The UK's 2015 General Election is the closest election for generations, as well as the most digital we have ever seen.
AbilityNet conducted industry standard tests on all seven of the main party websites, including checking the code, disabled user testing and manual checks for best practise. The results are bleak for disabled people as none of the websites tested achieved legal compliance and many of our testers failed to complete the tasks we set, which inlcuded downloading manifestos and looking for policy information.
Our list shows how well they performed against each other, but it is important to remember that none of them achieved the internationally recognised minimum standard.
1. The Labour Party
2. The Scottish National Party
3. The Liberal Democratic Party
4. The Green Party
5. The Conservative Party
6. UK Independence Party
7. Plaid Cymru
Robin Christopherson, Head of Digital Inclusion at AbilityNet said:
“If web accessibility were to determine the outcome of the General Election on 7 May then the top 3 parties would be Labour, SNP and the Liberal Democrats. What our tests do show is that disabled people are being denied access to information that could help them make an informed choice."
“In an election where every vote counts, the political parties should take note and put web accessibility at the top of their agendas.”
Aside from the obvious concerns about our main political parties not complying with current legislation, there are many millions of people of voting age who may have impairments and disabilities who would be prevented from effectively using these websites. Some of the quotes we gathered from our testers show the frustrations in accessing the information about the parties and their policies:
"This website is too busy and not well-signposted. I felt frustrated with it quickly and would have to be have been really determined to stay on it in search of info."
"I think it should be much better sign-posted that it’s possible to ask policy questions."
"I tried to download the manifesto as a PDF but for some reason my anti-virus said it was dangerous and wouldn't allow me to open it. I don't usually have this problem!"
Although some comments from our testers were very positive many users struggled to complete the tasks that we set and every site failed to achieve the recognised legal requirements.
Many of the issues identified can be resolved quickly and easily, often at no cost, so it is disturbing to consider how many potential voters will be hindered from actively engaging in political issues through these websites.