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Relaunched Recovery.gov Fails Accessibility Standards

timothy posted about 5 years ago | from the look-that-way dept.

GUI 197

SethGrimes writes with this excerpt from Information Week's Intelligent Enterprise: "Recovery.gov, a showcase government-transparency Web site that relaunched on Monday, fails to meet US federal government Section 508 accessibility standards and accessibility best practices. The non-compliance issues relate to display of data tables — an essential point given the site's promise of 'Data, Data & More Data' — despite on-site compliance claims. Other elements including navigation maps, while compliant, are poorly designed. Sharron Rush, co-founder and executive director of accessibility-advocacy organization Knowbility, goes so far as to state, 'The recovery.gov Web site is a good example of what NOT to do for accessibility in my opinion.' Louise Radnofsky explains in the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire blog, 'Expectations are high for the site, not least because of its hefty price tag: Smartronix, a Maryland contractor, is being paid $9.5 million for its initial overhaul and is likely to get another $8.5 million to keep the site running through 2014.' Compliance with Section 508 of the federal Rehabilitation Act — a baseline expectation — is a long-standing federal-government requirement for information-systems accessibility to persons with disabilities. The site's accessibility failures — which are shared by another showcase government-transparency site, USAspending.gov — are nonetheless easily seen."

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Okay (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29611883)

Does this really surprise anybody?

Re:Okay (3, Insightful)

WaywardGeek (1480513) | about 5 years ago | (#29612721)

No surprise at all. The right-wing anti-Obama crowd once again shows how petty they are... Poor accessibility on a web site? $10M for it? Well, here's an idea... we could give billions and billions to companies with strong ties to the Obama administration, and hide everything behind a vale of secrecy. It worked so well for the last administration.

I'm losing my central vision and ability to read, so accessibility is a hot-button topic for me. Gmail is terrible, and that effects me - Google should do something about it. Recovery.gov is far easier to navigate with a screen reader. The first item on their web site is a graphic which does nothing for the blind, but the first link [recovery.gov] under it is to a text version. It's not perfect, but at least average. Anyway, almost no sites pay attention to accessibility guidelines. It's up to programmers behind programs like JAWs to make them accessible anyway, and frankly, they do a pretty good job.

Recovery.org is a huge success. Even for the blind.

Re:Okay (4, Insightful)

shentino (1139071) | about 5 years ago | (#29612801)

What's impressive to me is that we were even aware of the multi-million design bill.

Airing out your dirty garbage does stink up the place for awhile, but in the end it keeps things fresh.

Re:Okay (1)

lysergic.acid (845423) | about 5 years ago | (#29613055)

I agree that there is a bit of over-reaction here. But I think it's healthy. A political love-fest doesn't drive progress, only constructive criticism does. Troubled waters can't become stagnant.

So far, I've been pleasantly surprised with the site. Aesthetically speaking, it far exceeded any expectations I had for a government website. And even though there's way too much flash (you don't really need flash to generate pretty charts & graphs on a modern browser; Magento does a good job of it without any third-party plug-ins.), they do offer a text-only link underneath each graphic. And on those pages, they use TH elements to denote column headers and the SCOPE attribute to denote row headers. The incomplete implementation of the 508 standard on some tables seems to be an honest oversight, and it's good that there are people bringing the issue to the designers' attention.

Not visibly labeling each state on maps, though, is a pretty minor issue. Again, there is a text-only link underneath, where those whose geography might be a bit rusty can easily locate the data for any state. It's a bit unfair to put the blame on the website's designer for America's "geographic illiteracy." Not knowing your geography is not the kind of "disability" that web designers should have to account for—just as illiteracy is not something that a web designer should have to deal with.

Re:Okay (3, Interesting)

eihab (823648) | about 5 years ago | (#29612821)

Does this really surprise anybody?

Actually yes, the level of "badness" is kind of staggering on this one. There are other "decent" federal and state websites (whitehouse.gov, ca.gov) so I expected that the code would be something that's at least comparable.

When I first read the article (shocking I know) I thought it was just someone trying to nitpick or that the editor is another Obama-troll, so midway through it I visited the site to view the source code myself and I almost threw up.

There are a bazillion (that's 2 LOC right?) JS and CSS includes, XML declaration tags in the middle of the page, tables for layout (top navigation), the works.

For fun, I disabled JavaScript and CSS, and the first few lines that someone without JS/CSS would see are truly amusing:

You are leaving the Recovery.gov Website

Click the link to access
exit

We hope your visit was informative and enjoyable.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

I'm actually surprised that the article left all these issues and picked tables and forms to discuss.

Isn't this goingg a bit far? (1, Interesting)

cayenne8 (626475) | about 5 years ago | (#29611989)

I mean, the web and computers are inherently 'visual' mediums.

What's next...traffic signals have have audio speaking the colors out so blind people can drive?

I mean, I feel for the handicapped, and appreciate making things as accessible as possible, but, isn't it going a bit far on things that just are naturally aimed for normal people?

I recall in a govt. contract I was in...a new application was rolling out. The people wanted training, but, rather than just do a live meeting and demo the application, they had to fly people and equipment across the nation, because the LM presentation wouldn't be 508 compliant.

I'm thinking geez...what a crock. NONE of the people needing training were handicapped...yet the rules still applied...

Re:Isn't this goingg a bit far? (0, Troll)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 5 years ago | (#29612029)

I tend to agree. While there should be -some- accessibility standards (as in, being able to get everything in basic HTML, open standards, etc) but to be perfectly honest, some handicapped people just aren't cut out for some jobs or some tasks and may require assistance.

