Unimpressed cat photo by Ryan McGuire

I was pretty shocked to see how poor the WCAG accessibility of the new Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) website is. It wouldn't pass A let alone AA, I know committment to accessibility has waned, but has there been a Government shift in its policy position on disability discrimination in this area or has it just not been prioritised?

See the Australian Human Rights Commission World Wide Web: Disability Discrimination Act Advisory Notes. 

From a technical and a design point of view it fails in ways that really should now been standard. The site is built using Drupal, and presumably the aGov distribution which was specifically buillt with accessibility in mind. 

A quick list of WCAG 2.0 issues from looking around the site for five minutes:

  • Focus Visible fail
  • Poor colour contrast of text - fail AA
  • No alt tags on images (including images with text)
  • Inconsistent site navigation and layout - failure to make pages appear and operate in predictable ways
  • Lack of consistency and technical prompts to allow users to navigate, find content, and determine where they are

The PM&C website uses a "hamburger" menu - apart the menu itself being inaccessible from a technical point of view, the accessibility of the menu style as a whole has accessibility testers and usability testers unimpressed. I'll blog about them more but I saw a great post shared on twitter today - Hamburger Menus and Hidden Navigation Hurt UX Metrics that is well worth a read. 

The new PM&C site seems to have been designed with a "mobile-only" rather than a "mobile-first" view, which is a poor design choice. On a large screen the images are just massive and the proportion of image and the top banner/menu area is dumb. If they had of at least set a maximum container width for the body the images wouldn't scale to such overblown proportions. 

If the Department's web analytics back up that only a minimal proportion of users use a desktop/laptop to access the site then perhaps they have a case, I'd be surprised though. 

A site map in the footer would be a big help (and improve accessibility) because the menu navigation is messy and inconsistent.  

The most basic thing you can do to test the accessibility of a website is to tab [tab key] through it - you want to make sure there are no keyboard traps and that your cursor has a focus. 

We are creating a series of really brief videos to show examples of accessibility - it is an area that takes a lot of understanding on what does and doesn't give a pass and we want to empower people to understand what to look for. 

So if you have one minute (literally) check out a video on Focus Visible that uses the PM&C website as an example. 

We've also emailed the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet the following:

Hello, 

I've noticed that the WCAG accessibility of this new site is very poor and does not pass A or AA. 

It was my understanding that all Australian Government websites were to implement WCAG 2.0 to level A by 2014. 

As this site is Drupal and the technology exists to make this a very accessible website was there a deliberate omission? Or has Government policy changed?

I look forward to your response.

Thank you,

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Aug 3, 2016 By lyndsey

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