HC Deb 16 June 2003 vol 407 cc68-9W
Dr. Cable

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what actions he has taken or is taking to ensure that the websites of his Department, its agencies and non-departmental public bodies are accessible to partially sighted and blind people; and if he will make a statement. [117352]

Mr. Hutton

The websites managed by the Department of Health seek to follow wherever possible the guidelines from the Office of the e-Envoy which advise public sector websites how to be accessible to partially sighted and blind people. In addition, the Department's website (www.doh.gov.uk), www.nhs.uk and NHS Direct Online regularly commission usability and accessibility research to ensure they are meeting the needs of their audiences.

The Department always provides alternative routes to the information it provides online. Hard copy publications are available on request and there is a customer services call centre.

The Department of Health is currently working in partnership with the Office of the e-Envoy to migrate the majority of its website (www.doh.gov.uk) onto a new platform which has been designed to meet W3C level 'A' compliance and the Royal National Institute for the Blind, 'See it right' standards.

Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (www.mhra.gov.uk)

The MHRA website is scheduled for early redevelopment to integrate fully the existing websites of the former agencies. MHRA will assess accessibility as an integral part of that development.

NHS Estates (www.nhsestates.gov.uk)

All downloadable Adobe Acrobat files provided on the website are in the process of being speech enabled using PDFAIoud on an Adobe Acrobat plug-in. NHS Estates are also currently evaluating a product called BrowseAloud that will speech enable the text on the main agency website pages.

NHS Pensions Agency (www.nhspa.gov.uk)

Resource and funding constraints have meant that the NHS Pensions Agency website is not currently fully accessible. However, the Pensions Online service, which the NHSPA provides to NHS Employers over the NHS Net, has been refreshed to remove frames, tables and buttons to assist partially sighted and blind visitors. The NHSPA website will be redeveloped in line with these changes and all ongoing and future website redesigns will include improvements in accessibility.

NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency (www.pasa.doh.gov.uk)

The NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency adheres to the NHS identity guidelines in all forms of communication, including those standards set for communication via the website. Although PASA is still a relatively new organisation, the website has grown rapidly. Its accessibility is currently being audited and reviewed to see where it can be improved.

Information regarding Non-Departmental Public Bodies could be provided only at disproportionate cost.