Re:Isn't this goingg a bit far? (2, Insightful)

guabah (968691) | about 5 years ago | (#29612189)

God forbid that one of this days you have an accident and loose any of your senses, especially your sight. Only then you may appreciate why there's all this talk of putting beepers on pedestrian crossings, making websites accessible to screen readers, and hell, even putting car-tones on electric cars.

Re:Isn't this goingg a bit far? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29612343)

I'd hate to LOOSE my senses.

Re:Isn't this goingg a bit far? (1)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | about 5 years ago | (#29612727)

I have a wrench for that, it will tighten up everything but the ability to sense fear in squirrels. Good thing that one already fell off of most people anyway...

Seriously, I'm on oxygen and walk with a cane. I'll never hike into the Grand Canyon again, and I just avoid some things like visiting hilly towns (S.F. or even Jerome, AZ.) I do like being able to get into buildings via a ramp as stairs kick my ass... but I don't think they should have one circling the Statue of Liberty just so I can go to the very top of it. The whole PC thing is just gone nuts and I don't see how it will ever end as long as someone has the time and money to raise a stink. A REAL global economic meltdown would put an end to all this crap as we busied ourselves catching rodents for dinner... And squirrels are the easiest for me, I can sense their fear...

But what if he doesn't? (1, Interesting)

tjstork (137384) | about 5 years ago | (#29612417)

What if, like the vast majority of people, he doesn't lose his sight or senses? If it is reasonable for people who are impared to wish the same impairment on others, is not reasonable to wish that impaired people did not exist?

Re:Isn't this goingg a bit far? (2, Insightful)

Erinnys Tisiphone (1627695) | about 5 years ago | (#29612685)

OP isn't arguing that there should not be some basic accessibility standards. For instance, providing a pure-text, basic open-standard html copy of the site would be a very adequate substitute. Plain text is the easiest thing possible to parse in text-to-speech, alternative interfaces, and older systems. Requiring all things arranged or designed by government contracts to be both accessible and pretty >>even if nobody using the service or system is disabled is something else. Its a huge black hole for money. The option should be available, but not mandatory for everything, all the time. I also think there is a notable difference between designing for a competent person who has lost say, their vision or a limb, and designing for a person who dropped out of high school and doesn't know how to navigate a standard website.

Re:Isn't this goingg a bit far? (1, Insightful)

iamacat (583406) | about 5 years ago | (#29612715)

Yes, but should we also ban manufacturing cars unless they can be safely driven by blind? That's what we are doing with websites right now - every page, no matter how obscure, must be accessible. Just like we might ask blind to take a bus or taxi, we could require providing data as either plain text or machine readable format so that some tools can be used to access it.

Re:Isn't this goingg a bit far? (1, Insightful)

noundi (1044080) | about 5 years ago | (#29612763)

God forbid that one of this days you have an accident and loose any of your senses, especially your sight. Only then you may appreciate why there's all this talk of putting beepers on pedestrian crossings, making websites accessible to screen readers, and hell, even putting car-tones on electric cars.

It's one thing to try to help the handicapped in society. It's another to define something as worthless just because it hasn't yet been adapted to some handicapped audiences. You see one is being just, and one is being a fucking dick. I'll leave it to you to solve the puzzle.

Re:Isn't this goingg a bit far? (4, Insightful)

Idiomatick (976696) | about 5 years ago | (#29612229)

The reason the standard is being broken is because they are using flash which essentially walls the data away obfuscating it (the opposite of open). And blind people have 0 access. So.. that's what the standard is for. So really, you don't agree with him.

Re:Isn't this goingg a bit far? (1)

WinterSolstice (223271) | about 5 years ago | (#29612325)

I spent a lot of effort and time setting up my reporting sites with JS and tables instead of flash for just this reason. Flash doesn't belong everywhere - and not everyone wants it turned on.

There is really no excuse for using it just to display charts.

Re:Isn't this goingg a bit far? (4, Informative)

tecnico.hitos (1490201) | about 5 years ago | (#29612377)

Flash does have accessibility capabilities in its API, it's just that people don't use it.

Re:Isn't this goingg a bit far? (1)

Mr 44 (180750) | about 5 years ago | (#29612515)

If you read the article you would see that they are complaining about the text tables the site provides not being marked up properly, not the use of flash.

Re:Isn't this going a bit far? (1)

conureman (748753) | about 5 years ago | (#29612765)

I probably wouldn't be considered handicapped, but a few moments on the site made me think tl;dr. Fuck that state of the art web site shite. Fortunately most of the web pages I choose to peruse eschew Flash and other crap like that. My dad thinks the web is a waste of time because of that stuff, which won't render on his ancient browser anyway, for the most part. I am constantly trying to explain that there is good, useful information available but he tends to believe his own experience more than mine. I never got to any tables but if any of that dreck met accessibility standards then clearly the law should be changed.

Re:Isn't this goingg a bit far? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29612751)

I tend to agree. While there should be -some- accessibility standards (as in, being able to get everything in basic HTML, open standards, etc) but to be perfectly honest, some handicapped people just aren't cut out for some jobs or some tasks and may require assistance.

Too bad some ignorant fuckhole marked you troll for being right on spot. Fuck I hate slashdot. You clearly say some jobs. Does racecar driver not qualify as a job? How well suited is a blind person for this task? What about music critic as a deaf person? Oh and let't not forget basketball playing people without arms, there are a lot of those. The guy isn't saying anything degrading about handicapped people, he's merely stating the fucking truth. And if anybody wants to shield themselves from it then fine, but marking truth as troll means obligatory AC post with a nice cup of: fuck you. Now mod me down before somebody reads this piece of truth, god forbid.

