Making websites more accessible

"Here’s a question… Does the Equality Act place obligations on business about making their websites accessible and usable for disabled people? Well… err…yes.

OK, so the second question… why is it so many websites aren’t readily accessible or usable for disabled people? I don’t know the answer but it puzzles me.

I’m a blind guy and use a screen reader – you know, that bit of software that reads out what’s on the screen with a voice like Micky Mouse on helium. I would say I was quite an experienced user but it amazes me the number of websites that I find hard to use or can’t use at all! This is so frequent now I got to the point of not even noticing. I just tried one and if it didn’t work I tried another wherever possible. Last year I started keeping stats just for my own curiosity. When doing a search for something new, especially if I wanted to buy something, it was surprising to find that I would typically look at three or four sites before I found one I could use easily.

Do I contact the sites I can’t access and take up the issues, actually I’ve given up. I have done it but… well they usually don’t understand or even reply.

On the other hand, if I find a site I can use then I use it as much as possible; often even if I know I might be able to get things cheaper elsewhere. For example, I find it easier to have my supermarket shopping delivered and the best site I found to use is Ocado, so I use it. I know some things would be cheaper elsewhere but, well, the accessibility of the site and the app make it so easy why would I bother to look elsewhere when my experience tells me I’m likely to find problems.

The other thing which I find odd is that. my company has been running the Business Disability Forum’s e-check service http://www.e-check-it.com since 2008. In that time, 70% of the sites we’ve reviewed were given a ‘red’ assessment – in other words ‘significant potential commercial, PR or legal risk’. Even more surprising is the low number of organisations who have got such assessments who’ve done anything about it!

So putting this together: there is a law but it isn’t that successful and many businesses don’t seem to think this is an issue. OK, so what we need to do is find out what this costs businesses and maybe the bottom line will persuade them that website accessibility and usability is important as a business issue.

Working with the Business Disability Forum and supported by the RNIB and Enterprise Rent-a-Car we’ve just launched the Click-Away Pound Survey which aims to find out what disabled people’s experiences are when shopping online, what they do about problematic sites and the potential costs to business of not thinking about the issue.

The Click-Away Pound Survey is also being supported by ATEC (Assistive Technology Exhibition and Conference) on 17 May in Oxford where you will also have an opportunity to complete the Survey; just look out for the Click-Away Pound Survey poster and Enterprise staff who will be there to help anyone who wants to add their voice to making things better for disabled internet users.

If you have a disability give it a go – only takes 10 minutes and will help improve the internet experience for disabled people."

For more information and to take the survey go to
http://www.clickawaypound.com 

accessibility

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