Web Sites Fail To Reach People With Disabilities, UN-Backed Survey Shows - InformationWeek

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Web Sites Fail To Reach People With Disabilities, UN-Backed Survey Shows

Only three of 100 Web sites tested met minimum accessibility standards for disabled people.

Only three of 100 Web sites tested in what researchers call the first global Web site accessibility survey met minimum accessibility standards for disabled people.

Nomensa released the results of the United Nations commissioned study this week to coincide with the International Day of Persons With Disabilities. The British agency provides assistance with Web site design, as well as consultation and training on accessibility.

The agency used manual and automated systems to test the accessibility of leading Web sites in five sectors in 20 countries. It examined Web sites of heads of states, airlines, banks, newspapers, and retailers.

Central government, retailers, and banks offered the best accessibility around the world, Simon Norris, managing director of Nomensa said in a statement. The German Chancellor, the Spanish government, and the British Prime Minister's Web sites were the only three to achieve minimum standards.

"While only three Web sites made it onto the first rung of the accessibility ladder, many Web sites were in grasping distance of achieving minimum levels of accessibility," Norris said.

Nomensa used World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) guidelines to measure accessibility. The W3C recommends alternatives for audio and visual content, contrasting colors, as well as graphics, elements, and language that people using special software, devices, or techniques to overcome impairments can easily interpret and convert.

Nomensa said the tests revealed systemic weaknesses that make it difficult or impossible for businesses and governments to reach 600 million people with disabilities.

"The results from the survey are consistent and identify many common themes that cross borders and cultures, many of which must be addressed," Leonie Watson, Nomensa's accessibility chief, said.

Ninety-eight percent of the Web sites didn't follow standards for programming code needed for strong foundations for accessibility, according to the survey. Ninety-seven percent used fixed measurements, which prevent people from changing text size or page size to meet their needs, the survey found. Ninety-three percent of the Web sites tested didn't provide adequate text descriptions of graphical content to help visually impaired people, according to Nomensa.

The survey revealed that 89% of the Web sites failed to convey document structure with headings that allow easier navigation for visually impaired people. Eighty-seven percent released pop-ups without warning the user, which disorients people who use screen magnification software, Nomensa said.

Seventy-eight percent used color combinations with poor contrast, which makes it difficult for people with color blindness to read information, according to the survey. Seventy-three percent relied on JavaScript for important functions, making it impossible for about 10% of Internet users to access key information.

The 20 countries audited were Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.

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