[Linux-aus] comment for an article on Government website accessibility

Bret Busby bret at busby.net
Wed May 27 16:47:14 EST 2009

On Tue, 26 May 2009, Dahna McConnachie wrote:

> Date: Tue, 26 May 2009 15:57:23 +1000
> From: Dahna McConnachie <dahna.mcconnachie at gmail.com>
> To: linux-aus at lists.linux.org.au
> Subject: [Linux-aus] comment for an article on Government website
>     accessibility
> Hi all,
> I am seeking some comments from Linux users for an article I am
> putting together, triggered by the ANAO's recently released audit
> report: "Online Availability of Government Entities' Documents Tabled
> in the Australian Parliament":
> http://www.anao.gov.au/director/publications/auditreports/2008-2009.cfm
> The report found, contrary to objectives set out to support open
> standards, that of the documents examined in 2008, only about 25 per
> cent were in
> HTML and less than five per cent were in RTF. 23. In contrast, over 95
> per cent of the documents examined in 2008 were in PDF, being a
> proprietary software format.
> I want to use this report as the basis for a broader article on
> Technology and Business (http://www.technologyandbusiness.com.au/)
> about Government websites generally and where they stand in terms of
> accessibility and open standards. I noticed there were some recent
> comments about this on the forum in terms of AGIMO's suggestions etc.
> I am just keen to get some responses from some Linux users about using
> Government websites generally.
> *Do you often have interoperability issues with Government websites,
> and particularly with publications within these websites? To what
> extent? Does the Government generally have a long way to go in terms
> of ensuring that people who use open source systems and software can
> fully access all of its published content? Any other comments about
> the report specifically? Any other comments generally?
> I look forward to hearing back from some of you in the next 12 hours or so....
> Cheers,
> Dahna

The issues involved with accessibility are manyfold.

For example, if you go to the aph web site, not all of the members of 
parliament, can be contacted by email.

The prime monster cannot be contacted by email.

The leaders of most other political parties can be contacted by email, 
and, respond to email.

Also, some ministers of the government, and, some opposition 
spokespeople for portfolio's, cannot be contacted by email.

Similarly, some WA senators cannot be contacted by email, and, some can 
be contacted by email, and, respond to email.

It appears that some members of the federal p[arliamenmt make it clear 
that they are there only to line their own pockets, and, are not 
interested in representing the interests of anyone else, esepecially, 
they are not interested in representing the people of Australia.

Thus, some members of parliament, expecially, conspicuously, the prime 
monster, are inaccessible to the people of Australia, via the official 
government web sites.

That is just one aspect.

Other aspects occur, for example, how many governments require the use 
of Flash viewer (a threat to computer security), instead of publishig 
graphics in standrad formats, such as mpeg or jpeg or png files?

Also, regarding the use of PDF files, from what I understand, one 
version of PDF (perhaps the latest), is problematic, and could almost be 
described as viral.

Thus, two aspects to the use of PDF files, need to be considered; the 
first, is that published PDF files should be in a version of PDF that is 
stable, and that is accessible to all PDF viewers of the last 2-5 years, 
and, the second, is that, where PDF files are published on a web site, a 
warning should also be published, regarding using the most secure 
version of the PDF viewing software, or, modifying the PDF viewing 
software for security, considering the recent CERT Advisory; Technical 
Advisory TA09-133B, regarding Acrobat Reader and Javascript.

Also, is the issue of browser requirement.

If web sites are designed properly, they should use standard HTML, with 
all scripting to be server-side scripting, rather than client-side 
scripting, so that visitors to web sites require only minimalist 

But, the purpose of government, appears to be obstruction and 

As I said, the issues of accessibility are manyfold.

Bret Busby
West Australia

"So once you do know what the question actually is,
  you'll know what the answer means."
- Deep Thought,
   Chapter 28 of Book 1 of
   "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
   A Trilogy In Four Parts",
   written by Douglas Adams,
   published by Pan Books, 1992


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