Almost half of local authority websites remain inaccessible to disabled users, according to the annual ‘Better Connected’ review of UK local authority sites, carried out by the Society of IT Management (Socitm).
Little has changed in the picture of council website accessibility since last year’s Better Connected, with only a 2% increase in the amount of councils achieving the assessment’s standard rating for accessibility – from 56% in 2011 to 58% (252 councils) this year. Within those 252 sites, only two (Kettering Borough Council and the London Borough of Merton) were rated as ‘Very Good’ under the scoring system, while 30% of websites (130 in total) were rated as having ‘Poor’ accessibility, and 12% (51 sites) were classed as ‘Inaccessible’.
“Accessibility should not be seen as an extra layer of usability to build into a site for a minority of users, however significant”, the report says. “Accessible websites are also easier to use for everyone.”
To rate accessibility in this year’s Better Connected, testers from the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), assessed the home page and other key pages of a council’s website; and how easy it was to complete three ‘top tasks’ for users, such as finding out how to pay council tax, and applying for a council job.
When scoring these tasks, RNIB testers identified three potential website accessibility issues that would prevent them completely from carrying out the task: keyboard traps (when keyboard navigation of a webpage causes a user to become irreversibly stuck on an element of that page); auto-starting audio on a page (with no way of stopping the audio); and flashing content.
The report recommends that all councils should carry out user-testing with groups of disabled people; build accessibility checks into the website publishing process; and ensure that the entire web team understands and practices accessibility.
Better Connected 2012 can be purchased from Socitm: bit.ly/HmnwiN