Most websites flunk basic standards for disability accessibility, says UN survey

5 December 2006

Only three out of 100 leading websites around the world meet the needs of persons with disabilities, such as the visually or manually impaired, according to a United Nations-commissioned report unveiled today.

Only three out of 100 leading websites around the world meet the needs of persons with disabilities, such as the visually or manually impaired, according to a United Nations-commissioned report unveiled today.

But the study, commissioned by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and conducted by the British firm Nomensa, found that a quarter of the websites investigated could be brought into line with the international standards quickly and for little expense.

Thomas Schindlmayr, a policy specialist with DESA, said the survey – which looked at guidelines for persons who are blind, have low vision or cannot use a computer mouse – indicates that “we’re not close to reaching the Internet’s full potential for use by persons with disabilities.

“Webmasters around the world – including at the United Nations itself – should be aware that they are losing a significant portion of their intended audience by not being fully accessible to all people.”

The survey examined leading websites for travel, finance, media, government and retail shopping in the following countries: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Germany, India, Kenya, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States.

Under the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which the survey used, websites must allow users to easily adjust text size, navigate through the site, differentiate between colours, allow keyboard shortcuts and offer an alternative to JavaScript, which prevents many people from accessing key information.

The only websites that met these guidelines were those for the German Chancellor, the British Prime Minister and the Spanish Government.

Mr. Schindlmayr stressed that reaching the guidelines brings benefits not only to persons with disabilities.

“Persons with disabilities shop, they travel and they need information just like everyone else. Allowing people to exercise their human rights and play their full part in the economic, social and political lives of their societies just makes good sense all around.”

 

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