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