A new survey has found that 40% of councils are failing to make their sites fully usable for millions of people with sight loss, physical disabilities, cognitive impairment, dyslexia and more.
Testing of 270 UK council websites on behalf of the Society for IT Practitioners in the Public Sector (SOCITM) found that fewer passed basic accessibility criteria in 2016-17 (60%) compared with 2015-16 (65%). Many sites were impossible to navigate for large numbers of the UK's 13.3 million disabled people.
The annual survey has so far only run its first stage of testing, which just reviews home pages using 14 testing criteria. Further test results will come this March/ April.
What areas of accessibility are council letting the public down on?
SOCITM's Better Connected survey found three key areas of concern.
1. Visible focus indicators
86% of those tested failed primarily because their home page lacked ‘visible focus indicator’. Visible focus indicators show the user where on the screen the cursor/ arrow/ focus is. Ie, whether it is hovering over a button option, a photo or other page element. Without the focus, it’s very hard to navigate a page and select options to move to other pages.
2. Skip links
71% did not have skip links. Skip links are mainly used by screenreader users for bypassing or 'skipping' over repetitive web page content. Without them, a screenreader will often read every single part of a page, making the user experience very long and laborious.
3. Meaningful links
64% Lacked ‘meaningful links in context’. This affects blind users who use screenreading software and need links to establish the context of some words – which links such as ‘click here’ or ‘more’ do not offer.
A third of the sites were marked down because of movement on the screen - such as rolling images or words. This can affect people with a cognitive-impairment such as dyslexia, as well as people with low vision, and blind people using screenreading software.
If there is movement of any kind on the page that lasts for more than five seconds then any site user should be able to apply a pause, including people using a keyboard and mouse or mouse to navigate the site.
A third of sites were marked down for lack of good heading structure (63%), no appropriate text alternatives for images (39%), and insufficient colour contrast (49%).
Upcoming EU Directive says inaccessible websites need to be fixed
In a press release SOCITM said:
“Councils responsible for the 40% of local authority gov.uk websites found not to be accessible …will need to fix their sites ahead of a new EU directive coming into force from September 2019. Some sites may already be in breach of the Equality Act 2010. The accessibility of websites to people with disabilities, who account for around 15% of the UK population, is extremely important.
"It should be built-in to the design of websites and the third party systems they use (ie, software that manages services that people access via council websites, like library or planning or council tax management systems). All forms and documents presented via websites should be accessible too, and videos, imagery and elements of the website that move, should be presented in ways that accommodate disabled people."
Need help with accessible design?
- If you are a council or other business or organisation which needs help with making your website accessible, learn more about how the AbilityNet accessibility team can help you.