Dear Dr Fox

Dear Dr Fox,

My husband and I run a small web development business. We have written sites for clients from FTSE companies to national magazines to a Sheep Society. It matters not to us the size of the client, or the the size of the bill – we always strive to turn out sites which are accessible to the disabled, which adhere to current design standards, which are cross-browser and cross-platform compliant, etc.

So we are both appalled and disappointed at the news that the current was budgeted at £200,000, with £175,000 being spent on the actual site. On its launch in May 2006, the site carried proud banners stating that it was standards compliant and accessible. It wasn’t, and those declarations have now been removed. The site is still not standards compliant or accessible at time of writing.

The site is an utter disgrace – and any professional development company delivering such work in this day and age should not be getting business, never mind business at that charge rate. Surely the DTI, of *all* government authorities, should be championing disability access on its web site.

The story appeared in Private Eye this week, and here are a couple more links:

What is even more disappointing is that the DTI are now using the Freedom of Information Act to avoid releasing further information on the tender documents.

I would like you to try and obtain these documents, so that it can be ascertained just exactly what was specified. And I would like to know who signed the site off.

on another point, while investigating this, I followed a link to,  a site which purports to “give companies easy access to lower-value contract opportunities (typically worth under £100,000) offered by the public sector.”

this all sounds like a Very Good Thing, so I went to sign up. Now – remember that I am a web developer. We have written sites for people in other countries, for people we have never met.

But when you sign up for this portal, you have to provide a geographic area – in my case that would be Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and North Somerset. This is a nonsense – there must be many, many sorts of businesses who do not need to be limited to their own geographical area.

And so I would like you to also check this out. It is really, really important that government contracts are prised from the incompetent and greedy grasp of the big management consultancies. Our company could have delivered the DTI site for probably around a tenth of what they were charged, AND it would have been valid, accessible code. I know many other web development companies who could do the same. However, it seems there is no way that a small company can get even a sniff of such work; this must change.

Yours sincerely,

mac jordan

Thank you for your email. Dr Fox will take these issues up with the Minister concerned at the DTI. I have no idea though whether they will issue him with copies of the documents you request.

so we’ll see. Swift response, though!

4 thoughts on “Dear Dr Fox”

  1. I agree completely, but…

    …what does the dodgy DJ Dr Fox have to do with it, and can he get me Sharon Osbourne’s autograph?
    Sorry, I’ll get back in my box now

  2. that second site is rather interesting in its choice of geography; If I select London I have to choose between ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ which, while it may once have been relevant for a phone number, is an absolute nonsense in terms of carrying out work. If I am based in Brent (outer-but-north) then geography and logic suggests that inner is easier for me than Sutton (out-but-south) but it won’t let me select that. The idea that *any* company would limit its activities and client base to a small geographic area is wrong anyway.

    I’ll be interested to hear if Evan replies …

  3. Excellent! Keep ’em on their toes!

    This is one of those times when we should celebrate being awkward. As GBS noted, its the awkward (or unreasonable, as he put it) people who change the world.

    Hurrah for web designers who take accessibility seriously!

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