How Accessible is the Website of the Philippines’ Department of Education?

In my mischievous youth, I saw the Department of Education, or Dep Ed, as the almighty provider of the glorious announcement of the suspension of classes during stormy days–nothing more, nothing less. Growing up, I saw the true significance of the role that Dep Ed plays and the importance of the information it aims to provide.

Dep Ed’s website, in particular, aims to provide that information to anyone who is interested. But how accessible is Dep Ed’s online information anyway? Let us take a closer look at the accessibility of the website of one of the Philippine government’s most important departments.

Below is an accessibility review of the website of the Department of Education of the Philippines (www.deped.gov.ph). The Department of Education is responsible for regulating and managing the Philippine system of basic education. The DepEd website contains information such as the agency’s profile, advisories, memoranda and notices, and news.

Accessibility Guidelines Used in the Review

The first document I used in doing the review is the Web Design Accessibility Recommendation (WDAR) checkpoints of the Philippine Web Accessibility Group (PWAG). The WDAR Checkpoints are included in Section 2 of the Accessible Website Design Guidelines, Joint Circular No. 1, series of 2010.

I also referred to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0) in reviewing the DepEd site. WCAG 2.0 consists of internationally recognized guidelines in making online content accessible to persons with disabilities.

Assistive Technology Used in the Review

The JAWS (Job Access With Speech) screen reader is the software I used in accessing the DepEd website. A screen reader refers to a software application that reads the highlighted text on the screen. Screen readers are used mainly by blind persons in accessing computer applications and browsing the Internet.

Commendable Accessibility Features of the DepEd Site

Page Titles Describe the Main Content of the Pages

Users of assistive technology rely heavily on the information provided by the titles of web pages. If the title of a page describes the main contents of the page, these users can quickly determine their location in the site.

The DepEd site demonstrates this accessibility feature. Here is an example: When I moved to the “History” page of the site, the page title read “Department of Education of the Philippines – DepEd – History”.

I have only one suggestion. I believe that it would be more accessible if the titles contained the main content first before the “Department of Education – DepEd” text. For instance, the “History” page can have the title “History – Department of Education of the Philippines – DepEd” instead of “Department of Education of the Philippines – DepEd – History”. This will enable screen reader users to more quickly determine that they are indeed in the “History” page.

Descriptive page titles are not discussed in the WDAR Checkpoints. But since I believe that descriptive page titles should be a priority in accessibility, I decided to include this in the review and refer to the international guidelines that mention this item.

Here is what WCAG 2.0 states about page titles:

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

All Pages Contain a Link To the Site’s Homepage

A link to the site’s homepage is particularly useful when the user has visited several pages and now wants to go back to the site’s main page. Since all the pages of the DepEd site contain this type of link, users can easily access the homepage regardless of where they are in the site.

The WDAR Checkpoints state the following about the link to a site’s homepage:

(Note: MS stands for Maturity Stage)

MS 2-3 All pages must provide a link back to the home page.

Accessibility Issues in the DepEd Site

Images Do Not Have Text Equivalents

When images or image links do not have text equivalents, screen reader users would not be able to perceive the purpose of the images. I verified that the site’s images do not contain text equivalents by moving to the images and making the screen reader read the content. When I move to a specific image, the JAWS screen reader said “images slash nav underline top…”.

The same thing happened when I moved to the other images. This is a clear indication that images in the site do not have text equivalents.

Recommendation: All images in the site should have a text equivalent which should be included in the images’ “alt” attribute.

The WDAR Checkpoints state the following about text equivalents for images:

MS 1-3 Attach ALT (alternative) text to graphic images so that assistive computer technology such as screen readers can reach the content.

Certain Text Links Do Not Describe Their Purpose

In all of the site’s pages, there is a particular link having the “more” text. Screen reader users may find it difficult to understand what the purpose of the “more” link is.

Recommendation: The “more” link should clearly describe its purpose. For example, instead of just saying “more”, the “more” link should contain the word “more” followed by the information which the user would read more of once he activates the said link (e.g. more news, more updates, etc).

Here is what the WDAR Checkpoints say about descriptive links:

MS 1-2 Avoid using words such as “This” or “Click Here” in creating links. Use descriptive hyperlinks to support text browsers.

Headings Are Not Properly Marked Up

Headings that have been marked up with the correct tags are very helpful to users of assistive technology. When a heading is marked up properly, screen reader users can use shortcut keys to navigate quickly to the section represented by the heading.

The site has headings which have not been marked up properly. Here is an example: In the “Vision and Mission” page, there are two headings, “The DepEd Vision” and “The DepEd Mission”. Instead of having the correct tags (h1, h2), these two headings were simply bolded to make them appear like headings. The same can be said about the headings in the other pages.

Recommendation: Taking the two aforesaid headings as an example, “The DepEd Vision” and “The DepEd Mission” should be marked up with the correct tag, either h1 or h2, depending on the specific structure of the page. The same modification should also be applied to the headings in the other pages.

No Mechanism to Bypass Repetitive Blocks of Content

At the top of all the site’s pages, there is a set of image links which lets the user go to areas such as the homepage, the Vision and Mission page, and the Contact Us page. This set of image links is considered as a repetitive block of content, since it appears in all the site’s pages.

Users of assistive technology and persons who cannot use the mouse may find it time-consuming to always pass by this block of content in order to reach the main content of the pages.

Recommendation: The pages should contain a “Skip to Content” link at the top of the pages. This is a link which, when activated, sends the focus of the user to the main content of the page.

Here is what the WDAR Checkpoints state about “Skip to Content” links:

MS 2-5 Provide a “Skip to Content” link in every page.

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: