Govt not complying with its own web standards

Not one government website complies fully with web standards laid down by the government itself in 2003, says a monitoring report released this month

Not one government website complies fully with web standards laid down by the government itself in 2003, says a monitoring report released this month on New Zealand’s compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

The report, by a monitoring group drawn from the Human Rights Commission, the Ombudsman’s office and the New Zealand Convention Coalition, bases its statement on self-assessments by government organisations in 2011. “It is mandatory for all public sector departments, the New Zealand Police, the New Zealand Defence Force, the Parliamentary Counsel Office and the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service to be compliant with the standards,” the report says.

The Department of Internal Affairs acknowledges that there are “gaps” in agencies’ attainment of the “success criteria” specified in the standards, which are based on the international Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. However, not all these relate to usability and disability access, spokesman Simon Pleasants says. “Instances of non-compliance are also common around the more highly detailed and prescribed policy-related requirements for privacy statements, disclaimers, copyright notices, terms of use, macrons and the like.”

However, work is in train at DIA both to implement changes to the web standards in consultation with stakeholders and to provide guidance and education for agencies in reaching full compliance, he says.

Sources close to the compilers of the report acknowledge that compliance may have improved since the self-assessments were done, but express regret that there is no systematic process for surveying websites from a neutral and consistent standpoint; the only instruments are self-assessment or random encounter with non-compliant websites, followed by one-off fixes, says one source, who declines to be named.

The web standards are not aimed solely at easing use for disabled people; they also aim at making essential public-information sites more usable for the population at large.

“The main factor contributing to non-compliance is variability in agency and vendor knowledge and skill around the Government Web Standards, in particular web accessibility,” DIA’s Pleasants says. He points out that while compliance for the agencies listed is mandatory, the Cabinet Minute of 2003 specifying this “allows agencies to balance the needs of stakeholders against fiscal responsibilities.

“DIA will soon (within weeks) consult stakeholders on proposed changes to the web standards,” he says. “Stakeholders will include representatives of disability communities and organisations, government agencies, and external vendors.

“The consultation aims to help:

  • prioritise the concerns of disability communities
  • reduce implementation costs, thereby making overall compliance easier
  • help agencies improve delivery of accessible online content and services over time.”

This research will inform the next version of the web standards, he says. “These will be complete by mid-2013. After that, DIA will work with the Web Standards Working Group to deliver additional guidance and education for agencies.”

A separate report, published by the Human Rights Commission in October, entitled Better Information for Everyone, recommends mandatory compliance be widened to Crown entities including district health boards, territorial local authorities and schools.

The monitoring group is due to report back to the UN on New Zealand’s compliance with the convention by the end of 2014.

Comments

Richard Hulse

1

It's not that hard to build a site that is standards compliant, and they do not have to be uninteresting to use. Radio NZ's website has largely complied with the guidelines since 2003, continuing to do so through two subsequent redesigns. It is no more expensive to implement a compliant site, and it's cheaper to maintain once you have good publishing systems in place. And, of course, it is often more accessible.

Simon Pleasants - DIA

2

Good to see plenty of interest in this subject. Disambiguation. DIA has made no change to the New Zealand Government Web Standards 2.0. All relevant documents are on the Web Toolkit site: <a href:http://webtoolkit.govt.nz/standards/nzgws-2/>http://webtoolkit.govt.nz/standards/nzgws-2/</a>. We've retired the original Web Standards website.

Anonymous

3

It's. a. Website. FFS

Anonymous

4

One can speculate that the reason the standards have not been fully implemented is that the agencies face barriers of cost and resources in order to do so. Regardless of the reasons, lets look at one stark reality here, being that DIA has been developing web standards since the dark days of SSC holding that responsibility. There is no need to go and consult yet again on proposed changes for goodness sake. Spend the money on enabling agencies to make the changes!

Anonymous

5

Who monitors the Human Right Commission? Their own material is not always accessible. I understand, from emails I have sighted, they have been told about this,but you don't get a reply. I have sighted the DIA web standards material. It is easily understood, but disappeared from the site at one stage.

Anonymous

6

and putting a new tax on petrol to pay for it all too. Sick of working all day to pay more and more Taxes so morons can sit round for 8 hours a day figuring out ways to waste what they already get...

Anonymous

7

The NZ government web standarsds, (I think now called New Zealand Government Web Toolkit http://webtoolkit.govt.nz) doesn't get followed too well either. I wonder why it was renamed? as an example the web services that are now mandatory for all aged care providers, effecting 10s of thousands of computers must run Windows with IE8 and no more. When questioned weasal excuses are used as to why DHBs are exempt despite the MOH funding it and falling under the NZ govt web toolkit. ie. they just dont get it. This pathetic accessibility adds millions of extra cost to NZ every year.

Ian Mitchell, FIITP

8

And some are holding passwords in the clear and emailing them out on Forgotten Passwords.
Insist on one-way encryption!

Anonymous

9

Surprised? really? Have you seen a website that is fully compliant? They are not that interesting to use. How about a realistic review of the standards instead of Government agencies applying for a concession every time they build a website.

Oliver

10

...after 5y they notice???!!! All RFPs contain the adherence to standards. When it then gets to build & test it's the 1st thing that goes. And even worse most PMs and the Govt stakeholders don't even know it exists or what it is or what it is for. So in effect it's a toothless tiger.

Mike Osborne

11

To get your website's message across to the widest range of people requires a rich expression of the information in a number of ways - text and images and multimedia where applicable.

There is a view that accessible means equally unusable for everyone. You could think of accessibility as hyper-usability.

Ultimately it comes down to attitude - do you want to make an accessible site or not? If you do it's not that hard, if you don't you can make it as hard as you like.

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