The following is a guest post by FINCAR.
Did you know that the Disability Rights Commission published a report in 2004, which demonstrated that a staggering 81% of websites that they looked at were inaccessible to disabled people? That was thirteen years ago and yet recent findings make disappointing reading. Despite the change to the law in the form of the Equality Act in 2010, a number of leading money saving websites are still failing their disabled customers.
Equal Access For All
The charity, AbilityNet has highlighted the fact that disabled users are losing out financially, due to the inaccessibility of service comparison websites, which were found to be complicated and confusing to use. Sight-impaired users were particularly disadvantaged by the unavailability of large type on some sites. New disability software aids, such as screen readers and voice recognition software were found to be missing on a surprisingly large number of sites, despite the fact that these aids are relatively simple to integrate into website design.
[Kevin] This is actually something that we should all start to become more aware of. There are simple things to start out with, such as ensuring that images have appropriate title and alt tags associated with them.
Disabled web users are being effectively prevented from accessing money saving advice and price comparisons due to these failures. AbilityNet points out that this does contravene the Equality Act and that more should be done to force companies to comply with the law. Their detailed 2012 ‘State of the eNation’ survey, authored by Robin Christopherson, head of Digital Inclusion, showed clear bias towards the able-bodied, particularly in car loan comparison sites and other consumer enabling sites.
Christopherson states, “The Law is clear on this issue. It is just as illegal to bar disabled visitors from accessing your goods and services online as it would be to keep them out of your shop in the ‘real world’. Whilst no company would do this knowingly, as this report shows, there are plenty of high profile sites that are contravening the Equality Act (2010) by not considering their disabled customers”.
Industry should not be complacent and not just on moral grounds. The number of disabled customers they are effectively barring from access represent spending power of 12 million customers at an estimated cost to them of £120 billion. Small modifications to website design and an awareness of disability needs could make a difference to the finances of 2 million visually impaired users, 1/5 users with cognitive difficulties and 3.4 million shoppers who have other forms of disability that prevents them from surfing successfully.
Those with dyslexia or arthritis might not immediately spring to mind as being disabled, but they are classified as such and by law should be catered for. Web designers and businesses should be allowing users to adjust the size of the type on websites, reduce the number of ‘hard coded’ text blocks, which could not be enlarged and avoid using pictures of text, rather than actual text, since these cannot be read by screen readers. Small considerations like these could make life much easier and much fairer for disabled customers.
Some changes have been made and AbilityNet are keen to point out that a number of companies have worked hard to make their website content ‘disability friendly’. But after thirteen years, it is a scandal that some leading price comparison websites have not caught on or been prepared to listen to disability campaigners’ requests over the basic issue of accessibility.
[Kevin] I personally find this interesting since accessibility is something I also have to deal with in my app development! I need to test that the app still looks fine with fonts at various sizes, and give images attributes that can be read out by the system.