Re:Isn't this goingg a bit far? (5, Insightful)

AmberBlackCat (829689) | about 5 years ago | (#29612079)

I think it might be a good compromise if, as long as government data is inaccessible to blind people, blind people don't have to pay taxes. But since they have to pay taxes that pay for these websites and it's not difficult to make a website blind people can use, I think this is a legitimate complaint.

Re:Isn't this goingg a bit far? (5, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | about 5 years ago | (#29612201)

In fact it is easier to make a site that blind people can use because the task mostly consists of leaving off superfluous crap.

Re:Isn't this goingg a bit far? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29612523)

I make my Geocities-esque personal site more accessible to the blind by substituting looping midi renditions of Spice Girls tunes for tiled animated gif backgrounds.

Re:Isn't this goingg a bit far? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29612477)

I think it might be a good compromise if, as long as government data is inaccessible to blind people, blind people don't have to pay taxes. But since they have to pay taxes that pay for these websites and it's not difficult to make a website blind people can use, I think this is a legitimate complaint.

I think a blind taxpayer gets an extra deduction on the 1040.

Re:Isn't this goingg a bit far? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29612507)

Sounds fair, sure. Just like noting that as long as blind people aren't paying taxes, they don't get any other government services either, like say police protection.

Complaining the site isn't usable is legit. Claiming that because of one website you should be exempt from taxation is not.

Re:Isn't this goingg a bit far? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29612131)

That's an incredibly ignorant response. Why should blind people have to settle for shitty data from a shitty website for which they are paying tax dollars?

The web is primarily a textual medium. That you have a browser that uses the markup to create a visual display doesn't make people who either don't have or cannot use such a browser any less important.

It's not like it's very difficult to make web pages accessible. There are well-defined mechanisms to include attributes for common tags so that alternative browsers, such as screen readers, can present the information in a way that the user can understand and navigate.

As a matter of fact, many traffic signals do have audio indicating when it is safe for a blind pedestrian to cross.

Re:Isn't this goingg a bit far? (1)

Cryacin (657549) | about 5 years ago | (#29612199)

As a matter of fact, many traffic signals do have audio indicating when it is safe for a blind pedestrian to cross.

But what about traffic lights?!? And before you go saying that there aren't any driving, I've driven in LA too long to believe that!!!

Re:Isn't this goingg a bit far? (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | about 5 years ago | (#29612307)

"The web is primarily a textual medium. That you have a browser that uses the markup to create a visual display doesn't make people who either don't have or cannot use such a browser any less important."

I'm trying to figure how one would present tables of data, in a manner that IS blind person accessible. It just doesn't sounds like it would be possible. Sure most of the web is/can be textual, but, how do you provide large amounts of data in a 508 compliant way? This isn't like putting out a paragraph that a txt reader can work with, eh?

Re:Isn't this goingg a bit far? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29612379)

On a typical reader, a 508 compliant table would sound something like this, with pauses indicated by commas, and long pauses by semicolons:

Table, Contributions by State; ;
State, New York;
Dollars, 56 million;
Contributors, 120; ;
State, Vermont;
Dollars, 32 million;
Contributors, 140; ;
State, Texas;
(etc.)

Is it usable by a blind person? Yes. Someday, if your eyesight fails you, you may need to get tabular information in exactly this way.

Re:Isn't this goingg a bit far? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29612505)

A conversion that worked well for me when implementing an interface to a game that had many tables:

Visual representation:

item price
car $25,000
bike $500

Audible representation:

item car price 25 thousand dollars
item bike price 5 hundred dollars

In the particular game, the audio representation was often more concise even on screen, as there were often empty or zero-value columns that could simply be skipped.

Re:Isn't this goingg a bit far? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29612815)

That's an incredibly ignorant response. Why should blind people have to settle for shitty data from a shitty website for which they are paying tax dollars?

The web is primarily a textual medium. That you have a browser that uses the markup to create a visual display doesn't make people who either don't have or cannot use such a browser any less important.

It's not like it's very difficult to make web pages accessible. There are well-defined mechanisms to include attributes for common tags so that alternative browsers, such as screen readers, can present the information in a way that the user can understand and navigate.

As a matter of fact, many traffic signals do have audio indicating when it is safe for a blind pedestrian to cross.

So you want to troll about tax dollars ey? If it takes 1 hour of work to do complete a job which can benefit 1000 people, and another hour to complete a job which can benefit 10 people, which one is more expensive? Don't try to troll with money. The purpose should be simply that anyone of us can at anytime be in that position and that aside from showing humanity we insure ourselves to be capable of everday tasks even if we would get to that spot, not because of tax dollars you try to troll into a bullshit equation. Someone mod this troll down please.

Re:Isn't this goingg a bit far? (4, Interesting)

John Hasler (414242) | about 5 years ago | (#29612161)

I mean, the web and computers are inherently 'visual' mediums.

Bullshit. There is nothing inherently 'visual' about data. The function of the site is to make lists and numbers relevant to the operation of the government available to the public. All of the public. That task does not require the use of "Web 2.0" crap. If you think that the data can be better presented in the form of swarms of crawling colored beetles set up your own site, copy over the data (or just link to it) and have at it. It's all in the public domain.

Re:Isn't this goingg a bit far? (4, Informative)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | about 5 years ago | (#29612315)

I mean, the web and computers are inherently 'visual' mediums.

Which part of Hypertext Transfer Protocol are you having trouble with? Just because you spend most of your time online watching youtube videos and browsing the latest AJAX powered dynamic rollercoaster does not mean that the rest of the web, and especially the parts where real work is done, are "inherently visual". Far from it.

