Web accessibility vs information accessibility for Government 2.0

I find the issue of Web site accessibility – particularly as part of the Gov 2.0 conversation – an interesting one. Personally I tend to look at it from the broader perspective of digital inclusion/exclusion, rather than just the mechanics of making the HTML mark up of a Web site accessible as such. WCAG 2.0 for example looks at both the mark up and the content, which makes a lot of sense in theory.

Lets now look at ‘accessibility’ in practice:

Now I know I’m probably going to lose a lot of karma points for mentioning this, but I couldn’t help noticing a few things on the Vision Australia site.

For a start, this rather odd breadcrumb trail I came across at one point:

This was just one a number of navigational inconsistencies I came across. I also had a lot of trouble finding their RSS feed, until I stumbled back on to the home page (its not on the news pages itself and there is no auto-discovery).

And don’t get me started on the lack of human friendly URLs… like http://www.visionaustralia.org/info.aspx?page=823&news=1578

Now, there is no doubt that their WCMS is probably at fault for some of these problems, but isn’t it shame that such a leading example of an accessible site falls down in other areas that affect the overall user experience and the ability to access the information in it?

RSS is a particular bug bear with me as it is constantly forgotten by government organisations at all levels, but it is the corner stone of making new information easily syndicated out beyond the confines of a particular Website. I mention this because if government agencies see this as a model example, then I think they will still fail in their overall ability to deliver Government 2.0. Yes, Web accessibility itself is important – but so is information accessibility too if we are going to progress along the path of achieving full inclusion and participation. 

I think that when we talk about accessibility for Government 2.0, we should be aiming for:
  • Highest possible standards of Web accessibility (mark up and content);
  • Best possible user experience; and
  • Baked in support for content syndication and access to the PSI the site contains.
BTW As someone without vision problems (other than being a little short sighted) I do appreciate the fact that overall I have the advantage across the Web and it is very easy for me to be critical. However, the whole reason I was on the Vision Australia site was to check out the kinds of courses they run on Web accessibility. So, help me get some karma points back now by checking out their training courses and maybe even signing up for one. đŸ™‚