Every 10 years we have to complete a census survey in the UK. I'm working in London this week, so don't have access to the full online survey, but from an initial check it seems screen reader users are unnecessarily targeted.
Author: Gez Lemon
Since 1801, we have to fill out a census in the UK; the exception being 1941 during the Second World War. Failure to provide census information could result in a £1,000 fine, although only 38 people were fined for failure to return the 2001 census return. I'm working in London at the moment, so haven't received my internet access code to view the online version of the census, but I have looked at the first page.
Some Background Information
I have updated this article in response to some background information from one of the advisers. There was a problem with the auto-focus field, but no time to correct it, resulting in advice that screen reader users should close their browser if they make a mistake. This is a serious issue for all keyboard-only users, not just screen reader users, but I've talked more about that under correcting mistakes.
2011 Online Census Form
There are a few accessibility issues with the UK Online Census Login Page (the only page I can access without the code). For example, poor colour contrast of the currently selected tab, and alternative text that duplicates screen text. The form controls for the internet access code are labelled, so at least screen reader users can sign-in, providing they have the internet access code. The page states that the internet access code is on the printed questionnaire that is sent to every household in the UK. I don't have access to that letter, as I'm in London, but I assume it's also available in Braille (even though not all blind people read Braille) or some other accessible format?
If you're using a screen reader, you are advised to close the browser and start again if you make a mistake entering the internet access code.
<label class="hide" for="iac4"> Fifth block of your access code. If you make a mistake, please close your browser and start again. </label>
It is difficult to correct a mistake when entering the personal information code, as the focus is moved to the next field as soon as there are enough characters in one of the edit boxes. This makes it extremely difficult for all keyboard users to correct mistakes, as navigating back and changing one of the characters automatically moves the cursor to the next field.
The reason this message is targeted at screen reader users, even though this behaviour is problematic for everyone, is that there was not enough time to fix the issue. This is a serious accessibility issue and would be trivial to fix, as they could just remove the auto-focus script. If they insisted on keeping the behaviour of the script, they could at least distinguish between adding new content and editing existing content. In other words, if there is content in an edit box when the user enters that field, do not move their focus while they are editing the content - allow them to use the keystrokes they already know to correct the issue and move to the next field. Again, that would be a very trivial fix.