In a post on All UK Government Web Sites Must Be WCAG AA Compliant I recently warned of the dangers that the UK Government’s blunt instrument of mandating that all UK government Web sites must comply with WCAG AA accessibility guidelines could be counter-productive as the current WCAG 1.0 guidelines are widely felt to be out-of-date and government departments which seek to comply with the guidelines may well result in Web design patterns which are now widely felt to enhance the effectiveness of Web sites but which infringe guidelines released back in 1998 being discarded.
I recently viewed the Official Web Site of the British Monarchy (don’t ask) and spotted a visible <FONT> tag preceding a news item about the Queen’s speeches in Uganda.
Surely the Queen’s Web site isn’t using <FONT> tags, I thought? The Queen can’t possibly have employed a self-taught Web coder who hasn’t updated their skills in over five years? But looking at the source code and validating the page my worst fears came true: 36 HTML errors, no DOCTYPE, spacer GIFs, unclosed <FONT> tags (as I had spotted), <IMG> tags with no ALT attributes, a mixture of XHTML and HTML elements, …
Now this page clearly fails to comply with the UK Government proposed accessibility requirements. What, then, will happen if these proposals are accepted and the Queen fails to correct the errors by next year’s deadline? Will the Government attempt to shut down Her Majesty’s Web site? Will the Government take the Queen to court? But won’t “Regina vs Regina ” lead to a constitutional crisis? Will this lead to the demise of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic? Or will such a vindictive move by pedantic civil servants lead to a backlash, with the possibility of the Tower for the more extreme of the ‘accessibility standardistas‘?
More seriously the British Monarchy Web site probably does provide a good example of a service (perhaps not quite a public-sector service, though) which would be improved by simply following the WCAG guidelines. So maybe my concerns would only apply to those Web sites which are seeking to be more interactive and user-focussed than the brochureware approach which the British Monarchy site provides.