The Australian Broadcasting Corporation launched “ABC Mobile” yesterday. Unfortunately, the home page does not appear to have been designed in accordance with guidelines for web accessibility for the disabled and may be unlawful.

The ABC advertises for staff who have a knowledge of web accessibility and web standards and so would know its obligations.

The site also fails several mobile phone and other web guidelines. As well as the mobile phone compatible web site, there are Apple iPhone and Google Android applications offered. However, the ABC should have put its resources into the basic site, rather than building nice to have, but non-essential features.

A test using the Test Accessibility Web tool (TAW 3.0 3/16/09 10:15 PM) against the WAI guidelines (W3C Recommendation 5 May 1999) reported: 1 Priority 1, 14 Priority 2 and 1 Priority 3 problems with the page. The Priority 1 problem is the most serious. The ABC has not included usable alternative text for the main navigation menu of the site. As an example, “Weather” is displayed as an image with no text saying “Weather” for those who cannot see the image. Instead the word “image” has been used for all the menu items, making the web site substantially inaccessible to those with vision impairment.

The W3C mobileOK Checker gave the home page of the new site 79/100 on mobile compatible tests. This would be a good result for an ordinary web site but is poor for a site specifically designed for mobile phones. The web page is designed for smart phones with large screens (about 3 inches and QVGA resolution) and would be difficult to use on an ordinary mobile phone. The page is 38KB: 9KB for the text and 29KB of images, which is too “heavy” for a mobile (W3C recommend 20 kbytes). There are 15 files required to be downloaded (the HTML and 14 images), whereas W3C recommends a maximum of 10. There are numerous errors reported with the HTML coding of the web site.

With its mobile service, the ABC had the opportunity to not only provide a general news and entertainment service but one which would be of use in emergencies, such as bushfire and floods. However, by not correctly designing the service, the ABC has limited its usefulness.

Currently I am teaching mobile and accessible web design to second year and postgraduate students at The Australian National University in the course “Networked Information Systems” (COMP2410). The ABC home page would not be of an acceptable standard for student work on
this course.

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