I'm thinking geez...what a crock. NONE of the people needing training were handicapped...yet the rules still applied...

I'd like to take you to task on this, but Steve Krug [webreference.com] has put this far more succinctly that I ever could. Read that link to become educated about
1) Why accessibility is important
2) Why most (able bodied) developers don't care about it, and
3) Why this problem persists (We haven't automated accessibility.)

The most important point Krug makes is the real reason you should care about and implement accessibility in your websites. "It's the right thing to do."

Re:Isn't this goingg a bit far? (1)

defaria (741527) | about 5 years ago | (#29612707)

I guess I'm having difficulty understanding HyperBraille Transfer Protocol because I don't see a B in HTTP.

The point is that the training the guy spoke about was not needed to be shipped out to be 508 compliant because their were no fucking handicapped people in the fucking audience who needed to take the training. This is called being prudent and being efficient. Look those words up in your braille dictionary!!!

Look if you wish to help the handicapped then fine - do it. But I don't. There I said it. It's not my problem. I will not solve all of the sighted needs or whatever needs they have due to their handicap. By definition they're gonna have a more challenging life and it's not my responsibility to make it easier on them. I'm all for helping them if you feel like you should or want to but I am totally 100% against forcing people to help them. My god man! Think of the people in Africa with 300 baud lines! You probably should be reproducing that web page into paper with a self address stamped envelope to mail to them. Oh and make it in their own language too! Bother! Brother. No thanks!!!

Re:Isn't this goingg a bit far? (4, Insightful)

jmorris42 (1458) | about 5 years ago | (#29612735)

> "It's the right thing to do."

If that is the best argument ya got it won't work in the real world. But there is a better one. A site designed to be accessable tends to be a good website, period.

Some of the reason is that accesssable sites must avoid the temptation to take the easy fix of throwing anything complicated into a flash applet or other inaccessable crap. But an equally important part is the opposite argument of one I make in another post about .aspx being the seal of crap. It isn't because the Microsoft stuff can't be made to work with enough effort, it is that only clueless people tend to pick it in the first place and clueless people will do other clueless things. Conversely, people cluefull enough to build a properly accessable site will also tend to make a generally well designed site. And host it on a better and less costly platform like a LAMP server.

Re:Isn't this goingg a bit far? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29612349)

The internet is naturally aimed at normal people? Either you are lazy and totally ignorant on this issue or just an awful human being. Please do some reading on accessibility.

Also when you come back to read the article you will find out that your normal people not affected by the poor design of this website are in the minority of users.

Re:Isn't this goingg a bit far? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29612425)

You're new here.

No, the web and computers are fundamentally digital electronic devices, free of representation. The simplest and most straightforward representation of the bulk of that data is plain text, and if you do the simplest thing (bog standard HTML) anyone with accessibility requirements can render it in their web browser.

It's the ignorant and stupid Flash AJAX Web 2.0 authors who have ruined the universal communication medium we old fogeys came up with.

Now get off my lawn.

Re:Isn't this goingg a bit far? (5, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 5 years ago | (#29612463)

but, isn't it going a bit far on things that just are naturally aimed for normal people?

I happen to believe that this country's government should do everything possible to help those who want to contribute and be a part of society do so -- normality not withstanding. Most people don't make a choice to go deaf, blind, or become handicapped. It just happens (most of the time). I would feel a lot better going to bed each night if I knew that should such a calamity happen to me, my life wouldn't come to an end literally or figuratively. There's some things that are just humane to do. That's why the rules are there. No, they're not important for you but to someone else it might mean the world.

No, it's not going too far -- it's not going far enough. WHO estimated [afb.org] that in 2002 there were 161 million (about 2.6% of the world population) visually impaired people in the world, of whom 124 million (about 2%) had low vision and 37 million (about 0.6%) were blind. For comparative purposes, it's guessed [arstechnica.com] that Linux commands a 1.7% marketshare on the desktop. Which means, there's more people out there who are blind than use linux -- yet, were I to suggest that support for Linux not be included because it isn't something normal people use or care about, I'd be lynched.

Re:Isn't this goingg a bit far? (2, Interesting)

NotBornYesterday (1093817) | about 5 years ago | (#29612471)

Even those with sight can benefit from a properly designed site. Color schemes that look fine to you or I can be a nightmare for someone with color blindness.

Even though the web may primarily be a visual medium, it can be navigated without relying only on eyes. People with more severe visual impairments regularly surf the web with text-to-speech software assisting them. Poor design, such as misusing tables in place of [div], [span] and other proper formatting makes things tough, as does the practice of using a jpeg as a link button, and not tagging it with the appropriate text to indicate what it is for.

The government has an obligation to be as open as possible to all its citizens.

Re:Isn't this goingg a bit far? (1)

arthurpaliden (939626) | about 5 years ago | (#29612529)

The problem is that there is only one accessability standard. So if you have a site that deals just in streaming audio books in order for it to pass the accessability tests, so the blind know they can navigate around it with ease, you also have to have the text version of all the audio books availible so that the deaf can use the site as well. Even though it is an 'Audio Book' site.

Re:Isn't this goingg a bit far? (3, Informative)

Anonymusing (1450747) | about 5 years ago | (#29612791)

I work for a nonprofit organization that receives grants from the federal government. Any web sites for the US-funded projects must be Section 508 compliant. That means:

  • Navigation must be coded certain ways.
  • Tables of info must be coded certain ways.
  • Graphics and image maps must be coded certain ways.
  • Interactive multimedia must have 508-compliant alternatives.
  • Videos must have transcripts.
  • PDFs and downloadable PPTs must be similarly 508 compliant; e.g. a chart or illustration must be marked up with 508-compliant meta information.

