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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 textso 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’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 ( 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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