Stockport Council rebuilt its website in 10 weeks to be accessible to all.
Research published last month by the Disability Rights Commission found that only about one in five public sector and business websites can be used easily by disabled people.
However, Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council says it has bucked this trend by setting new standards for its website’s accessibility.
The re-launched council site now complies with the DRC’s recommendations and is one of the first UK-based sites to meet the AAA standard of the World Wide Web Consortium, which represents the highest level of accessibility compliance that a website can achieve.
The project to rebuild the Stockport site from scratch was developed with new media consultancy RiverInteractive using a content management system from Mediasurface.
This system enables the council to publish and manage the vital information its citizens need in a timely and effective manner. The redesign of Stockport’s extensive website was completed within 10 weeks.
The DRC report found that 81% of UK-based websites fell foul of accessibility standards for disabled users, leaving operators exposed to the threat of legal action under the Disability Discrimination Act.
The Stockport site goes beyond these requirements by using software from Browsealoud, so that visually-impaired users can browse the site using speech; access keys; and skip navigation, which makes the site easier to use for end-users with text-only browsers.
There is also a text-only version of the site with high-contrast text and background to ensure maximum visibility.
The Stockport site can be accessed through other channels, such as digital TV and Wap.
Services available through the website include paying council tax online, traffic and travel information, business directories, and information on council services and local events.
"The Mediasurface system is an affordable package that we knew would deliver everything we needed to make us compliant with current government regulatory standards," said Andrew Kirkham, operational head of council e-services at Stockport.
He said, "It has provided our community with a unique level of accessibility for all users, and we can now manage and update content rapidly and efficiently."
This was first published in May 2004