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youthcentral is the Victorian Government's online initiative for young people. It provides employment and participation opportunities that link Government, young people and their communities. The youthcentral website is a valuable resource for young people wanting information about jobs and careers, services and events in their local area, studying, travel, money and more.
Ryan Twisk is the website administrator at youthcentral; he is responsible for the day-to-day maintenance of the website. This includes content uploading/formatting, creation of visual elements, statistical reporting, search engine optimisation, strategic implementation of accessibility features and technical liaison responsibilities. Here he answers some questions about making youthcentral a Level AA web site.
The youthcentral web site is a Level AA web site. Why did you choose this level of accessibility compliance? What issues affected your decision?
It is requirement that all Victorian Government websites maintain a minimum Level A accessibility compliance (based on the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). While youthcentral aims to meet this as a minimum, it also strives to reach a Level AA rating wherever possible and/or practicable.
Given that young people aged 12 to 25 were the target audience for the site it was felt that Level AA compliance could be met where possible. It was thought that this aim would allow sufficient flexibility to meet accessibility requirements while still providing a rich, vibrant user experience, as demanded by our users.
The fact that youthcentral content is created by multiple authors and new content is published on the site on a daily basis poses quite a challenge for maintaining accessibility compliance. It was however felt that the Level AA was an achievable target for the youthcentral team from an ongoing compliance management point of view.
Level AA compliance has been stated as a requirement at every stage of the youthcentral site's development and all vendors have been briefed as to the site's accessibility requirements. To date, the selected youthcentral web development and maintenance suppliers have a strong, demonstrated track record in building and maintaining Level AA compliant websites and also partner with youthcentral to not only provide technical compliance but to provide general advice regarding the ongoing compliance of content published on the site.
An accessibility review was conducted by accessibility specialists following the site's first stage of development in January 2005 to ensure a minimum Level A compliance and to identify areas that needed fixing and/or improving. The web developer's in-house accessibility specialist reviewed the site following its second stage of development (in approximately June 2005). Ongoing accessibility compliance reviews and best practice reviews are also planned as part of youthcentral's continuous improvement approach.
Additionally, key youthcentral staff members have received training in accessibility compliance to ensure that any new content published via the site's content management system is compliant.
It is difficult to gauge whether accessibility compliance added any cost to the site's development and maintenance as youthcentral has only used vendors, or potential vendors, with a strong track record in this area and would have no way of making comparisons of costs from non-compliant vendors.
To our knowledge no development or maintenance project timeline has been compromised because of issues of accessibility compliance.
We estimate that checking for and ensuring accessibility compliance on a day-to-day basis when publishing new content via the content management system probably adds an average 2 - 5 percent to the overall time taken to develop, edit and publish content.
There have been times where we have felt that form and content have been compromised, however, it is difficult to gauge whether this is because of any constraints of accessibility compliance or whether it is the constraints of managing a website via a content management system.
With improvements in technologies and vendors' abilities to ensure accessibility compliance, we anticipate that this will become even less of an issue in the future.
youthcentral will continue to commission periodic accessibility reviews to ensure that the site maintains its level of accessibility compliance and to run its own in-house reviews using available online tools and applying the collective knowledge of the youthcentral team.
Any prospective or current vendors who provide new development work on the site will be required to ensure Level AA accessibility compliance as part of their contract.
In addition, key staff that are responsible for the maintenance and publishing of content on the site will undertake accessibility training and will be required to ensure accessibility compliance (where the content management system allows) of the content they are responsible for.
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