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Accessibility

This section aims to answer your questions on this website's web accessibility.

What is web accessibility?

Web accessibility is a measure of how easily people with disabilities can use the web.

Is there an official standard for web accessibility?

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is responsible for defining the standards and best practices for web technology. They issue recommendations and guidelines for web developers, and those using these technologies, to follow. For example, this website uses XHTML 1.0 Transitional and cascading style sheets (CSS) 2.1 as its main technologies. You can test these technologies against the W3C standards by using their online tools.

By the same token, the W3C have accessibility guidelines on how these technologies should be used to create accessible web content. By their nature, most of these guidelines have to be fairly abstract and in some cases are extremely subjective and open to interpretation (for example, accessibility guideline 3.1 concerning readability is to "make text content readable and understandable").

How does this website score in accessibility tests?

Unlike technology testing, accessibilty is extremely difficult  to uniformly test, and currently there is no official accessibility test for websites to take.

However, there are hundreds of third party accessibility assessment tools which can be used to get an idea of how accessible a given website is.

These tools are mechanical, and can at best only perform the W3C validation tests mentioned above and infer the implications for a given disibility. The W3C website lists many of these tools but emphasises that it does not verify the accuracy of any of them.

In the absence of an official tool with which to test accessibility, the most important tests a web site can undergo are the W3C technological tests and actual usage by disabled people. After that, tests can be made using third party tools.

W3C technologies validation

XHTML

This website was tested thoroughly against the standards recommendations for XHTML 1.0 Transitional and cascading style sheets (CSS) 2.1 during development.

All the page templates (the parts of pages that remain the same throughout the site, for example the banner, navigation, footer and so on) passed the XHTML 1.0 transitional validation. The responsibility for maintaining valid content on the live parts of the site is undertaken by FPH staff trained in the best-practice use of these technologies.

CSS

Due to the limitations of certain older browsers (for example Internet Explorer 6), some non-standard CSS had to be used to get the site to render accurately in those browsers. For this reason the CSS does not pass the W3C validation. This is a reflection of the limitations of older browsers rather than the accessibility or functionality of this website, and if you use an  up-to-date browser this will not affect you in any way.

We are happy to answer any questions you may have on this.

Third party tools

We used a selection of third-party tools to get an idea of the accessibility of this site. Below are some example results using the home page. Again, these tools are in no way endorsed by the W3C and at best can only make conclusions based on their interpretation of W3C guidelines. for more information on what these tools can and cannot do, read the W3C introduction to selecting a web evaluation tool.

AccessColor
Description: "AccessColor tests the color contrast and color brightness between the foreground and background of all elements in the DOM to make sure that the contrast is high enough for people with visual impairments."
Result: passed on 99.2% of text (0.98% failure was due to text replacement of HTML in the banner with an image. This can be an issue, which is why it has been flagged here, but we used a CSS technique that does not affect accessibility).
WAVE Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool
Description:  "WAVE exposes errors and highlights content where accessibility considerations require human judgement."
Result: 1 error, caused by an 'empty link'. In fact this is a spam trap and has no relation to the page content and therefore its accessibility.
HiSoftware® Cynthia Says™
Description:  "The HiSoftware Cynthia Says portal is a web content accessibility validation solution. It is designed to identify errors in your content related to Section 508 standards and/or the WCAG guidelines."
Result: Passed automated verification
Usage by disabled people

The real acid test: If you are disabled and are having difficulty using this website, please get in touch with us. Your feedback will help us make our site more accessible.