February 24, 2024

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Enhancing Website Accessibility with Accessibility Checker

In New Zealand, the Web Accessibility Standard establishes the accessibility criteria for government websites. The Digital Public Service (DPS) branch is actively assisting government organisations in adhering to this standard and developing websites that are accessible to individuals with disabilities. The DPS branch’s Centralised Web Accessibility Checker (CWAC) is specifically designed to aid in this endeavour.

One of the main reasons for the importance of website accessibility is the growing number of people with disabilities. Based on reliable authorities such as the World Health Organisation and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 16% of the world’s population (equivalent to over 1 billion people) live with a disability. In New Zealand alone, the number of disabled people in the sample for the 2023 Household Disability Survey (HDS) report is likely to be around 4,000 of the total population of 5,151,600 per latest December 2022. These disabilities can manifest in various forms, encompassing cognition, physicality, sensory perception, and intellectual functioning impairments.

In 2023, the significance of website accessibility is growing exponentially. Narrowing the divide in the digital realm has emerged as an important concern. Ensuring that all individuals can access various online resources such as news articles, online shopping, banking services, government assistance, and more is of utmost importance. By prioritising website accessibility, we guarantee equal access to online content for everyone.

CWAC assists government organisations in addressing accessibility concerns by automating the process of scanning numerous websites for potential issues. This enables the DPS branch to assess the overall accessibility status of government websites efficiently. Additionally, CWAC can provide a comprehensive list of identified issues, eliminating the need for costly third-party testing while equipping government organisations with actionable insights for improvement.

The pilot phase of CWAC has garnered significant interest from multiple government organisations, with numerous entities signing up to participate. The DPS branch’s Web Standards team will actively engage in comprehensive testing and continuous development of the tool in collaboration with these organisations, dedicating their efforts until early 2024.

During this extended period of rigorous testing and development, the DPS branch’s Web Standards team aims to assess CWAC’s performance across a diverse range of government websites, taking into account various complexities and unique requirements. This collaborative approach will ensure that CWAC aligns seamlessly with the specific needs and objectives of government organisations, ultimately resulting in an optimised and tailored solution.

By closely partnering with government entities throughout the pilot phase, the DPS branch’s Web Standards team will gain invaluable insights and feedback, allowing them to refine and enhance CWAC based on real-world scenarios and user experiences. This process will foster an iterative approach and culminate in a robust and reliable tool that aligns with the evolving accessibility standards and expectations of government websites.

The primary objective of this comprehensive pilot programme is to ascertain how CWAC can be effectively leveraged as a transformative and sustainable solution for ongoing improvements in government websites’ accessibility.

By harnessing the wealth of knowledge and experience gained from this collaboration, the DPS branch’s Web Standards team seeks to establish CWAC as a vital tool in promoting inclusivity, ensuring equal access to vital online resources and services for all individuals, regardless of their abilities or disabilities.


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