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Federal Web sites chided for accessibility, usability issues

The accessibility and usability of some federal Web sites suffered a few pokes this week.

The newly-created Web site took a hit for its alleged lack of accessibility from the WebAxe blogger Web site.

“The site, which is U.S. government law with rules for Web accessibility, should itself be an example of an accessible web site,” Webaxe blog stated in a July 27 critique. “But instead, unfortunately, this was a failed attempt.” The blog entry included a list of 24 technical problems alleged to affect accessibility of the site.

Also in the news, Government Technology reported that the American Customer Satisfaction Index for federal Web sites has dropped. The ACSI measured satisfaction levels at 74.7 percent, down from 75.1 percent in the first quarter -- although still above the year-ago level of 73.6 percent.

The authors attributed the reduced scores to changes that agencies have been making on their Web sites to fulfill President Barack Obama's Open Government Initiative.

Federal agencies soon will have to undergo Justice Department evaluations to determine if they are complying with Section 508 disability requirements for accessible Web sites. The reviews will be the first since 2004. 

Posted by Alice Lipowicz on Jul 28, 2010 at 10:02 AM

Reader Comments

Tue, Aug 10, 2010 Web Axe

Replying to Maria M.:

My article does not point out subjective points; these are pitfalls that a vast majority of esteemed web accessibility experts agree with. If you do not fully understand the rationale behind the points, then you should refrain from commenting.

Section 508 is badly outdated and will soon be revised. Since the new version will most likely be consistent with WCAG2 AA, the new Section 508 website should try to come at least somewhat close to those standards. If not, then on moral grounds at least. (Or not to be embarrassed.)

Furthermore, items not directly related to accessibility such as the horizontal scroll bars and text resizing widget were listed under a subheading "Other Issues".

Wed, Aug 4, 2010 Washington, D.C.

Alice, you should have mentioned that the Section 508 website was created and hosted by GSA. They don't know how to design/oversee accessible buildings, either!

Tue, Aug 3, 2010 maria m.

Everyone needs to go and read the blog for yourself. There's a LOT of subjective opinion on how the site could have been developed better. Blogger doesn't agree with the Alt+Text tags, use of graphics, features that need javascript, doesn't like the ">>" characters after "read more", have to horiz scroll @ 1024, doesn't like the date on the site, doesn't like the text resizing tool....BLAH, BLAH, BLAH. Some points are valid...but many are NOT 508 REQUIREMENTS...but simply picking apart because you would have done it differnt.....

Fri, Jul 30, 2010 J.D.Bailey

Some of my favorite .Gov/.Mil domain websites are problematic for the general users. The problem that most frequently will bite me; I am doing web-research for references, I am drilling down to the information that is a few or more layers down, I find "it", I save the web-page reference to my favorites... well at least the page title saves, then I try to use it a few days later, and discover that the URL saved to the bookmarks/favorite is the index/home page URL. So, SNAFU, I repeat my research again and figure out the real URL for the web-page reference, then edit the bookmark/favorite entry[%~P.

Wed, Jul 28, 2010 Andy Mabbett

Given the number of accessibility issues on this page (missing alt text attributes, form elements without labels, captcha...

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