Inaccessible Cyber Streetwise website

The Cyber Streetwise website was launched by the UK Home Office in January. Developed by Nudge Digital, Cyber Streetwise is a high profile website intended to change attitudes towards online security. It is also a complete travesty when it comes to accessibility.

The Cyber Streetwise website has already received criticism from industry and the press, for its poor technical architecture and unintuitive interface design. Even with such criticisms in mind, the appalling lack of accessibility on the Cyber Streetwise website is simply astonishing.

The Cyber Streetwise website cannot be used with the keyboard. It can’t be used if you use a screen reader, screen magnifier or speech recognition tool. It catastrophically fails almost every principle of inclusive design there is.

The only thing that surpasses the inexcusable absence of accessibility, is Cyber Streetwise’s belief that accessibility was a considered part of the website’s development to begin with.

When contacted on Twitter to ask why accessibility for disabled people hadn’t been considered, @CyberStreetwise replied to say “it was! We’re deploying the accessible version of the site this week”. Pushing an update to a website over a month after launch is certainly an interesting definition of having considered something!

When asked whether they meant the update would make the website accessible, or that an alternate version would be made available, @CyberStreetwise replied to say it would be a “progressively enhancing experience”.

Checking the Cyber Streetwise website a week later, it was still impossible to use with a keyboard or any of the aforementioned assistive technologies. When contacted again, @CyberStreetwise replied to say “the accessibility update has already been completed! Thank you for your comment, remember to
#BeCyberStreetwise”. They helpfully followed up with “There’s a whole different version of the site that can be accessed by clicking on the ‘accessible site’ link.”.

Closer inspection did indeed reveal the presence of a “link” leading to an alternate version of the website. It’s been years since an alternate version of a website was considered a reasonable (or even necessary) way to provide accessibility. Apart from building websites like it’s 1999, it’s the antithesis of progressive enhancement.

The truly ironic thing, is that the link can’t be accessed with the keyboard, or a screen reader, screen magnifier or speech recognition tool. It isn’t even a proper link, it’s a span with onclick functionality and absolutely no semantic meaning whatsoever.

At the time of writing, @CyberStreetwise remains silent on the subject of whether they’d actually tried the link with anything other than a mouse.

Accessibility could not have been considered during the design and development of the Cyber Streetwise website. If it had, it would have been built from standards compliant markup with fully integrated accessibility. Instead it’s a peculiar mess of pre-loaded JavaScript that one developer described as “code you might write for a bet”.

Having signally failed to build in accessibility from the outset, Cyber Streetwise is now adding insult to injury by offering an alternate version for disabled people to use. Patrick Lauke summed it up beautifully: An alternate website is segregation not inclusion.

Choosing to call out a website for poor practice isn’t a decision taken lightly. Web development can be complex and challenging. However the accessibility failure of the Cyber Streetwise is systemic. All the evidence of the finished website suggests that accessibility was ignored at every level, from the moment the website was commissioned to the moment it was launched.

2 comments on “Inaccessible Cyber Streetwise website”

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  1. Comment by Clive Lever

    The root of the problem lies in the commissioning and procurement processes at the Home Office. They, like local government, the Police and most other public sector organisations, are bound by the Public Sector Equality Duty, within the Equality act 2010. This obliges them to advance equality of opportunity between those who share a protected characteristic and those who do not. Disability is one of these protected characteristics, and a service intended for all but inaccessible to some because of who they are would clearly hamper equality of opportunity, not advance it. The Home Office should be able to provide evidence that they have carried out equality analysis. This should have informed their decision to draw up the contract. That contract should then have shown how the contractors would be obliged to make their site, and therefore the service, accessible to and usable by all those expected to visit and use it. Has anybody considered putting in a Freedom Of Information request to the home office, asking for evidence of equality analysis they carried out when deciding a contract was needed (commissioning) and drawing up the details in that contract and deciding to whom it would be awarded (procurement); evidence of how they have consulted and involved groups most likely to be adversely affected – for example, if the site were to be built with no consideration for inclusion of people with print impairments; and how those consultations and equality analyses informed the decision to go ahead with the design of the website. If the Home Office cannot provide evidence that they have done any or all of this, then they should be brought to book for having breached the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) within the Equality Act 2010. we should remember that if the contractors have failed to make their site inclusive, they can oly be deemed at fault if the contract stipulated that they must do this. Then, it is the responsibility of the Home Office to hold them to account for the breach of contract. If the contractors didn’t make their site inclusive because the Home Office never asked them to do, the web developers are unlikely to have done anything illegal. One way or another, the buck stops with the home office, not the web developers. The reasoning behind the Public Sector Equality Duty is that public authorities should be setting a good example to the private sector – otherwise, if they say that everyone must behave in a particular way and don’t practice what they preach, their message will loses its credibility and is more likely to be ingored.

    For clarity, the nine protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 are: Age; Disability; Gender reassignment; race; Religion or belief; Sex; Sexual orientation; Marriage and Civil Partnership; Pregnancy and Maternity.

  2. Comment by Muzz Lakhani

    All public documents go to tender. A requirement for developing public body websites is the inclusion of accessibility considerations, good intuitive UX & cross-browser multi-platform & device support, where importance needs to be given to testing, including focus group testing. The developed & launched prototype doesn’t work even on mobile & tablets on iOS or Android. Furthermore, it took 10.1sec for loading: when it is found that 4.3sec is the limit after which a user would abendon a site completely. I wonder who made the decision to award this contract, which appears to have probably been made on cost alone. Now I wonder how much more tax money would be spent on fixing this mess, which addressing security ironically lacks security itself.

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