Weblogs: Web Accessibility

UK Newspaper websites rated as inaccessible by AbilityNet

Friday, November 21, 2003

AbilityNet are back with their second "State of the eNation" report of UK business websites. Their first one covered UK Airlines, where Virgin Airlines were embarrassed enough to make a public apology.

The second report looks at the accessibility of UK newspaper websites. Again, the result is not much of a surprise. Not one website achieved base level accessibility.

In the UK there are estimated to be 1.6 million registered blind people and a further 3.4 million people who are IT disabled. The total spending power of this group is now estimated at £50 - £60 billion a year.

The Guardian was rated as the best website in terms of accessibility. In my opinion, the Guardian certainly have far more understanding of accessibility, and its a big pity that isn't reflected in their website design. They scored the top score of 2 out of five, and have already reaffirmed to improve their committment to accessibility:

All the newspaper companies involved in the present survey were contacted a month before and then again immediately prior to the publication of the results. They were asked to make a public commitment to improving the accessibility of their sites and, to date, only The Guardian has taken this important decision - a step which we welcome unequivocally.

-- Robin Christopherson, AbilityNet's Web Consultancy Manager

The Sun and News of the World formed the scrapings of the barrel, listed as containing some serious accessibility problems which prevents and hinders access to critical functionality and content.

The usual gamut of accessibility problems were found - typically images with no proper alternative text, along with fixed pixel font sizes there were instances of images being used instead of text thus preventing people from increasing text size to readable levels (that reminds me that I need to remove my use of images in the tab menu above!). Serious levels of javascript dependancies - including an inaccessible stock price tickers (a perennial problem in business reporting websites). Out of context link text is also highly prevalent as a barrier to accessibility.

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