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81% of Websites Inaccessible to Disabled, So Is The Report That Says So

Illustration from the DRC Easy Read Summary of the report. Depicts web designer asking group of elderly and disabled persons, 'What do you think?' © Copyright DRC.

Illustration from the DRC Easy Read Summary of the report. © Copyright DRC.

Silicon.com reports:

An investigation into the accessibility of the internet has slammed the majority of websites for being unusable for disabled would-be web surfers.

Deaf, blind and dyslexic users are all being let down badly by the majority of website designers and online publishers, who fail to take into account their special needs, according to the report.

The bitterest irony is that the disabled, along with the elderly, have the most to gain from the internet and its virtual ability to bring products and services into the home.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Bert Massie, the chairman of the Disability Rights Commission, said: Eight in 10 sites are next to impossible for some disabled people to use.”

It’s a shame disabled people can’t read the report.

CNet’s News.com also ran a story today centered around the DRC report.

The DRC report summarizes the first of its findings as:

Most websites (81%) fail to satisfy the most basic Web Accessibility Initiative category. In addition, the results of the evaluations undertaken by disabled users show that they have characteristics that make it very difficult, if not impossible, for people with certain impairments, especially those who are blind, to make use of the services provided. This results both from lack of interest and knowledge on the part of website developers, and from perceived commercial obstacles to accessibility on the part of website commissioners, notwithstanding that anecdotal evidence suggests that this concern is misplaced.

1. Few (19%) websites comply even with the lowest priority Checkpoints for accessibility.

2. All categories of disabled user consider that site designs take insufficient account of their specific needs.

3. Blind users, who employ screen readers to access the web, although not alone in being disadvantaged, are particularly disadvantaged by websites whose design does not take full account of their needs.

4. Although many of those commissioning websites state that they are alert to the needs of disabled people, there is very little evidence of such awareness being translated into effective usability for disabled people.

5. Website designers have an inadequate understanding of the needs of disabled users and of how to create accessible websites, and would welcome clearer guidance.

Illustration from the DRC Easy Read Summary of the report. Depicts Sherlock Holmes-like detective weaing a 'Disability Rights Commission' badge and peering through a magnifying glass.  © Copyright DRC.

Illustration from the DRC Easy Read Summary of the report. © Copyright DRC.

Perhaps the DRC should follow its own advice. A quick accessibility check in Acrobat 6 Professional of the PDF version of the DRC report found that the report iself isn’t accessible to people with disabilities. In the “Easy Read Summary” PDF of the report the document is not XML structured, has no specified language, and all 17 images are missing alternative text–so the vision impaired know they’re missing some of the content, but have no idea what it is.

The full report, though it contains no images, is even worse. Again, no language is specified, 120 words are inaccessible because they contain no reliable Unicode mapping, and the document is unstructured.

The original report on Silicon.com characterizes the inability of the disabled and elderly, those whom it says have the most to gain from the internet, to use much of the internet’s services as “the bitterest irony.” While I certainly don’t seek to demean either the lack of accessible content for the disabled and blind or Silicon.com’s report, the bitterest irony is actually the fact that an agency tasked with enforcing the rights of the disabled and with producing “publications on rights and good practice for disabled people, employers and service providers” can’t even create publications accessible by disabled people.

Before the Disability Rights Commission threatens suit against too many companies and designers, perhaps it should wipe the egg off its face. Glass houses are a real pain for the vision-impaired to navigate.

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10 Responses

  1. Isofarro says:

    Its easy to crit­i­cise sites for be­ing in­ac­ces­si­ble, and as you cor­rect­ly point out, the DRC web­site should be ac­ces­si­ble be­fore crit­i­cis­ing others.

    You’ve made that point quite clear­ly, yet you al­so make the same mis­take. There are a num­ber of ac­ces­si­bil­i­ty prob­lem on this very page rang­ing from javascript de­pen­dan­cies (a Priority 1 is­sue), your al­ter­na­tive text on the DRC im­age, your choice of colours cre­ate prob­lems for colour blind peo­ple – par­tic­u­lar­ly deuter­a­nopia, no spec­i­fied Document Type, us­ing dep­re­cat­ed HTML in­stead of stylesheets, us­ing HTML struc­tures for pre­sen­ta­tion­al ef­fects, nest­ed ta­bles with no prop­er ac­ces­si­ble markup, tag soup (you do know that in­line el­e­ments can­not con­tain block-level el­e­ments?), not us­ing a list struc­ture when pre­sent­ing a list, more ir­rel­e­vant and dis­cou­teus alt text ([Right Quotation Mark] – al­most as dire as “small red square used as a bul­let point”).

    Perhaps you are al­so suf­fer­ing from the “Do as I say, not as I do”.

    Now, my on­ly con­cern is: are you go­ing to do any­thing about fix­ing the ac­ces­si­bil­i­ty prob­lems on your own website?

    Regarding the ac­ces­si­bil­i­ty of the DRC web­site, have you read this ar­ti­cle: dis­abled sites al­so fail. Clearly _everyone_ has a lot of work to do.

  2. Isofarro says:

    Level AA+

  3. Joe Bloggs says:

    Pariah: “The dif­fer­ence is, I don’t make claims at ac­ces­si­bil­i­ty of this site.”

    Interesting dou­ble stan­dard you have there. You, as a web­de­sign­er, are part of the ac­ces­si­bil­i­ty prob­lem. The soon­er you re­alise that and learn about the tools of your trade, the bet­ter for you and the com­mu­ni­ty you pre­tend to serve.

  4. Sara says:

    I just stopped be­cause I was look­ing at Loretta’s (misfitting.com)suggested sites and came across yours. I love the way you write. Very in­sight­ful. I will be back.

  5. The dif­fer­ence is, I don’t make claims at ac­ces­si­bil­i­ty of this site. With my post I’m point­ing out the hypocrisy of DRC, which claims to be accessible.

    This site makes no claims at accessibility.

    How ac­ces­si­ble is your site?

  6. HAhahahaha ha ha Oh, that’s fun­ny. Isofarro and Joe Bloggs are so quick to crit­i­cize some­one else’s web­site while hid­ing their own web­sites and identities.

    Perhaps they’re rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the DRC (I had alert­ed the DRC to this post) try­ing to de­flect the fo­cus from their own colos­sal blun­der by try­ing to put the at­ten­tion on me.

    I re­port­ed news about an ad­vo­cate for the dis­abled not be­ing ac­ces­si­ble to the dis­abled. I am not in the busi­ness of en­forc­ing the le­gal rights of the dis­abled, un­like the DRC.

    Put your mon­ey where your mouth is, boys. Post your web­site URLs here. Otherwise, you’re just an­oth­er pair of cow­ards talk­ing shit be­hind a com­put­er screen.

    “Brave is the coward’s tongue when wrapped in the yel­low cloak of anonymi­ty.” –Pariah Burke, 2003

  7. Thanks, Sara! Welcome to my blog.

  8. In an ide­al world, all web­sites and all oth­er ser­vices would be ful­ly ac­ces­si­ble to the dis­abled. Someday, they (at least web­sites) will be. For now, the tech­nol­o­gy is bare­ly there, but it in­volves a trade-off: lim­it this one group of peo­ple, or lim­it this oth­er; if you find a way to sat­is­fy both, then a third group of­ten suffers.

    It’s a dif­fi­cult bal­anc­ing act that, at this point in time, isn’t easy to pull off. Unfortunately, for many sites, it’s num­bers game for the time being.

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