Political chaos

Every year since 2006, Funka has reviewed the accessibility of the websites of the political parties in the Swedish parliament. The result has always been mediocre, or bad. This year is no exception, but we see a trend that is worrying. In some ways, it is getting worse.

2018 is the year when EU's Web Accessibility Directive enters into force. This means that all EU Member States, including Sweden, have legal requirements for accessibility to public websites, intranets, documents and apps. It is 3 years since accessibility became part of the Swedish anti-discrimination legislation, and one year since the Act on Public Procurement, was tightened so that requirements for accessibility in public procurement became mandatory requirements, from previously only being recommendations. One might think that such changes would reflect in the work of the political parties as well, but we do not see such a tendency.

When it comes to legislation, it is the European Standard EN 301 549 and the International Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG) guidelines that apply. It is also these guidelines we had as a starting point in our review of the political parties, but we have only tested a selection of all the requirements that exist. The result is that the parties managed to meet about half of the requirements we tested. There is of course a variation between the parties, but no party is even close to meeting the requirements of WCAG 2.0.

There are varying problems that, among other things, cause problems for people using different types of assistive technology, people with visual impairments, blind people, people with motor impairments and people with reading and writing difficulties. How well accessibility has been achieved seems to be a coincidence, there are no systematics regarding which types of requirements are being met.

It is, of course, a democratic problem, but it also feels extra sad for us. After the audits we have made, we have also met the parties each election year since 2006, and presented the results of our survey. The majority of the parties have also purchased training and other services from us over the years. Yet, the sites fail in the most basic way.

Target groups that encounter the biggest problems

However, there is one thing that is much more worrying than a group of consultants who feel not listened to. The guidelines, WCAG 2.0, contain requirements that are important for persons with physical impairments. But a large group that is not included in a good way in the standard is persons with cognitive impairments, such as ADHD, aphasia, and autism for example. What we see now is that the accessibility actually covered by the guidelines does not get any better, while the accessibility for persons with cognitive impairments is deteriorating significantly compared with previous years' surveys.

It also seems that all parties have used the same advertising agency. Or they only mimic each other. There are large photos, bad contrasts and a lack of visual structure, that makes it very difficult for, among others, users with concentration difficulties.

The Centre Party is a good example of this problem. Not only is there a large area at the top with low contrast images and text, there is also a slide show that changes images often, making it impossible for many to read the text in the images or to concentrate on the short links.

It's almost as if they do not want anyone to read. But the other parties are not much better.

The focus is rather to look like a glossy advertising brochure than to help users find and understand what the party stands for. Large is good, but large areas without a common structure, large colorful backgrounds, and lack of area headlines make the pages chaotic and cognitively very difficult.

So, it has not gotten better, and we now see examples that the parties have become even less accessible to a large group of citizens. Time to shape up and time to change advertising agency.

Accessibility audit of political parties (Swedish text, Word 109 kb), opens in new window