It can be difficult.

Re:Isn't this goingg a bit far? (3, Insightful)

HiThere (15173) | about 5 years ago | (#29613089)

So don't take any government money.

This is about a government web site specifically aimed at being accessible. So, no, the comments aren't going too far.

P.S.: It's not just a government web site, it's one that some people got paid a rather large amount to create, and expect to be paid another rather large lot to keep working.

My feeling is that the web site should be marked not satisfactory, and all payment withheld until they do it right.

Re:Isn't this goingg a bit far? (1)

WaywardGeek (1480513) | about 5 years ago | (#29612795)

Dude, you simply have zero clue about what blind people are good at. I had lunch yesterday with a blind Ph.D. candidate who probably codes circles around you. Programming is one of the best occupations for the blind. There's JAWs in Windows that does the job beautifully, allowing bind programmers to read the screen at 850 words per minute, probably 3X your reading speed. There are blind and deaf programmers who use Braille displays to code like you wouldn't believe. JPEGs are inherently 'visual' mediums, but text is the vast majority of everything on the web, and virtually 100% of programming.

Anyway, we probably agree that there are too many dumb government regulations, like the one that recovery.org fails. I used the Orca screen reader to test it out, and while the site could be improved, it was fine. I had no trouble listening to the data at high speed.

$9.5 million? (3, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 5 years ago | (#29611995)

Okay, for $9.5 million dollars I think they can afford to hire a web designer that knows how to make a website accessible. I mean, I made a website that was accessible for two cans of mountain dew and what was left of a can of pringles. Looked better too. Then again, I did it for this girl who I really hoped would notice me after (she didn't), so I might have underbid just a bit. Still -- I think I would do better than these guys did. :\

Re:$9.5 million? (1)

M. Baranczak (726671) | about 5 years ago | (#29612207)

9.5 mil for re-designing a website seems suspiciously high, even for a federal contract. Does the contract include other services that aren't mentioned in the summary?

Re:$9.5 million? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29612991)

I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.
Posted anonymously for obvious anonymous reasons.

Re:$9.5 million? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29612223)

For a fraction of that $9.5 million, they could get a contractor who understands that data interchange does not equal Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word and Microsoft powerpoint. There's a whole bunch wrong with the site, quite aside from the accessibility issues. Either the buyer or the contractor is grossly incompetent, What a waste! [recovery.gov]

Re:$9.5 million? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29612239)

that's 2 million for the lawyers, 2 million for the lobbyists, 2 million for the liability insurance, 2 million for the programmers, managers, testers, bullshitters, writers, editors, coders, designers, etc, and $500 in campaign contributions.

Actually, your web site SUCKED ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29612305)

It is easy to say you are compliant, but there is NO web site that is 100% compliant.

This article is focusing on the WRONG thing. It should focus on how helpful the web site is for 80% of the population.

Re:$9.5 million? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29612483)

I did it for this girl who I really hoped would notice me

That's really sweet. You're a girl, but you have to go through the same stuff us nice guys do.

Re:$9.5 million? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29612703)

Then again, I did it for this girl who I really hoped would notice me after (she didn't):\

You *do* realize she was blind, right?

Re:$9.5 million? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29612959)

>Then again, I did it for this girl who I really hoped would notice me after (she didn't)

Revenge of the Nerd: Dude, just use the pringles can to steal her wifi signal.

So the gov 'made a mistake... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29612019)

So what ? No big deal....

If they can't get a website right. . . (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29612067)

Why give the government more control of healthcare? Anybody want to guess how Smartronix lobbied successfully? Seems like a good deal. Give campaign contributions to some congress hack and then get millions. Great business plan considering how the government seems to be in charge of doing nothing but giving away money. Firms repeat this ad nauseam, just ask Goldman Sacks, Blackwater, Northrop Grumman, GE, GM, and the insurance industry. How about having the government not give out money for this garbage at all? How about hands off the markets, let the idiot banks that screwed up fail, stop fighting stupid wars and stop spying on US citizens? Oh, wait I forgot, then peace and prosperity would break out, and we can't have that.

Wrong line of work! (4, Interesting)

spaceyhackerlady (462530) | about 5 years ago | (#29612109)

If the Feds paid nearly 10 million bucks for that I am obviously in the wrong line of work. It looks like something I could knock off in a few weeks with Django and MySQL.

The site does very little if you don't have Flash, BTW. Many pages don't even give you a "You don't have Flash" message. You just get blank white pages. I make a point of not having Flash on my main Linux box, just to see how this tool of the devil is poisoning the net.

...laura

Re:Wrong line of work! (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | about 5 years ago | (#29612217)

From what I understand, most of that money is servers, server maintenance, and bandwidth. Design is a fairly small piece of the pie.

Re:Wrong line of work! (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29612431)

most of that money is servers [...] and bandwidth

And still the incompetence is staggering...

Cache-Control: private,max-age=0
Content-Length: 15957928
Content-Type: text/xml
Etag: "{5F44F378-FA2E-442E-9DAE-165FECB4A8A6},6"
Last-Modified: Thu, 01 Oct 2009 22:12:02 GMT
Server: Footprint Distributor V4.5
X-Powered-By: ASP.NET
MicrosoftSharePointTeamServices: 12.0.0.6421
Exires: Wed, 16 Sep 2009 23:14:43 GMT
Public-Extension: http://schemas.microsoft.com/repl-2
ResourceTag: rt:5F44F378-FA2E-442E-9DAE-165FECB4A8A6@00000000006
Expires: Thu, 01 Oct 2009 23:16:23 GMT
Date: Thu, 01 Oct 2009 23:16:23 GMT
Connection: keep-alive

See what happens when we compress that 15MB XML file using gzip (7z deflate at maximum)...

