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.com, www.gocompare.com, www.mysupermarket.co.uk and www.confused.com, scored the minimum one star, whilst www.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.”
To see the report in full, look at the AbilityNet website at www.abilitynet.org.uk/enation
AbilityNet’s next eNation report, due out in June, will look at ‘Travelling to London for the Olympics: Websites of flight, train and bus operators’.
For further info, call the AbilityNet Press Office
State of the eNation web accessibility reports: Price Comparison Websites
· www.kelkoo.co.uk **
· www.confused.com *
Text size on some sites, particularly for headings and links is ‘hard-coded’ so that it cannot be easily enlarged – so vital for many visitors who have a vision impairment or dyslexia. With some sites offering small text and others carrying a watermark, effective access for this group is made very difficult.
The text labels attached to images upon which blind visitors and text browser users rely for an explanation are often uninformative or completely absent. Without these spoken labels on graphical links, navigation for a blind visitor is pure guesswork.
Pictures of text are often used instead of actual text. This not only means that the user cannot modify the text size or colour contrast – essential for those with a vision impairment or dyslexia – it also prevents screen reader users from reading the content when – as so frequently happens - these images are left unlabelled.
Some sites contain adverts and features made up of moving images that will be distracting for visitors with a cognitive impairment, or interactive presentations known as ‘Flash Movies’ which can present access problems for visitors who cannot use a mouse, are vision impaired or who use speech output or voice recognition software.
In the UK an estimated 2 million people have a vision impairment, some1.5 million have cognitive difficulties, a further 3.4 million have a disability which prevents them using the standard keyboard, screen and mouse set-up with ease, around 6 million are dyslexic and many millions experience literacy difficulties, not to mention the increasing number of elderly ‘silver surfers’ with failing eyesight or arthritis.
State of the eNation reports
AbilityNet is at the forefront of a number of initiatives both at home and abroad to improve website accessibility for disabled people and provide both private and public sector organisations with the expertise they need to ensure that their websites are meeting guideline levels of compliance (such as those recommended by the W3C/WAI).
AbilityNet’s bi-monthly ‘State of the eNation’ reports are designed to draw attention to the issue of accessibility and usability and to help disabled people find the best websites for their needs.
For more information on website accessibility, usability and design, contact AbilityNet on 0800 269545 or look at the Charity’s website: www.abilitynet.org.uk
Issued by the AbilityNet Press Office - 01926 429595
National e-Accessiblity charity, AbilityNet, has over 20 years’ experience enabling people with disabilities to access technology and the internet at home, at work and in education. Globally acclaimed for its expertise in both workplace disability management as well as on-line usability and accessibility issues, AbilityNet has worked with clients in the private, public and voluntary sector including all major Departments of State and many FTSE top 100 indexed companies. The Charity’s Patrons are Sir Terry Pratchett OBE and UK Digital Champion, Martha Lane Fox.