Birmingham City Council (BCC) spends a massive £2.8m on a website and they can’t even basic requirements around Accessibility right. They even send us off to the BBC to find out how to navigate their own site.

Yet one of the aims of their Disability Equality Duty (2007-2010) is to:

‘mainstream disability equality within the City Council’s service areas’

Launched at the beginning of the week my response as one of the ‘Twitterati’ (as we were called by Glyn Evans the guy in charge interviewed on the Birmingham Post website) still led them to change their Accessibility page 3 times.

They wrote:

“We are pleased to announce that this web site meets with W3C WAI-AA and WCAG 2.0 accessibility standards..”

(Note the two full stops at the end have you listened to a screen reader pick up such basic typing errors? It’s very annoying I’ve been told)

Following 7 ‘tweets’ from me stating: you can’t tab, can’t change the background colours, can’t navigate the site without using the mouse. This claim was changed. These are all basics to Level ‘A’ and yet they claimed to meet Level ‘AA’.

Now they claim:

“We aim to meet W3C WCAG 1.0 accessibility standards to level ‘AA’”

So what do they meet Level ‘A’ or not? I don’t know – you need to do a proper manual user evaluation and test of the whole site to know what it does meet.

To make matters worse – they didn’t improve their explanations of how to navigate the site, how to increase the font size, how to change the background colour, how to navigate with different web browsers (Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, Opera), options for screen readers, shortcuts on the keyboard instead of using the mouse or options to view documents in pdf’s word and rich text etc.

The just sent us disabled visitors away from the website to the BBC to find out more!

So the BBC can do their job for them. So the BBC can tell disabled Birmingham residents how to navigate their own council website?

As 15% of households have someone in the household who is disabled – that is 15% of Birmingham’s residents currently being discriminated against by their council in terms of web access on their new site (the one that cost over £2.8m and 3 years late).

BCC has a legal duty to meet two main requirements and are failing both:

1. The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 in its publishing and following of the ‘Disability Equality Duty’


2. Egovernement guidelines which lay out the minimum standards for government websites.

At the moment they are saying Disabled residents in Birmingham are not important enough as Glyn Evans was quoted in the Birmingham Post

‘We have tried to design a site that is suitable for the majority of our residents”

What about ALL your residents – the othe 15% that includes disabled people and what about those who’s first language isn’t English – you need to go to Housing to find community languages or search for it).

Finally I’ve been told that staff have been instructed not to complete the alt tags as they will be automatically generated by the content management system.

So a picture of Cannon Hill Park on a page with the heading ‘Road works on the A38’ will have the alt tag ‘Road works on the A38’ with no description or detail to what the picture is and worse of all has no context to the contents on the page.

Come on BCC – get it right.

What BCC posted on the Accessibility page:

Originally:

Accessibility

If you wish to alter the font size, go into your web browser, and (if you are using Microsoft Internet Explorer) from the menu at the top of your screen select View, then Text Size, and choose the size at which you would like to display the text. If you are using another type of browser the procedure may be slightly different – please use your browser’s Help button for information.

We are pleased to announce that this web site meets with W3C WAI-AA and WCAG 2.0 accessibility standards. If you have any comments, please contact webteam@birmingham.gov.uk..

Then changed to:

Accessibility

If you wish to alter the font size, or in any other way customise the way that your browser displays the pages, then comprehensive guidance for how you can achieve your desired aims is provided on Accessibility pages of the BBC web site.

We aim to meet W3C WCAG 1.0 accessibility standards to level ‘AA’. If you have any comments, please contact webadminstrator@birmingham.gov.uk