-rw-r--r-- 1 dave users 15957928 2009-10-01 23:16 contracts.xml
-rw-r--r-- 1 dave users 1107939 2009-10-01 23:18 contracts.xml.gz

Compressed XML files should be precached on the server, any development team with a clue would have done that from the outset.

Re:Wrong line of work! (1)

lannocc (568669) | about 5 years ago | (#29613043)

I'm sorry but in my experience it is better to design first, optimize later.

Re:Wrong line of work! (4, Insightful)

frosty_tsm (933163) | about 5 years ago | (#29612251)

If the Feds paid nearly 10 million bucks for that I am obviously in the wrong line of work. It looks like something I could knock off in a few weeks with Django and MySQL.

The site does very little if you don't have Flash, BTW. Many pages don't even give you a "You don't have Flash" message. You just get blank white pages. I make a point of not having Flash on my main Linux box, just to see how this tool of the devil is poisoning the net.

...laura

While I will agree with you that 1) many sites can be built more user friendly with less work using the right tools and 2) Flash is evil, you must remember they need to interface with a bunch of legacy government servers to get the data. That's a royal pain in itself.

Re:Wrong line of work! (2, Insightful)

Anonymusing (1450747) | about 5 years ago | (#29612803)

Mod parent up. This isn't your everyday database problem.

Re:Wrong line of work! (1)

John Hasler (414242) | about 5 years ago | (#29612263)

> If the Feds paid nearly 10 million bucks for that I am obviously in the wrong
> line of work. It looks like something I could knock off in a few weeks with
> Django and MySQL.

Yes, but it would have take several months and several hundred thousand dollars for specialized lawyers to put together a qualified bid for the job. Much of the work involved in bidding on and completing a Federal contract has to do with complying with loony procurement regulations rather than performing any actual productive work. That is part of the reason Federal contracting is a specialized business and why it is not as profitable as it appears to be.

Re:Wrong line of work! (1)

NoYob (1630681) | about 5 years ago | (#29612365)

That is part of the reason Federal contracting is a specialized business and why it is not as profitable as it appears to be.

Depends on who is doing the books.

Manger interviewing accountants:

"2+2=?"
First accountant, "4".
mgr: "Thank you will be in touch."
Mgr with 2nd accountant:" What's 2+2="
2nd Accountant "5".
Mgr: " Thank you for stopping by. "
Mgr 3rd Acct" "What's 2+2=?"
3rd Accountant: "What do you want it to be?"
MGR "You're hired!"

If Government contracting has so little profit, then why are so many companies scrambling to do it?

Re:Wrong line of work! (1)

an unsound mind (1419599) | about 5 years ago | (#29612937)

Because firing people you don't have enough work to support is also complicated, unpleasant and expensive.

How to do it. (5, Interesting)

NoYob (1630681) | about 5 years ago | (#29612295)

If the Feds paid nearly 10 million bucks for that I am obviously in the wrong line of work. It looks like something I could knock off in a few weeks with Django and MySQL.

First start a company. Then make campaign contributions to the incumbent politicians that are part of the committee that overseas these things. Start in the Senate. Of course, you'll have to get around the campaign finance laws, but don't worry, there are plenty of law firms that can help - for a very nice price.

That' s not enough though! You also need a lobbying firm to lobby other politicians and the Government offices that also have input - there are folks that will do that for a nice price too.

Now, there will be others who will do the same, so you'll have to be very strategic and get the best advisers.

Now, after winning the contract, just outsource the actual design and implementation to the lowest bidder, and keep the profits; which in this case $10 million minus $5-6 million in campaign contributions and lobbyists less $200,000 (let's be generous!) for the actual software development, leaves you a profit of $3.8 million to $4.8 million.

Of course, you may have to go overseas because, as every CIO says, there are no qualified American programmers and they have to go overseas for the talent! All those people that don't have jobs out in the market now aren't qualified - even though the companies that used to employ them found them to be qualified for years but had to let them go for cost cutting purposes. They're out of work so there must be something wrong with them!

But wait! There's more!

You won't book the $3.8 to $4.8 million! You'll have other expenses and things to pay, tax write-offs and whatnot that will leave you with a loss. Then of course, there's going to be tax credits that will enable you and your buddies to get more money out of the American Taxpayer.

That is how you make money with Government contracts.

Re:Wrong line of work! (1)

tecnico.hitos (1490201) | about 5 years ago | (#29612549)

I make a point of not having Flash on my main Linux box, just to see how this tool of the devil is poisoning the net.

Well, the harm is already done

I'd really like to use an alternative, but have been unable to find anything that include both a programming API and a good animation tool. JavaFX seems close to this, having vector and bitmap manipulation in its API, but I haven't seen any good animation tool yet.

Re:Wrong line of work! (1)

cpghost (719344) | about 5 years ago | (#29612655)

I make a point of not having Flash on my main Linux box, just to see how this tool of the devil is poisoning the net.

On my main FreeBSD/amd64 desktop box, I not only make the point of not having Flash on it, I don't even have the choice, as it is not supported by Adobe. So much for accessibility.

