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MP’s Website Wins Award, But ‘Vast Majority’ Inaccessible

The website of Labour MP for Newcastle Upon Tyne East and former Cabinet minister Nick Brown has won the accessibility category in the 2010 MP Web Awards, hosted by BCS – the Chartered Institute for IT (formerly known as the British Computer Society).

The awards are presented to politicians who best use new technologies to engage with their constituents. The accessibility award was judged by representatives of technology charity AbilityNet, who reported a number of features that caused Brown’s website ( http://www.nickbrownmp.com/ )
to stand out, including no unlabelled images; a good default size for text, which can be resized; no distracting or moving images; keyboard access for the whole site; and no issues when using a screen-reader.

The panel also found some minor areas in which accessibility could be further improved on Brown’s site: inclusion of ‘skip’ links for keyboard users; ensuring that all title text matches the actual link text; and providing a button to activate the site search function. However judges said the site as a whole was “a clear and consistent website that follows best practices for accessibility.”

Robin Christopherson, head of digital inclusion at AbilityNet and presenter of the accessibility award, told E-Access Bulletin that although Brown’s website was the best example of accessibility from the 600 plus sites examined, there is still room for improvement across the board. “Most MPs’ websites out there reflect the overall picture of accessibility – the vast majority aren’t anywhere near accessible,” said Christopherson.

Common problems included unlabelled images, poor use of colour, and cluttered layouts, he said. Additionally, the increased popularity of social media add-ons to websites has caused problems: “If you embed the standard Facebook widget into your page – and Twitter, to a lesser extent – you’re going to have issues with accessibility. It’s not easy to make a Web 2.0 website accessible. The prevailing level of accessibility out there is very low.”

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