Government 2.0 Taskforce » accessibility Design by Ben Crothers of Catch Media Tue, 04 May 2010 23:55:29 +0000 en hourly 1 Accessibility Contest Announcement Fri, 18 Dec 2009 04:30:52 +0000 Lisa Harvey One of the projects the taskforce ran was a competition to assess the accessibility of government websites. The project was conducted by Media Access Australia and was run in two stages. The first was a brainstorming site to find those sites that could best do with a makeover. Then MAA listed the top sites on their site to tap into the expertise of an established community of people who assess site performance against criteria to provide a comparable score for the level of accessibility of each site.

The brainstorming process highlighted 3 sites:

MAA also added the Government 2.0 Taskforce Blog and the Social Inclusion site to the list.

From MAA’s results, the National Library site fares the best. But this is a strange competition where those with the worst score win.  MAA concluded:

“The Government 2.0 Taskforce competition and the AWARe project have been successful in identifying key access issues with five government websites.  The National Library website appears to be generally accessible and the Prime Ministers Media Gallery needs some significant improvements.

The three other sites, the Parliament of Australia Live Broadcasting site, the Government 2.0 Taskforce website and the Social Inclusion website, are inaccessible to the point where a new website should be considered rather than addressing the access issues. Given the significance of the Social Inclusion website to people with disabilities, the government should consider creating a replacement for this website immediately. ”

It is now up to the agencies to take on the advice of MAA and improve the accessibility of their sites as set out in the attached report.

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Opening Pandora’s Box – Making Government 2.0 Websites More Accessible Wed, 14 Oct 2009 05:33:46 +0000 Peter Alexander [Taskforce Secretariat] The rise of new Web 2.0 technologies and content models brings with it increasingly complex challenges for Government agencies to keep their websites accessible e.g AJAX objects, dynamic content, Rich Internet Applications and user generated content.

While we want our Government agencies to be braver and experiment with these new technologies and content models, we don’t want them to abandon their responsibilities to provide universal access to public sector information by applying best practice in accessibility and usability.

To reward rather than punish some of our braver agencies, we thought we would run a slightly different type of contest that will give them a helping hand to improve the accessibility of their Government 2.0 websites. To help the Taskforce with this process, we have enlisted the assistance of Media Access Australia to help us select, review and hopefully also fix-up a couple of Government 2.0 websites.

Are we opening Pandora’s Box by running a contest about Government 2.0 accessibility? Most probably yes, but we can’t ignore the elephant in the room and the best way we reinforce the message that accessibility is just as serious a responsibility for Government 2.0 website as it was for Government 1.0 is to lead by example and show that Government 2.0 and accessibility can comfortably co-exist.

The Challenge

We want you to nominate Government websites that have implemented Web 2.0 technologies and techniques so we can put them up for an accessibility make-over (which won’t be nearly as cheesy as those make over reality TV shows).

The Makeover Process

Based on your nominations and feedback, we will select up to five websites that will be added to the Australian Web Access Review website for two weeks to obtain more detailed community and user feedback. Based on this feedback, MAA will prepare a “makeover” action plan with recommendations for how these sites could be given a makeover to improve their accessibility.  The Taskforce will then engage with the agencies about how they can implement their action plan, and we may even commission a project to engage a consultant to provide them with any technical assistance or expertise that they need. We can’t promise that this process will fix every accessibility issue with these websites, but we think we can make some real progress that will inspire and teach other agencies how to handle some of the accessibility challenges of web 2.0 (which should make it easier for them to embrace Government 2.0).

Category Prize

As with the Suggest a Dataset challenge, no prizes will be awarded in this category – any improvements to agency websites we can facilitate will be a reward that everyone can benefit from!

Entries for this challenge are due by 5pm, October 30 5PM, November 6, although after that we’ll leave the IdeaScale page open and running for continued discussion and participation.

Also note that as before all submissions will be subject to the IdeaScale Terms and Conditions, which also has instructions about how to create an account for our IdeaScale page.

Visit Government 2.0 Taskforce Ideas – Web 2.0 Accesibility Makeover

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Accessibility for all or none? Sun, 06 Sep 2009 22:51:00 +0000 Lisa Harvey

Accessibility has discussed on this blog before and it has been raised in all the public forums I have been to. It deserves more discussion.

