both.

“The one approach considers the key technical guidelines that should
be adopted across the site. The other approach considers the many
different perspectives of a website that depend on the tasks to be
undertaken, the specific characteristics of the disability and the many
different combinations of technology that one might be using.

“It is quite feasible that any failures in meeting technical guidelines
may not apply in any single user experience, but they are very likely to
apply in a significant percentage of user experiences. Equally, it is
quite feasible that any failure in a single user experience may not relate
to any of the technical guidelines and that this might be the case in a
large number of user experiences.”

The supplement also finds that five common errors account for 76% of
all types of technical accessibility failure reported by RNIB, and that
removing them would increase by up to 50% the number of technically
accessible council sites.

For a full report on the five common errors see: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=183

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