COI gets nasty on accessibility

I’m indebted to Public Sector Forums for pointing out that COI have issued a new consultation document on ‘delivering inclusive websites: user-centred accessibility’. In an immmediate nod to user-centredness, the document isn’t yet available on the Cabinet Office website, despite ‘going 1.0’ a week or more ago. 🙁

The main headline is that government websites which fail to pass AA accessibility may lose their address. In truth, there hasn’t been a strong ‘carrot’ when it comes to accessibility, so it’s no surprise that we should try the ‘stick’. But how rigidly can this rule be applied, when so many of the tests are subjective? My favourite remains checkpoint 14.1:

Use the clearest and simplest language appropriate for a site’s content.

That’s a Level A criterion, not even AA. I’m not sure many sites even try. And besides, define ‘appropriate’. Ah well, I suppose the WAI guidelines are the only guidelines we’ve got, so there’s no real choice but to legislate upon them.

More disappointing, though, is the lack of ‘practising what you preach’. Wouldn’t it have been a wonderful example of user-centredness, if they’d published these guidelines on an open, public website for the users themselves to comment?