Let me start with an example: A federal department said it would publish on-line the hundreds of documents received from a submissions process. Most were received in Word or PDF format. Government accessibility rules require all content to be published in HTML as well. The Department, understandably, did not have the resources to convert 300 submissions to HTML format. In the end none of the submissions were published on the departmental website.

The result of meeting the mandate was that access to substantial, valuable content was eliminated. I think the intent of the rules is to provide access for everyone.

Is this acceptable? If accessibility requirements cannot be met, does that mean that content or systems cannot go on-line?

There are 3 scenarios in the develoment of systems:
1- It is intrinsic to the process and accessibility is released with the system. This usually happens with systems designed with a specific audience in mind.
2- A system is released and then accessibility is developed later. This happens with systems that need a quick release or where the development budget is insufficient to include fully functional accessibility in the beginning.
3- Systems are released and accessibility is not considered important and not addressed for a long time.

Accessibility costs money. Putting a font re-sizer and alt tags on everything is just surface accessibility, and it is not just about screen-readers. Different access requirements create sometimes conflicting design requirements. For content-only sites it is a no brainer and content-only sites should have at least basic accessibility. Functional sites are more complicated, particularly for people using assistive technologies. Getting this right means understanding the audience and testing functionality with the audience. As you can imagine this can add a lot to setup costs.

In general the business sector will assess accessibility requirements based on the business case, which will include intended audience and CSR policies. The not-for-profit sector will implement requirements based on audience and available budget for the project.

Government, on the other hand, is mandated to provide accessibility in all online systems. There should be no argument about including accessibility in budgets for government projects.

How can government encourage intrinsic development or shorten the delay described in scenario 2? And how can government influence change in other sectors?

An important way that government can contribute to accessibility is by insisting that accessibility development done as part of a project is added back into the original software product. This is easy to do with Open Source systems, and will very quickly flow out to other installations of the software. This will have a powerful flow on effect for accessibility. For proprietary systems, perhaps government can insist that accessibility enhancements are provided to all other customers free of charge in the normal update process.

Perhaps also, systems with accessibility already built in could be preferred in the selection process.

Mechanisms such as this will mean that intrinsic design is more likely, more within reach of the not-for-profit sector and the business sector, and more often the standard practice. This moves all of us closer to 1 and reduces the time gap in 2. Will this work?

The digital engagement discussion is not just about systems installed or developed specifically for government, but also the use of existing, free or commercial, on-line systems for engagement. If these do not meet accessibility standards should they not be considered at all? The nature of digital engagement is more immediate and timeliness is important. Online timeframes are shorter and users are impatient. Sometimes this may mean that access for many will be available before access for all. Is this acceptable?

Another example is the recent Whitehouse Open Government Initiative which used tools that are not particularly accessible. It was clear that timeliness was important. Had they waited for government to develop accessible tools, or for the supplying companies to implement accessiblity the moment would have been lost. ]]> 31 Connection – the real value for Content and Community Fri, 31 Jul 2009 00:57:58 +0000 Pip Marlow “Only connect. That was the whole of her sermon” E. M. Forster– Howards End

Martin Stewart-Weeks has made some interesting observations about the Task Force’s potential role in connecting three broad conversations involving Government. Connecting is a great way to think about the Internet age and I was reminded today of the timeless theme of EM Forster’s novel, Howards End – Only connect. A novel about the challenges of operating relationships across social class, it also seems to me to explore the heart of what individuals want from their government and each other – relationship through connection.

When I think about what is driving this development, it is largely a change in how people and things can be connected.

In the first wave of the Internet, people were able to connect to content that they had previously been unaware of, or unable to access. This was liberating. The technology was simple, lightweight and over time more user friendly and consequently the network effect took hold rapidly.

After a while, people started asking questions about what might be possible – “what if you could do…?”. Before we knew it we were using browsers to do all kinds of things from banking to sharing photos.

That was when we started to see some really big changes that involved a move from merely accessing content to the empowerment of people through the relationship between content, community and commerce. In my view it is the evolving of these three factors that defines what we have come to know as Web 2.0 – or the second iteration of the Web.

I call this out because the addition of community, or social graphs for individuals, and commerce, or the capability of transacting, is fundamental I think to the potential of Govt 2.0 – or the next iteration of government. In other words it’s not just about the content, or the data, or the information or digital bits wherever they may be stored. Importantly and most urgently it’s about people – individuals and groups – and how they access and apply the insight they find in content and data and information to their lives and the lives of others.

