Health secretary Alan Johnson’s website won the top prize for accessibility in the British Computer Society (BCS) MP Website Awards.

Johnson, who is also Labour MP for Kingston Upon Hull West and Hessle, won the award for his personal website, used to communicate news to his constituents.

The website is run for the health secretary by 939 Design, a local company based in his constituency.

A spokesperson for 939 Design told E-Health Insider: “We are thrilled that Alan Johnson’s website earned recognition at the BCS MP Website Awards. We have worked with Johnson for over four years now, and are constantly improving the website to keep it basic for news on his work as an MP, whilst also providing full contact information for his constituents, in an easily accessible way, in compliance with all necessary laws.”

The award was decided by a panel consisting of BCS president, Professor Nigel Shadbolt, Quentin Letts of the Daily Mail, Patrick Wintour of the Guardian, Michael Kallenbach of UK Press Gazette and Matthew Darroch Thompson of The Oldie. All sites were also appraised by AbilityNet, the national charity that helps disabled adults and children use computers and the internet by adapting and adjusting their technology.

An AbilityNet spokesperson said: “The Alan Johnson website is the clear winner in the accessibility category. It presents a good level of accessibility and it is clear to see that accessibility principles have been followed during the development of the website.”

Johnson was unavailable for comment but a DH spokesperson said that he was proud to see his website receive such high praise and was committed to ensuring his constituents have a method of receiving relevant news at any time.

News on the website has been sparse this year, however, with the last update published in July. 939 Design say they publish materials when received from the Johnson team.

BCS chief executive, David Clarke, said: “IT now offers the world of politics the ability to present itself in a more exciting and communicative form. Today’s computer technology enables ministers and MPs to engage with constituents and voters in a two-way dialogue that enhances the democratic process. 

“If used creatively and with IT processes that are familiar to young people, it will also attract and persuade more of them to take a keener interest in the political process which is surely vital for the safeguard of our democracy”.

Other MPs who were winners on the night were Paul Flynn, Labour MP for Newport West for website design, Derek Wyatt, Labour MP for Sittingbourne & Sheppey for website engagement and Adam Price, Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East & Dinefwr for best MP website award. 

Professor Shadbolt said that standards of MP websites varied enormously, with comments on some other websites including: “Is he more interested in himself or his voters?”, “Wouldn’t vote for him.”, “Which party does this woman belong to?” and “Self promoting as usual.”

He added: “Of particular concern was the large number of MP websites that failed to be shortlisted because they failed the accessibility test. This means that the large minority of the population with various disabilities would be unable to properly access these sites. And this last category, particularly with an ageing and increasingly IT reliant society, they ignore at their political peril.

“The best were able to combine excellent content with newest forms of media, such as video and blogging in a bid to get up-to-date, relevant and well-written information out to a cross-section of their constituency.”

At present, communications expenses for MPs are not in the public domain, but this has been introduced from this financial year, with figures due out in late 2008. A spokesperson for the Treasury confirmed this would include figures for personal websites, as well as information publications for constituents.