The Office for Disability Issues has conducted an accessibility audit of 127 government websites as a follow-up to a similar survey conducted in 2005.
The ODI, which is part of the Ministry of Social Development, hired accessibility services provider AccEase to undertake the survey between October and December last year. The results will be presented in March, says Paul Dickey, policy analyst at the ODI.
The purpose of the audits is to check if government agencies are meeting the requirements of the Disability Strategy — the government’s action plan to progressively remove barriers for disabled people to participate in society — and in particular the requirement to meet the needs of disabled people when providing public-access information online, says Dickey. The State Services Commission has worked with ODI to facilitate the second audit. Web accessibility is an important part of the SSC's e-government initiative. “Our main interest is getting some more quantitative data so that we can measure and track progress over the years,” says Dickey. The audits involve two stages of testing, says Dickey. The first stage is automated testing of some key accessibility check-points. Websites that meet the technical requirements for the first round of testing are eligible for the second round of more rigorous testing by a panel of disabled users, he says. This user test panel consists of a range of people with different types of impairments, for example people with a vision impairment, mobility impairment or intellectual disability, or people that are deaf, he says. “The end goal is, not just ticking a box, but making sure that disabled people themselves are able to access the websites and government publicly available information on the same basis as non-disabled people do,” he says. The programme will also improve access for the wider public, Dickey adds. Good structure, plain English content and good colour contrast are things that make information more accessible for everyone, he says.