Re:Wrong line of work! (1)

cjHopman (810457) | about 5 years ago | (#29612739)

On my main FreeBSD/amd64 desktop box, I not only make the point of not having Flash on it, I don't even have the choice, as it is not supported by Adobe. So much for accessibility.

Well, when you made the choice of what OS to use you weighed the advantages and disadvantages of each. In particular, you considered the fact that the particular one that you chose was a very small portion of the market and was commonly not supported as well (or not at all) as your other options.

Now, any site that requires flash is making the decision that you are not important enough to support.

Point is, don't blame Adobe, blame yourself and those companies (and others) who require flash.

Re:Wrong line of work! (1)

Orion Blastar (457579) | about 5 years ago | (#29612697)

Actually federal contractors are not paid that well and usually have minimum benefits, some are 1090 instead of W2 and have to save their own tax money to pay the IRS. The bulk of the money goes to the Federal Contractor company and their board of directors and upper management.

I used to be a federal contractor, but I always followed federal guidelines for disability accessibility, Y2K, network standards, security standards, etc. I wasn't paid much, and they promised me a raise, but I only got a fraction of the actual promised raise because of "budget cuts" even if they were earning millions via a federal contract.

So as a federal contractor, you wouldn't be paid as much as a federal employee or corporate employee. Only management gets the big bucks. Unless you form your own corporation and win the federal bid on contracts.

Doesn't even validate... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29612157)

Re:Doesn't even validate... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29612493)

nothing validates.

Except that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29612235)

Except that there aren't sites that do comply - 508 compliance is a joke and requires far far far too much for true "compliance". The fact that Ms. Rush admits the navigation complies is huge, kudos to Smartronix for getting that far. This statement in the summary "a baseline expectation â" is a long-standing federal-government requirement for information-systems accessibility to persons with disabilities" is very telling of the bias presented here. It makes 508 appear to be a few things it is very much not (complied with or required in very many places).

Re:Except that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29612623)

From the source, HTTP headers, and the general URL layout, it appears that the site is running on top of SharePoint.
So the fact that navigation, which is almost certainly provided using out-of-the-box functionality, is just as compliant
as it is in the base product means somewhere between jack and shit.

Cost Analysis (1, Insightful)

swanzilla (1458281) | about 5 years ago | (#29612281)

Recovery funds paid out: $85,977,000,000
Recovery.gov overhaul cost: $9,500,000
Recovery.gov maintenance cost: $8,500,000
Hindering market self-correction: Priceless

Re:Cost Analysis (1)

cellurl (906920) | about 5 years ago | (#29612429)

pi ?

Delicious Irony! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29612339)

9.5M??? Hopefully I am not the only one appriciating the irony in the prominent "Report Fraud, Waste, and Abuse" link on the top of the page!

Of course the site displays the 'seal of quality' (0, Troll)

jmorris42 (1458) | about 5 years ago | (#29612367)

I thought about making this post without even bothering to go look, but yup the site displays the 'seal of quality' up in the url bar. As soon as you see that .aspx at the end you know you are probably in for a world of pain at at site. You know things will probably suck from end to end. Performance issues, design issues, usability issues, the whole bit.

No, using Microsoft products isn't always the reason but it is always a symptom of the root problem. It is as close to a "This site designed by idiots!" logo as we are ever likely to see. Only idiots (or companies beholden to Microsoft's goodwill) pick Microsoft's inferior in every way stuff to roll out a high volume, high visibility site on. Poor design isn't caused by hosting on a Microsoft server but it is another symptom of designed by idiots.

Re:Of course the site displays the 'seal of qualit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29612921)

Good point. Microsoft users are idiots, if only the world was run by you.

Re:Of course the site displays the 'seal of qualit (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29613027)

Idiots like you are the reason I visit Slashdot less and less.

Googlemaps API anyone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29612375)

The main page as it were seems like it could be written on top of Google Maps and not require flash. of course then the managers couldn't justify the ten megabucks so easy. there is an option to search the data and get results one page at a time in a table, but it seems broken and oh bonus the entire thing is built on a foundation of Microsoft.

How very ironic... (5, Insightful)

mr.dreadful (758768) | about 5 years ago | (#29612381)

That a website promoting our fiscal recovery cost so much. As an American citizen and a professional web developer, I'd like to understand how this amount can possibly be justified. Did they build a data-center to house this site? I'll bet you that the web developers who actually built this site didn't take home the majority of that cash.

This stinks.

Re:How very ironic... (1)

langelgjm (860756) | about 5 years ago | (#29612593)

90% of the cost was probably due to the lawyers who worked on the contracts.

Re:How very ironic... (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | about 5 years ago | (#29612605)

That a website promoting our fiscal recovery cost so much. As an American citizen and a professional web developer, I'd like to understand how this amount can possibly be justified.

It's a commercial company hired by the government with, what seems, very little oversight - a recipe for disaster, as you have all the wonders of capitalist cost cutting, with no competition / market hand to keep that in check.

Re:How very ironic... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29612729)

No kidding. Consider the company that did the work is probably just a minority or female owned shell company (good for getting government contracts) that then farms the work out to India or China for $2/hr. Then owner/CEO then takes the millions home. Just a big clusterfuck.

The government wastes so much money it's ridiculous. Once I actually quit a government contractor out of disgust.

Re:How very ironic... (2, Interesting)

Anonymusing (1450747) | about 5 years ago | (#29612825)

If the site has to interface with older, obscure, and/or legacy databases in other government divisions in order to gather its data, then that will eat up a lot of time and money. I suspect that the front end was the cheapest part. It's the back end that probably had the I.T. guys pulling out their hair.

