Disabled People’s Rights to Web Access

Disability & The Internet

A study has recently shown that despite new laws under the disability discrimination act many websites are still inadequate when it comes to providing suitable access for those with disabilities.

Since 2003 the disability rights commission began testing websites to make sure they were complying with guidelines set out by the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility programme. Of 1,000 sites tested 81% of them failed to reach the minimum standard of accessibility.

How Testing Was Done?

Testing was done running commercial available software on each of the 1,000 sites, testing included for example images on websites, such images on web pages should have what is described as an “Alt-tag” included for the use of blind or visually impaired people and is a text alternative which is a description of the image on the page.

The “Alt-tag” is read using a screen reader. Of the sites tested 100 of them were also tested manually by a disabled user group with disabilities ranging from dexterity impairments, blindness, partial sight, dyslexia and hearing impairments.

A large number of the websites which did have the “Alt-tag” feature were found to be wrong in matching the actual description with the image, for example the picture could be a cat and the description was dog.

Along with problems such as this the people testing also found many other problems such as cluttered and complex web page designs, confusing and disorienting navigation systems, and failure to describe images at all along with poor contrast between the background pages and content which made reading hard.

The research concluded that on average 8 instances of the guidelines put in place were being violated per homepage, and also found on average a potential 108 instances on the typical homepage where a disabled person would have particular trouble because of there disability.

Only 2 web sites out of the 1,000 tested actually reached the second highest level AA and not one of the sites tested managed to reach the top level.

When these findings where brought to light the DRC warned that hundreds of businesses may not be complying with equal access law for the disabled and that it was inevitable that they would face legal action from their disabled customers at some stage.

The Legal Obligation

The disability discrimination act states that it is unlawful for a provider of services to discriminate against a disabled person in failing to comply with its provisions.

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