Accessibility in the U.K.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything about website accessibility, but it’s never far from my interests and aspirations. The Disability Rights Commission, a U.K.-based Government-affilated organization just released its Formal Investigation Report on web accessibility. This is from their introduction:
Disabled people must frequently overcome additional obstacles before they can enjoy the full range of information, services, entertainment and social interaction offered by the Web: blind people need sites to provide, for example, text as an alternative to images for translation into audible or legible words by specially designed screenreading devices; partially sighted people may be especially reliant upon large-format text and effective colour contrast; people who are dyslexic or have cognitive impairments may benefit in particular from the use of simpler English or alternative text formats, such as Easy Read, and from the clear and logical layout of an uncluttered website; people whose first language is British Sign Language may also find Plain English indispensable; and people with manual dexterity impairments may need to navigate with a keyboard rather than with a mouse.
Nevertheless, the Web has enormous potential for disabled people. In contrast to other information media, it is, with the benefit of assistive technology1, potentially tolerant of impairment. Inclusive website design makes it easier to use these alternative means of access, without making a site less attractive to unimpaired users. Irresponsible and inconsiderate design, on the other hand, not only puts disabled users at a significant disadvantage but can make life unnecessarily difficult for everyone, whether disabled or not.

And a few of the reports findings are interesting:
1.1 Few (19%) websites comply even with the lowest priority Checkpoints for accessibility.
1.2 All categories of disabled user consider that site designs take insufficient account of their specific needs.
1.3 Blind users, who employ screen readers to access the web, although not alone in being disadvantaged, are particularly disadvantaged by websites whose design does not take full account of their needs.
1.4 Although many of those commissioning websites state that they are alert to the needs of disabled people, there is very little evidence of such awareness being translated into effective usability for disabled people.

And perhaps most interestingly, the organization tested 1000 home pages from across numerous sectors. Only 16 were Level A compliant (this is the 19% noted above), meaning minimally accessible to those with disabilities. 6 home pages were Level AA compliant, which means that sites deliberately worked to assure accessibility. And NO home pages achieved Level AAA (or total) compliance.

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