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10 Downing Street site: an opportunity?

From: Peter Bosher <peter@soundlinks.com>
Date: Fri, 24 Apr 1998 12:00:56 +0100
Message-Id: <199804241103.MAA22316@dns1.enterprise.net>
To: <bcab@cs.man.ac.uk>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>


The new website for number 10 Downing street was launched recently as
part of the UK government's "IT for All" initiative.

It is, by a long stretch, the most astonishingly inaccessible site I
have ever experienced.

Below is a letter which Iain Logan has sent to the Prime Minister's
Office, followed by the Observer article to which he refers.

The reason I am cross-posting this is to gather some hard evidence about
just how inaccessible it is, and, from the HTML experts, precisely what
is wrong.   I shall of course run it through Bobby but need some human
intelligence too.

With this evidence, I am fairly confident of some truly useful awareness
raising, by which I mean national publicity, with the basic message
being:  "This was clearly an oversight, but look at the consequences and
the potential benefits of putting it right".

Compare this with the Whitehouse site which is, by contrast,
astonishingly accessible.

I look forward to reactions and especially analysis.


Peter Bosher,

British Computer Association of the Blind.


Date: Tue, 21 Apr 1998 00:41:25 +0100 (BST)
From: Iain Wilkie Logan <iainlogan@enterprise.net>
To: A.Flavell@physics.gla.ac.uk, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Subject: Re: Accessibility - No. 10 Downing Street Website

Hello Alan / WAI
I have now written, and posted by snail-mail, the following to the Prime
Minister, CC'd to my local MP. Alia alia est.

[The email address for No. 10 is <PCartwright@pmo.gov.uk> in case you
missed my CIWAH posting]


Dear Prime Minister,

          The No. 10 Downing Street Website

I am writing to express my deep concern about some very serious
accessibility problems affecting your website.

I was alerted to this by an article by John Naughton in yesterday's
'Observer', and duly confirmed it by several personal visits to the
site, and a subsequent posting to the web authoring newsgroup on the
internet, which has elicited a prodigious response. Put simply, as the
site now stands, it will be difficult or impossible for many blind and
disadvantaged webnauts to gain access to it, and to participate in the
forthcoming debate. I am sure Mr. Blunkett would be able to confirm this
were he to visit using a speaking web browser.

For the last eighteen months I have been active, both professionally and
privately, in the cause of preserving the concept of universal access
to the wonderful resource that is the web, just as was originally
envisaged by its British creator. This is now actively under seige by
commercial interests with a very different agenda. I am certain that it
is their influence that has led directly to the accessibility problems
with your website. Likewise, I am sure you will be as astonished and
appalled as I was when the implications of this situation become clear
to you. Few things in life are worse than bad things being done in the
name of a good man.

May I please ask you to look into this as a matter of urgency. To
assist, I am attaching some (rather technical, I'm afraid) references
which will lead to the relevant facts, and aid in putting things right.
If I may be of any further assistance, I shall be delighted to help.

Wishing you every success in the future,

(etc., etc.)

Attached: A reference to the CIWAH thread cited in the heading.
   A referral to the validator at W3C.
          A list of 'htmlhelp.com' resources.


All the best,



Iain Logan, Langholm, Dumfriesshire - Chartered Transport Consultant


 (From the Observer, 19 April 1998)

Hello, good evening and welcome to Tony Blair.


One day in December 1996, I ran into John Major, as one does. Or rather,
he and his ministerial entourage ran into me. It was in the basement of
the DTI building in Victoria Street. He was still Prime Minister at the
time, though to read the Daily Telegraph you would never have believed
it. I was there to talk about the Internet.
'Ah, the Internet,' said he. 'Norma and I were talking about interior
decor at the weekend and I said: 'I bet there's a lot about that on the
Internet!' 'As a matter of fact, Prime Minister, there is,' I said.
'Would you like to see for yourself?' Whereupon one of my colleagues
typed 'interior decor' into a search engine while the PM turned to talk
to someone else. 'Prime Minister, Prime Minister!' yelled one of his
ministerial colleagues as AltaVista spewed out a million links, 'come
and look at this.' 'Well, well,' said Major, staring in amazement at the
wonders of modern technology. This happened at the launch of Major's 'IT
for All' campaign which seems to have achieved little beyond publishing
surveys showing that some Brits are keen on IT while others are not.
Last Thursday, Tony Blair launched his IT for All campaign. According
to the blurb it's 'the biggest IT training and investment programme ever
undertaken by a British government'. The campaign has an eight-point
'strategy for the Information Age' to boost IT training and 'deliver
greater access to computers in schools, libraries and hospitals
At the same time, the Prime Minister unveiled Blairweb, the new Number
10 web site (www. number-10. gov. uk/) and announced that he will take
part in Europe's first live Internet interview with a Government leader.
The historic 'webcast' will be conducted by Sir David Frost, no less,
and will go out live on 29 April. Well, it will be kind of live: the
majority of the questions will be received and vetted in advance, though
Downing Street does not rule out the possibility of an unscheduled
The revamped Number 10 site, like the Government, reeks of designer
chic. Like the Government, it also needs a bit more work. There's a box
labelled 'UK Today' for example, which contains a scrolling message
saying '(Font face= 'Arial' size = 2)(p)Microsoft DB provider for ODBC
drivers (/font)' and so on.
Still, there's an interesting virtual tour of Number 10, and a nice
picture of Tony's hero, Mrs Thatcher.

The Observer
PAGE 009
Copyright (C) The Observer Ltd, 1990-1997


Peter Bosher,
Email: peter@soundlinks.com
Tel. +44 (0) 1494 794 797
Fax: +44 (0) 1494 583 146
SoundLinks Limited,
43 Broadlands Avenue,
Received on Friday, 24 April 1998 07:03:54 UTC

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