Re:How very ironic... (2, Insightful)

izomiac (815208) | about 5 years ago | (#29612871)

I wonder that as well. A quick glance at the site reveals mostly textual information, graphs, and maps. Since it's a government site, accessibility (e.g. by the handicapped and mobile devices) far, far, far outweighs aesthetics. It's not like government paperwork is very easy on the eyes. IMHO they would have been far better off with simple HTML such as lists and plain text, imagemap maps, and raw data below graphs. Have a decent web designer add a nice and unobtrusive stylesheet to spruce it up a bit, and throw the bulk of the resources into the back end. Faster loading, more accessible, doesn't require professional web designers to make minor changes, better results with search engines, and much cheaper. Is there a reason such an approach is rarely if ever seen in the wild? My only guess is that manager types think customers/citizens prefer flashiness over usability and web designers have a good sales pitch for more complicated sites.

How to do 508 right - www.financialstability.gov (2, Interesting)

tomtermite (246492) | about 5 years ago | (#29612555)

Our company developer the Trouble Asset Relief Program's site, at http://www.financialstability.gov/

I am happy to report, MOSTLY compliant with Section 508.

And it has cool stuff, too.

NOW THERES YOUR PROBLEM! (0, Flamebait)

phantomcircuit (938963) | about 5 years ago | (#29612595)

http://www.recovery.gov/Pages/home.aspx

same data? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29612597)

If they are sharing the same data, then what's the difference between USAspending.gov and recovery.gov?

Or the difference is my pocket getting more empty and someone elses (the contractors) getting more filled. So much for power to the people, it's the typical overload them with data and everyone will assume it's all good and correct.

Just as I went thru jury duty this week: I don't have a law degree, so don't overload me with cool legalese, just give me the facts and let me go decide (don't have a week to waste).

Meh. (3, Insightful)

msauve (701917) | about 5 years ago | (#29612611)

This is the government. It's not about "openness" or "accessability," it's all about the appearance of openness and accessability.

Re:Meh. (0, Troll)

conureman (748753) | about 5 years ago | (#29613009)

Yup. I managed to drill down to some locations in the People's Republic of California that I recognised, and they obfuscated who got the money and what for. I was able to infer from the locations who it was, big bucks for the local ACORN-style money sinks. I should have been a social service contractor, that's where the money is.

private website: recovery.com (3, Informative)

marhar (66825) | about 5 years ago | (#29612627)

Here's an interesting note on NPR relating to a private company that is aggregating the same data.

http://recovery.com/ [recovery.com]

"When Congress approved the stimulus bill, it made a point of setting up a Web site called Recovery.gov to allow citizens to track all those billions in spending. But if you've gone looking for it, you might have stumbled across another, very similarly named site, Recovery.com.

The dot-com version is not run by the government, but it also tracks the stimulus -- and much of its information is more up to date. In fact, it has spending information that the government won't have until October, and its data provide a sneak peak into how the stimulus spending is going.

The site is run by Onvia, a Seattle company that collects and sells data on government procurement. Whatever the layer of government -- whether state, county, school district or local water board -- Onvia wants to know what's being purchased."

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112893572&ps=cprs [npr.org]

Re:private website: recovery.com (4, Interesting)

Com2Kid (142006) | about 5 years ago | (#29612787)

Quick comparison:

Recovery.gov

  • Flash Map of USA
  • Able to quickly zoom in on any region, select state from drop down, or enter a ZIP code, all from home page
  • Location of graphical icons on map shows business or organization's location.
  • Can download data in KML format
  • Variety of options of filtering displayed data on map

Recovery.com

  • Flash Map of USA
  • Click on a state, long loading time of state specific page
  • Cannot graphically locate fund allocation on map
  • Data is spread across multiple pages, smallest filtering option is to split data up by city.

While showing the data in page format is definitely more accessible from the POV of a screen reader, the graphical map is more useful in terms of finding out how money is being spent around where I live.

The recovery.gov website is actually pretty good, in under a minute I was finding how funds were being allocated in my neighborhood.

Looking at the contractor web site (1)

Orion Blastar (457579) | about 5 years ago | (#29612665)

Smartronix [smartronix.com] it looks like their own style of designing their corporate web site is not disability accessible.

They use Flash content pop-up Windows that a blind person cannot see, unlike an image tag that has Alt text or a hyperlink.

Obviously they used their own corporate web site standards than the federal government accessibility standards.

direct access (1)

TheSHAD0W (258774) | about 5 years ago | (#29612711)

It'd be nice if the site would give direct access to the database, so people could mashup whatever they wanted. Anybody know what it runs on? SQL?

It's Sharepoint!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29612769)

This site is all sharepoint... Is should be accessible, but for 10mil, some designer thought to remove all the features that sharepoint provides, accessibility! The out-of-the-box install would have included a mobile page view for any page created but some wise-a$$ thought for looks lets disable everything we don't need including the built-in sub-systems renderer which produces mobile & screen-reader accessible pages.

Take a look at: http://sharepoint.microsoft.com/Pages/Default.aspx they even have an article about moving to sharepoint... But damn for 10 mil, I could have done it for 1k and still had an accessible site... but hey there are those golden toilet seats!!!

Report Fraud, Waste, and Abuse (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29613015)

If you'll notice, in the upper right corner, you can submit an online "complaint form" regarding the abuse of Recovery Act Funds. $9.5 million spent on that mess probably qualifies...

Reliance on Flash? (1)

atheistmonk (1268392) | about 5 years ago | (#29613093)

At least it isn't Silverlite, I guess. Lesser of two evils? Fuck them, anyway, none of this kind of crap should be on a .gov.
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