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:
Read more about the Digital Accessibility Centre at the organisation’s website: