Tuesday, January 16th, 2007

Dutch Government Websites: Be accessible, or break the law

>Many CSS advocates curse and tear out their hair as they see the slow slow growth in pure CSS designed sites. It has definitely picked up in the last couple of years, and the Dutch government is doing their bit.

Quirksmode has posted on the dutch accessibility law that went into effect last year:

A few examples will show you where Dutch government accessibility is heading. As of 1 September last year, every website built for a government agency is required by law to use:

  • valid HTML 4.01 or XHTML 1.0
  • CSS and semantic HTML and separation of structure and presentation
  • progressive enhancement
  • the W3C DOM (instead of the old Microsoft document.all)
  • meaningful values of class and id
  • meaningful alt attributes on all images

Furthermore:

  • scripts that work on links should extend the basic link functionality (think accessible popups)
  • if a link makes no sense without a script, it shouldn’t be in the HTML (but be generated by JavaScript)
  • use of forms or scripts as the only means of getting certain information is prohibited
  • removing the focus rectangle on links is prohibited
  • information offered in a closed format (think Word) should also be offered in an open format
  • the semantics of many HTML elements are explicitly defined

(Related: use ajax, get sued)

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Posted by admin at 2:47 pm
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Very good law, make sence in a way. Although even doing all that doesn’t mean that all sites will work in all browsers.

Comment by Matt Oakes — January 16, 2007

A little over the top though, isn’t it? While ensuring that a site is accessible is always a great thing, just forcing people to use a standard isn’t the best method. I’m not sure how page readers in NL work, but screen readers here have no problem with code that isn’t “standardized”. If their screen readers are so perfect that simply forcing the W3C standards, along with coding practice, ensures the page is accessible, maybe we should get those kinds of tools over here for our disabled.

Comment by Andrew Herron — January 16, 2007

>> information offered in a closed format (think Word) should also be offered in an open format

Comment by James Curran — January 16, 2007

The testing is pretty easy, when you use the automated validator http://webrichtlijnen.overheid.nl/toetsen/.
It’s in Dutch, summarized: red is bad and green is good :)

Check out the results for this page: 58%!
http://webrichtlijnen.overheid.nl/toetsen/report/7615/12000/

Comment by Zoran Kovacevic — January 16, 2007

Isn’t that the case in the US, with Section 508?

Comment by Charlie Park — January 16, 2007

This seems to have much more specific rules than Section 508. Whereas Section 508 does not explicitly mandate compliance when Javascript is disabled, it *appears* that one’s site must not rely exclusively on Javascript to pass the Dutch law.

This might pose some hurdles for Ajax web devs.

Comment by Ross — January 16, 2007

I wish Malaysia government is implementing this. Then we create ton of job opportunity for us since most of the websites area failed to comply to these standard. wuahahahahah.

Comment by PohEe.com — January 16, 2007

The real proof of the pudding will be in the way they enforce the law. Many countries have some level of legislation regarding accessibility – they just don’t enforce them, so the law is useless.

Comment by Ben Buchanan — January 16, 2007

I suspect this is meant to future-proof sites by making them easy to adapt for new platforms or users.

Comment by Joeri — January 17, 2007

I guess this means that a lot of asp.net developers in .NL will have to learn new skills :P

Comment by Morgan Roderick — January 17, 2007

C’mon guys.. read. This only applies to government sites. And anyhow, those sites are usually developed by some government department, so I guess that when the sites don’t comply they can go and arrest themselves. :-)

Comment by jax — January 17, 2007

For the dutch validator. Isnt red and green poor color choice becuase of color blind people??? I think that may fail US 508c stuff. I donno. I know its a headache.

Comment by Mario — January 17, 2007

@Mario: US 508 says: “Color coding shall not be used as the only means of conveying information” and 508c: “Web pages shall be designed so that all information conveyed with color is also available without color, for example from context or markup.”
So when you do not only use color, but also icons and explanatory text, using green and red isn’t a problem at all.
And it isn’t a headache either, when you understand the meaning of the rule ;-)

Comment by Raph — June 14, 2007

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