Ensuring that we drive for greater visibility and access to useful public sector information is an important step in building an improved dynamic between government and citizen. How citizens and communities of interest can benefit from and augment information and how governments can participate in those efforts more collaboratively needs to be given serious thought.

Let’s keep in mind, however, the actual value of information rests entirely in what it may mean when applied to or by an individual or group. Often this realisable value (insight) remains obscure to those third parties holding the keys to the raw data – and yet in making decisions about the release of information the economic question of value is highly relevant as there is almost always a cost to releasing information. How to get the right balance in this right of access, benefit and cost equation is a question in which the general community needs to be involved.

Pip Marlow

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Access to PSI – Who is doing what? Sun, 12 Jul 2009 07:26:06 +0000 Brian Fitzgerald We know that there are many people already working (both in and outside of government) on making PSI more accessible and useable.

For example over the last five years I have worked closely with a number of government projects designed to develop policy, technical and licensing solutions – such as the Government Information Licensing Project (GILF) (see its Stage 2 Report).  Our team has also worked closely with federal agencies such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics who are now providing free PSI under CC licences, AGIMO and the Cross Jurisdictional Chief Information Officers Committee (CJCIOC). 

I know that most governments in the country are now doing work in this area and many individuals and industries are also active.

Can people let us know what they are doing, proposing to do or want to do in this space?  Preferably for the record, make a comment on this blog but if you wish communicate with us is in some other way. 

(Note, this is intended to be a first cut at a project which the Taskforce may wish to do in a more systematic way, and as a result we’re likely to return to the subject more formally. But in the meantime, I thought this would be a useful preliminary exercise).

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Accessibility and Government 2.0 Sat, 11 Jul 2009 21:56:48 +0000 Lisa Harvey Guest Blogger Post from Scott Hollier: Media Access Australia

Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.
Ron Mace

One major issue to face the Government 2.0 taskforce will be how to meet the needs of people with disabilities.  In my role as Project Manager for Media Access Australia and as a person with a vision impairment, I’ve been fortunate to have both a profession and personal perspective on access issues so I thought I’d share my thoughts on the topic.

The challenge here will revolve around the use of universal design in the delivery of accessible government information via Web 2.0 technologies.  While the principle sounds good, two questions need to be asked:  what is universal design, and can it realistically be achieved?

One of the easiest mistakes to make is assuming that universal design means that everything has to be approached using a ‘one size fits all’ model.    This would be very difficult, not to mention impractical to actually do.  For example, if the government decides that Facebook is a good medium for communication, should the popular website launch a text-only interface to ensure complete access?  Would this meet universal design requirements?  How would current Facebook users feel about that?

An alternative is not to see universal design as an impossible dream, but to use the concept in practical ways that make mainstream products reach the largest possible audience.  The Center for Universal Design looked across a variety of disciplines, and focused on things like equitable use, flexibility in use, emphasis on simplicity and intuitiveness, the need for perceptible information and tolerance for error.  When we think about the Facebook example, can all these concepts apply without making a text-only site?  I’d argue yes.  Will this make Facebook accessible to every Australian with one or more disabilities? Probably not, but it will get close enough that specialist solutions would be required on such a small scale that it can be provided to the remainder of the population at minimal cost.

The third option is to put it all in the ‘too hard’ basket, which is what has previously happened in Australia.  Other Federal governments around the world like the United States of America have legislation, Section 508, that requires products produced or sold to the government meet accessibility criteria.   Our equivalent legislation, the Disability Discrimination Act, has no comparable requirement.

So what do you think?  Should the government find a one-size-fits-all solution to access?  Should the focus be on making government resources as accessible as possible using mainstream technologies, or is it all just too hard?   Add your thoughts.

About Dr Scott Hollier: Scott Hollier is the Project Manager, New Media for Media Access Australia (MAA), a not-for-profit, public benevolent institution.  Scott’s work focuses on making computers and Internet-related technologies accessible to people with disabilities,  Scott also represents MAA on the Advisory Committee of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the organisation primarily responsible for developing and promoting access standards to media through technology for people with disabilities.   Scott has completed a PhD titled ‘The Disability Divide: an examination into the needs of computing and Internet-related technologies on people who are blind or vision impaired’. Scott is legally blind and as such understands the importance of access at a personal level.

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