Continuing to Work on the Accessibility of Malaysian Websites

A few days ago, I shared an accessibility review of the Sarawak Government Portal. In this post I want to share a review I’ve made for another Malaysian website.

The site I reviewed below is the Official Website of the Ministry of Planning And Resource Management. I reviewed the English version of the site. Similar to the previous post, I used the JAWS screen reader and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 in doing the accessibility review.

Commendable Accessibility Features of the Site

Site Has a Means to Resize Text in Its Pages

On all of the site’s pages, there is a set of three graphic links. These links are “Font: Larger”, “Font: Normal”, and “Font: Smaller”. Once the user activates any of these links, the size of the text changes accordingly. This is very helpful to people with low vision as it enables them to change the font to a more readable size.

WCAG 2.0 states the following about resizing text:

1.4.4: Resize text (Level AA)
Except for captions and images of text, text can be resized without assistive technology up to 200 percent without loss of content or functionality. (Level AA)

Search Text Box Has Been Properly Labeled

On all the pages, there is a search text box where users can enter keywords they want to search for. Using the screen reader, I navigated to the search text box and the screen reader read “Search edit”. To screen reader users, this is a clear indication that the search text box has been properly labeled. This enables screen reader users to quickly understand the purpose of the said text box.

Users Can Quickly Determine Errors They Have Made

This is demonstrated by the Feedback/Comments page of the site. If, for instance, the user fails to enter information on the required fields, and the user activates the Submit button, the page will reload and display an error message at the top of the Feedback/Comments form. The error message contains the required field which the user failed to enter information on. This helps users quickly determine the errors they have made.

WCAG 2.0 states the following about error messages:

3.3.1: Error Identification (Level A)
If an input error is automatically detected, the item that is in error is identified and the error is described to the user in text. (Level A)

Accessibility Issues of the Site

Titles Do Not Describe the Page’s Main Content

Screen reader users and certain disability groups rely heavily on the information provided in the titles of the pages. The page titles enable these user groups to quickly determine their location in the site. If a site has page titles which are all similar to each other, it can become difficult for them to determine where they currently are in the site.

The site has titles that don’t describe the contents of the pages. Here is an example: When the user is in the homepage of the site, the title reads “Official Website of Ministry of Planning And Resource Management”. But when the user moves to the FAQs page, the title still reads “Official Website of Ministry of Planning And Resource Management”. This can make it difficult for screen reader users to determine through the titles their location in the site.

Recommendation: The titles of the pages should contain information about the content of the pages. For instance, the FAQs page can have a title such as “FAQs – Official Website of Ministry of Planning And Resource Management”.

WCAG 2.0 says the following about page titles:

2.4.2: Page Titled (Level A)
Web pages have titles that describe topic or purpose. (Level A)

No Mechanism to Bypass Repetitive Blocks of Content

Before the user can reach the main contents of the pages, the user needs to pass through blocks of content such as the options to adjust the font, the options to change the language, and the navigation links (home, about ministry, etc). These blocks of content are considered repetitive since they appear in all the pages of the site. For screen reader users and people who cannot use the mouse, repetitive blocks of content may slow down the process of reaching the main contents of the page.

Recommendation: All the pages of the site should contain a mechanism to bypass repetitive blocks of content. The best type of mechanism for this case is the “Skip to Main Content” link located at the top of the pages. Once the user activates this link, the cursor will bypass the repetitive blocks of content and land on the main content of the page. Using the “skip to main content” link, screen reader users and people who cannot use the mouse would be able to quickly reach the main content of the pages.

WCAG 2.0 states the following about repetitive blocks of content:

2.4.1: Bypass Blocks (Level A)
A mechanism is available to bypass blocks of content that are repeated on multiple Web pages. (Level A)

Certain Graphics Do Not Have Text Alternatives

Text alternatives in images are very important to screen reader users and users of other assistive technology. Text alternatives enable these groups to perceive and understand the purpose of images although they may not be able to see the images.

The site has images that do not have text alternatives. On the homepage, for example, there is an image link which, when the screen reader focuses on, it would speak “image_uploader/image_show”. The purpose of this image can be difficult to determine for users of assistive technology.

Recommendation: All the relevant images in the site should contain text alternatives. This piece of information is placed within the alt attribute of the images.

WCAG 2.0 states the following about text alternatives:

Guideline 1.1: Provide text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms people need, such as large print, Braille, speech, symbols or simpler language.

Feedback/Comment Form Has Verification Code with No Alternative

Before the user can submit a feedback or comment, the user first has to read a piece of text contained in a graphic. This is a verification code used to ensure that the user is indeed a human and not a software.

Although the verification code can increase the level of security of the site, it may prevent certain users from submitting their feedback or comment. This is because not all users would be able to see and read the code.

Recommendation: There should be an alternative option for persons who cannot read the verification code. One example is an audio file that contains the code. Users can listen to the file and enter the code spoken in the file. Through this alternative, users would be able to submit comments although they may not be able to read the visual verification code.

Certain Headings Have Not Been Properly Marked Up

It is very helpful to screen reader users when pages have headings that have been marked up with the correct tags (h1, h2, h3, etc). This enables screen reader users to use shortcut keys to quickly move to the headings.

The site, however, has headings which haven’t been properly marked up. For example, the Download page contains a Download heading. This piece of text (Download) has been bolded to make it appear like a heading. Visually, this may get the desired effect. However, users of assistive technology may not be able to use the features that allow them to navigate through the headings.

Recommendation: Each heading should be marked up with the correct tag. The Download heading, for instance, should be marked up with the heading level 1 (h1) tag or the heading level 2 (h2) tag, depending on the structure of the page.

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