Part of a Whole

My name is Nicolas Steenhout.
I speak, train, and consult about inclusion, accessibility and disability.

NZ Labour Billboard Website Not Accessible

The Labour Party in New Zealand has a “Make your own billboard” website. This is apparently en effort to get people involved and a start campaigning for the upcoming elections. Except that the website is not accessible to many people with disabilities. Or people using smartphones.

Political parties use billboards during election. This style of billboard is in the shape of two statements, usualy opposing. The particular topic of this is NZ Asset sales. For example, one billboard says:

  1. Let’s tax the poor and assist the rich.
  2. Let’s not.

This site invites people to create their own billboards. This is actually not a bad idea – it involves people on a topic that is quite hot. Some of the billboards created by people on the web will even be selected to be printed and displayed during the election campaign.

The problem is that their make your own billboard site doesn’t provide alt attribute to the image tag, and that the billboards are displayed as images only. This means that someone relying on screenreading software is unable to see the billboards – the website is not accessible. For what it’s worth, a lot of people going to the site through their mobile phone would also not get the content.

I commented on this to Clare Curran and Trevor Mallard on Twitter. But they did not see fit to respond. [Edit: Trevor pointed out he was not responding because it was question time in parliement. Fair enough. Clare, however, seems to have been tweeting throughout question time.]

The New Zealand Government has a set of e-government accessibility guidelines. Basically any NZ Government website should be accessible. Of course an electioneering website is not a government website – so they don’t have to abide by the guidelines.

One would think that a site aimed at involving people and trying to catch their vote would not exclude a large segment of the population. I don’t know. It seems wrong to me.

So, I went and made a somewhat sarcastic and cynical billboard myself. It appeared at this URL: http://makeyourownbillboard.co.nz/view/30033410. I say appeared because within 15 minutes or so of me letting Clare and Trevor know about it, the billboard I made was not available on their site anymore.

The two statements I came up with were:

  1. Let’s make sure our websites are not accessible to people with disabilities.
  2. Oh yeah, that works for me too.

Obviously, my billboard didn’t belong, and it’s right that it was removed. I just fear that the powers that be won’t have taken the hint.

The blurb that appears below the billboard states:

National wants to sell the assets that previous generations worked hard to build up. But once they’re gone, they’re gone. Last time National sold our assets, they were bought up by foreign buyers. Power prices rose and profits went offshore. If John Key gets his way, that will happen again. Under Labour, there will be no asset sales and we’ve launched this billboard campaign to make sure everyone knows. Create your own billboard here and let your voice be heard!

I agree with the message, although that’s not the point. It is interesting that Labour says “let’s make sure everyone knows“. They invite us to create our own billboard and let our voice be heard. I guess everyone doesn’t include kiwis with disabilities.

So, come on Clare, Trevor, or anyone from the Labour party – what’s it going to take to make sure your billboard campaign is accessible? How do you excuse discrimination? I know you don’t *have* to meet the e-govt guidelines, but as a Party who claims to represent the people, the disinfranchised, how do you justify a non-accessible website? It’s not like it’s actually difficult or expensive to ensure alt attributes are displayed with the image…

4 thoughts on “NZ Labour Billboard Website Not Accessible

  1. Worth noting that the “share” buttons (which incidentally are possibly violating Facebook’s terms of use and almost certainly violating Google’s) are missing alt tags too – total laziness.

  2. Some fair points raised here. We’ve amended the billboard, gallery navigation and social media icons to include alt tags. I trust this makes the site a little easier for screen readers.

    We’re aware we still have work to do on the submission form to improve its usability for people with disabilities.

    Your missing submission highlighted a bug in our moderation process. We didn’t feel your billboard was a good fit for our gallery, however you should still have been able to link to it. That bug has been fixed and your link should now work (although we hope the message on it is now slightly less relevant).

    Please feel free to contact us about accessibility issues on any Labour sites through labour.org.nz/contact.

  3. Thank you for fixing this.

    The billboard I created was rightly removed, as I said in my post. It doesn’t promote the “stop asset sales” message you’re intending. No foul there :)

  4. No worries Nicolas, it was a fair cop.

    And your billboard’s still not in our gallery, but at least your link to it in this article should work now. Our intention from the beginning was to curate our site rather than to censor your creativity :-)

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