Accessibility Summit II: A User-Focussed Approach to Web Accessibility

The following article was published in the E-GOVERNMENT BULLETIN (ISSUE 226, 13 November 2006).

01: Public Sector Needs Better Guidance On Web Accessibility.

A group of leaders in the field of accessibility, including representation from the government's Central Office of Information (COI - are to call on the public sector to rethink policy and guidelines on accessibility of the web to people with a disability.

Some 19 experts from higher education, the private and non-profit sectors and central government, who met last week at the Accessibility Summit II in York, agreed the global Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) from the World Wide Web Consortium do not satisfactorily meet the needs of disabled users. "At the moment the government is following highly specific [WCAG] points. Some work, some don't," said Kevin Carey, Vice-Chair of the Royal National Institute of the Blind and director of digital inclusion charity HumanITy.

The group is to call for change in the way web accessibility is advocated particularly in local and central government, education and the museum and cultural sectors. "What we're trying to do is address what we collectively felt are weaknesses in the way web accessibility is currently promoted, portrayed, supported and implemented in the public sector," said David Sloan, Research Assistant at the School of Computing at the University of Dundee and co-founder of the summit. He told E-Government Bulletin the meeting unanimously agreed the WCAG were inadequate.

"This situation [affects] formulation, implementation and monitoring of policy and law relating to accessible online information and services, but it also leaves web authors uncertain about what they can and can't do."

Initially, a manifesto will be published by the end of this year outlining both the shared vision of Summit delegates and how best to implement improvements. And a "roadmap" is to be drafted which could include a call for greater web accessibility testing and to open channels to share research in the area according to Summit co-founder Brian Kelly of the University of Bath.

The group is soon to reconvene to further discuss how each person can convey these messages to the communities they have most influence over.