UK local authority websites are “much more accessible now than they’ve ever been”, according to one specialist who worked on the recent ‘Better Connected 2010’ review of every local authority website in the UK conducted by the Society of IT Management (Socitm) (
Bim Egan, senior web access consultant at the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), told E-Access Bulletin the difference between council websites’ accessibility this year compared with 2009 is “astonishing”. “A much bigger proportion of [councils] are getting the message and are putting processes in place to make their websites a lot more accessible”, she said.
Egan’s comments come despite the fact fewer local authority websites achieved formal compliance this year with Level A of the international Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, version one (WCAG 1.0) – 32 compared to 36 in 2009. However, the RNIB ran its own additional assessment of “functional accessibility” which rated 187 councils (43%) as either ‘satisfactory’ or ‘excellent’ compared with only 136 councils (33%) achieving the same levels last year.
Despite the progress, Egan said that over-reliance on PDFs (files in Adobe portable document format), which are often inaccessible to screen-readers and other forms of assistive technology, is still a significant accessibility problem for local authority sites.
“It wouldn’t matter as much if so many councils didn’t rely so heavily on PDF format, but … if it’s not accessible, there could be situations where people can’t even find out what their council tax is,” Egan said.
For a full breakdown of the accessibility results of Better Connected 2010 see section three, this issue.