Tomw Communications Pty Ltd - Media Release

UK Government Gateway Discriminatory Says Visiting Web Expert

London, 1 June 2001: The UK Government's new web gateway is poorly designed and discriminates against disabled users, according to Australian web expert Tom Worthington. The government's action may breach UK law banning organisations from offering a lower quality of service to the disabled.

Mr. Worthington said:

"An Australian Human Rights case I gave evidence to last year established that web sites are subject to anti-discrimination laws. There are internationally recognised guidelines on how to provide access to the web for the disabled and the UK Government should be implementing them."

Mr. Worthington claimed it was relatively inexpensive and simple to make a web site accessible for the disabled:

"As well as providing better access for the blind, accessible web design can also lower the cost of maintaining a web site and make it easier to use wireless web devices."

The UK Government Gateway was recently established as a centralised registration service intended for e-Government services in the UK. Registering with the Government Gateway is intended to enable citizens to sign up for any of the UK Government’s services that are available over the Internet. But concerns have been raised as to how well designed and generally accessible the service is.

Mr. Worthington made his remarks on Friday 1 June in London in a seminar organised by the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB). Julie Howell, RNIB officer responsible for a national campaign to encourage the creation of web sites and on-line services that include people with disabilities also spoke at the seminar:

"RNIB conducted a survey of e-commerce providers and found that many were not to an acceptable standard. It is disappointing to see the UK Government is not making the minor investment needed to make its web sites more accessible."

Tom Worthington is a Visiting Fellow in the Department of Computer Science at the Australian National University and an independent e-business consultant. In 1999 he was elected a Fellow of the Australian Computer Society for his contribution to the development of public Internet policy. Mr. Worthington will be presenting a paper on web access to the Global Internet conference in Stockholm next week. The full text of the presentation is at: http://www.tomw.net.au/2001/bat2001.html

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This media release with links to referenced material is available on-line at: http://www.tomw.net.au/media/20010601.html

Reported as "UK government site 'discriminates'", by Selina Mitchell , The Australian newspaper, 12 June 2001.

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