Equal Opportunities Commission


Press Releases

Press Releases

EOC Releases Report on Web Accessibility of Public Service Homepages in Hong Kong


A recent survey on Web accessibility conducted by the EOC found that out of 163 public sector homepages in Hong Kong, only 20% passed the Bobby test, an on-line accessibility check for Web users. Basic problems were found in 130 public service homepages, posing a major obstacle for persons with a disability (PWDs) to access Hong Kong's websites.

The study was carried out on the public service websites, because the EOC believes the public sector should take the lead in ensuring all websites are designed for universal access. Dr. Stevenson Fung, Convenor of the Equal Opportunities Commission's Information Technology Task Force (ITTF) said, "The objective of the exercise was to find out the degree of accessibility to information on public service websites."

Bobby is an on-line accessibility checker developed based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 by the Centre for Applied Special Technology (CAST) in USA. The Guidelines are widely accepted by many countries and organizations as international norms and standards for ensuring Web accessibility for persons with a disability.

Sites which have passed the Bobby test is "Bobby Approved", while reasons for failure would be indicated for those sites which pose access problems.

Scanned and tested by Bobby in early November, only 24 (14.7%) of the websites were found to have provided text-only mode for the visually impaired's choice. Among these homepages, 17(70.8%) did not pass the Bobby test and some of the icons were not easily identifiable.

Under the Disability Discrimination Ordinance (DDO), it is unlawful to discriminate against PWDs by not providing the service in the same manner as to persons without disabilities.

"To make the Web accessible for PWDs is important to enhance their equal opportunities in participation of public life, which is crucial for them to be able to live independently. For example, e-commerce may benefit PWDs in managing their purchases independently," said Dr. Stevenson Fung.

The Information Technology Task Force established to investigate IT issues as they relate to persons with a disability and women, discussed the survey results at a meeting held yesterday (12 December 2000). The Members also made the following recommendations :

The government should adopt a comprehensive approach on IT development in Hong Kong with a view to mainstream the needs of PWDs. As a first step, a timetable should be identified to address the access issues in the Task Force survey, so that PWDs can soon enjoy equal opportunities as the rest of the community in accessing public information. Members observed that similar initiatives conducted overseas normally allowed a 6-month grace period.

On the issue of women and IT, members agreed that more information was needed to identify the scope and extent of the concerns for women of different backgrounds. Initial research showed that women often experienced capital and language barriers in the use of IT. It was also found that the number of secondary school girls entering IT-related disciplines was disproportionately lower than boys.

The Chairperson of the EOC, Anna WU said, "The inaccessibility of public sector homepages is alarming, particularly when plans to introduce electronic public service have already begun. The government needs to devise a comprehensive strategy that is aimed at including everyone in the transformation process of Hong Kong into a knowledge-based society." Ms WU continued, "The government should also examine how IT affects different groups such as PWDs and women, bearing in mind that each group is not necessarily homogenous in itself."

The EOC plans to take a further step by conducting a qualitative user survey among PWDs to identify difficulties encountered as recommended by the ITTF at its 3rd meeting held yesterday.

A full report on the ITTF "Report on Web Accessibility of Public Service Homepages in Hong Kong" will be available upon request. You may also wish to surf the EOC website (http://www.eoc.org.hk), which is now linked to websites and organizations offering assistive devices/technical assessment services, IT awareness programs and web accessibility for PWDs.

For enquiries, please contact Mr. Sam HO at 2106 2187.

Equal Opportunities Commission

13 December 2000

Enquiry: Mr. Sam HO      21062187