Blaze Aware - fire safety for sighted people

The Scottish Executive launched Blaze Aware (external link) yesterday, a new website aimed at raising childrens' awareness of fire safety precautions. According to the press release (external link) from the Exec:

The Blaze Aware website is designed to be a fun, creative and interactive way of getting the message across.

Shame it wasn't designed to be accessible. There are countless problems with this site, including it being unusable without images (no alt attributes on many images), heavily dependent on javascript for navigation and functionality, barely keyboard navigable (although to be fair there are some bits of Flash with good keyboard support), it contains audio with no textual equivalent, has a table-based layout from the dark ages, there's not a single heading used across the site, pages without titles, and so on.

I love the "low graphics" version, which basically turns off the 460k background image. Except of course it defaults to the high graphics version, so your browser's probably downloaded and cached the image by the time you turn it off. Seems like the DTI have some competition after all.

It's hosted by a company called Civic (external link), who proclaim themselves to be expert in web and digital communication. It's not clear if they were responsible for the development. [Edit: I've been contacted by someone at Civic who has stated that they were not responsible for the design and development of the site.] Bizarrely it's hosted on a subdomain, (external link) - visit the root for a giggle, but be prepared to disconnect immediately!

Oh, and it cost £36,000. I'll be making enquiries...


hahahaha, I don't want to give it away for other visitors but the low graphics version is a work of genius! It's CSS 101 to save that 460K in the first place.

Posted by: Karl at June 28, 2006 1:22 PM

"In the interest of security, we reserve the right to scan your machine automatically and aggressively (including OS detection, port scanning and other intruder detection aids at our discretion)"

Wow, now I'm scared. "OS detection", they'll know what's running on my laptop, that'll be my end!

Oh, and they now have a quite strange browser in their logfiles...

Posted by: Armin at June 28, 2006 1:45 PM

36k! Christ! It really makes me wonder what the managers who agree to that sort of cost are really thinking! haha, I can't believe the low graphics version just turns off the CSS, making the main pages unreadable. Oh, dear.

Posted by: Dave at June 28, 2006 6:36 PM

Hi. I'm responsible for Accessibility here at Civic.

I'd like to point out that this is not our site, even if hosted by us. I do not think we are responsible for the accessibility of sites on our server.

We had no part in its design or build. All of the sites we develop have Accessibility firmly as part of the QA process. We've had RNIB-accredited 'see it right' sites, our sites are AA/AAA, and a few of them have made the GAWDS monthly short-list of accessible sites.

In fact, you actually state that it is not clear that the site was developed by us and then go on to have a go at a company that genuinely does try to do its best in this area, having worked with the RNIB to deliver Accessibility workshops to raise awareness.

It also looks like you are inviting folk to get people to access our servers and cause damage.

So, I'd appreciate it if you withdrew your snide comments and check you have the facts right, before you start any slagging.


Posted by: Maurice at September 6, 2006 5:35 PM

Hi Maurice. Which comments do you want me to withdraw?

I honestly cannot see where I have said anything bad about Civic, suggested you are responsible for the accessibility of sites hosted on your server, or invited folk to cause damage to your servers. If you can point out where I've said these things or been factually inaccurate I'll be happy to withdraw the comments.

As for being snide, I'm happy to be snide when government agencies ignore their own guidelines and throw good money after bad commissioning poorly conceived sites like Blaze Aware.

Posted by: Dan at September 6, 2006 7:40 PM


I appreciate what you are trying to do and admire the objective of taking crap sites to task. A pity in this (only?) case you cannot identify who the main culprit is and decide to have a go at a nearby unrelated target instead.

If you honestly believe that your comments are not taking a sideswipe at Civic then it's not worth getting into a discussion about.

good luck with your efforts in promoting accessibility


Posted by: Maurice at September 7, 2006 7:57 AM

The main focus of my post was clearly the inaccessibility of the Blaze Aware website, and the Scottish Exec as the commissioners. You host the site, so are not "unrelated" to it, and it was reasonable to ask the question whether you were also responsible for its development. Happily we've now established that Civic were not responsible for its development.

I find the message on your aphrodite server very amusing, and others appear to feel the same way - if that's taking a sideswipe at Civic then I'm guilty as charged.

Posted by: Dan at September 7, 2006 8:55 AM

Blimey. I've read this post 3 times back-to-back - I still don't come away thinking Civic are the bad guys here. Did you get out of bed the wrong side Maurice? It's one thing to have a personal opinion but to appear to represent your company, use the word "slagging" and generally make up unsubstantiated accusations is pretty bad form IMO.

The subdomain message is odd - whatever happened to explaining "nothing to see here" in a professional manner the day that was written up? Quirky messages on personal websites (like 404s etc) is one thing, but on a business site?

Regards, Karl

Posted by: Karl at September 7, 2006 1:30 PM

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