Can't Compare: Price comparison websites offer no choice for disabled people

Leading price comparison websites are letting down disabled and older people by ignoring basic web accessibility guidelines, according to e-accessibility expert, AbilityNet, in a report issued today.

Four of the five sites surveyed: www.comparethemarket.comwww.gocompare.com,www.mysupermarket.co.uk and www.confused.com, scored the minimum one star, whilstwww.kelkoo.co.uk managed a two star rating. Not one of the five sites achieved a three star rating required to indicate a base level of usability for those with disabilities.

AbilityNet’s State of the eNation surveys look at websites from the point of view of disabled and elderly users’ experience when using a range of services online. As well as a series of manual checks, the sites are tested using common adaptive technologies, such as screen readers and voice recognition software. Only sites which meet the needs of visitors with a vision impairment, dyslexia or physical problems, such as not being able to use a mouse, attain three stars or above.

The report’s author is Robin Christopherson, AbilityNet’s Head of Digital Inclusion, who is himself blind:

“Like everyone else in these hard times the country’s 12 million disabled people want to get the best deal when they’re shopping, whether that’s for insurance, groceries or anything else. But these cash strapped shoppers are losing out due to badly designed web pages that prevent them from shopping around and accessing the online bargains they need to make ends meet.”

And it’s not just the consumers who are losing out. Apart from the obvious moral argument for accessibility, the retailers linked to these sites won’t be happy about missing out on a market which represents a spending power of some £120 billion every year.

Christopherson concludes: “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.”

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