Monday, June 23, 2008

Do all your egovernment tools meet accessibility standards?

In Australia website usability is important, but accessibility is law.

While most government agencies are extremely diligent about meeting accessibility requirements it is also important to look at the accessibility of any online tools they use that affect their customers or clients.

For example, my agency uses a third-party email marketing system, Vision6 for electronic newsletters to customers and a US-based survey tool, SurveyMonkey for customer and stakeholder surveys.

Vision6 is an Australian company and has met all applicable accessibility requirements for a long time. We also make a point of offering plain text versions of all HTML emails we distribute through this tool to further ensure we're providing an email version that customers can readily access.

SurveyMonkey, being a US system, isn't required by law to meet Australian accessibility standards - although it meets the applicable W3C guidelines on which this was based.

Previously we used this service as no other web survey platform I had identified met the agency's requirements and was fully Australian standards compliant.

However they have just been certified as compliant with the US's Section 508 Accessibility requirements, which, according to SurveyMonkey, makes them the only online survey application that is Section 508 certified, as explained in their website, Your survey designs are now 508 compliant!

This isn't an Australian standard, however it is a very long way towards meeting it.

If you're unsure what the Australian requirements are, AGIMO's Accessibility section provides a concise and clear explanation.

If you're not sure how to test for accessibility, WebAIM has a good list of accessibility testing tools and when/how to use them.

Incidentally, the W3C is getting much closer to the second version of their accessibility guidelines (WCAG 2.0) - after 5 years of work.

Webcredibility have a review of the new version in their site at WCAG 2.0: The new W3C accessibility guidelines evaluated.

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