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One third of councils fail web accessibility testing in UK-wide survey

An annual review of council websites across the UK has revealed that one third of local government sites failed first-stage testing to find out how accessible their websites are for users with disabilities.

Carried out by Socitm (the Society of IT Management), the Better Connected survey is a nationwide examination to evaluate local authority websites on a range of factors.

Accessibility of those websites for users with impairments is always examined. This includes assessing how users with low vision, sight loss, mobility impairments, colour blindness, dyslexia and others using assistive technology or keyboard navigation can access council websites.

However, this year Better Connected introduced a new two-stage process for the accessibility assessment. The first stage examined all 416 council website homepages, based on 14 criteria.

These included: appropriate text alternatives for images (this is essential for screen-reader users); ability to resize text to 200% without loss of content (this helps a range of users with partial sight loss); and “present and functioning skip links,” (these allow screen-reader users to arrive directly at a web page’s main content).

Councils that failed to meet seven or more of these points on their homepages were not allowed to enter the next stage of Better Connected. Additionally, if any homepages were found to have ‘keyboard traps’ (elements that make it impossible for keyboard-only users to move around the screen) or lack of ‘visible focus indicators’ (these allow users to recognise where on a page they are navigating to and from – again crucial for keyboard-only users and people with certain visual impairments), the sites failed stage one immediately.

However, sites that did fail were given the opportunity to resolve their accessibility problems before the end of January.

These initial accessibility tests were carried out in December 2016 by non-profit social enterprise Digital Accessibility Centre, by users with a range of disabilities and impairments. These assessments found that around one third of the 416 councils tested failed to meet seven or more of the essential accessibility requirements. This means they are ineligible for the full assessment, unless the issues are fixed and the councils apply for re-testing.

The next stage of Better Connected testing will take place in February. This second stage will feature a broader accessibility examination for all councils that passed the initial test.

Read more about the assessment at the Better Connected website:
http://eab.li/4l .

Read more about the Digital Accessibility Centre at the organisation’s website:
http://eab.li/4m .

Comments

  1. Debbie Payne | February 1st, 2017 | 10:06 am

    Hi. I found this article very relevant, as I’m a visually impaired screenreader user, employed by Herefordshire Council (England). We are fortunate to have an accessible website, but the problems occur when trying to access external systems commissioned by the Authority. I am constantly fighting to encourage the powers that be to conduct initial research and usability testig, but my advice fals on deaf ears and I end up being severely limited, compared to my sighted colleagues, who are able to carry out a much bigger variety of roles. I work in a contact centre, which relies on external systems, along with the website, to carry out the various tasks required. I’m not at all shocked by the results of this survey.

  2. Debbie Payne | February 1st, 2017 | 10:10 am

    I am a visually impaired screenreader user, employed by Herefordshire Council and I work in the contact centre, handling a wide variety of calls, covering a wide variety of enquiries, most of which rely on external systems in order to action these enquiries. We’re fortunate enough to have an accessible website, but the external systems we use are never properly access tested, nor are the needs of disabled employees considered at the procurement stage. This is severely limiting. I’m not remotely surprised by the results of the survey. I think that government spending cuts are at the root of the problem.

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