New take to examine web accessibility at EU-level
On assignment from the Irish National Disability Authority, NDA, Funka has carried out a major study on web accessibility. The assignment was completed during the period when Ireland held the presidency of the EU, but has only in the recent days been made public. The NDA is an independent statutory body that provides information and advice to the Irish Government on policy and practice relevant to the lives of persons with disabilities.
We chose a different approach this time says Andreas Cederbom, responsible for Analysis at Funka. It was exciting to hear how contractors who aren’t our clients reason on these matters.
The survey used a new take on comparative web accessibility by combining peer review and testing of websites, with in-depth interviews with Web site owners and people responsible in the public sector. A limited cost analysis on how much it would cost to rectify the shortcomings we have been able to identify, was also carried out. The 327 tests were executed in Ireland, England, Germany, Spain, Greece, Lithuania and Sweden, while the interviews were made in Ireland, Germany and Sweden.
There’s room for improvement
The interviews show that many web site owners lack knowledge on the level of accessibility of their websites. At the same time, many websites that we’ve examined have relatively simple flaws that could easily be fixed, if only the persons responsible were made aware of them. This problem could probably decrease significantly if and when the EC decides to implement the Directive on Web accessibility.
In the countries we’ve investigated, the scope of guidelines and support tools that are offered on a policy level have a great impact on awareness and grade of accessibility. This tendency is very clear in Germany. That implies that governments should be able to support the development in this area.
By the results that we’ve been able to generate, public procurement is to a small extent used as a tool to achieve increased accessibility. Funka, together with many others, believe that procurement would be able to push the development, but even here there’s hope: When the European Standard EN301549 is being incorporated in national law in the member states in 2016, that should mean a boost to procurement with detailed requirements for accessibility.
Poor results overall
We made 10 manual compliance tests in accordance with WCAG 2.0 AA. The result is that none (0) of the 37 public sector websites we’ve reviewed complied with even these 10 requirements. In this sense this study doesn’t differ from others we’ve performed, despite the fact that this time we partly reviewed other parts of the websites. The main problems we found were, hardly unexpected, in documents, forms and multimedia.
To deal with these failings, the websites examined are in need of help, both when it comes to technical advice and development, and methods of control and validation. A general increase of the level of knowledge on the side of purchasers is necessary in order for the whole process to work: from requirements, via procurement, to testing and management.
The in-depth interviews show that the focus in the accessibility work that is carried out often is very technically oriented. Few people see accessibility, that everyone regardless of ability should be able to perceive information and perform services, as a basic aspect of the service that is provided to citizens. Those responsible seldom view accessibility as an on-going work, but rather more as stand-alone projects with a clear ending. In certain cases, accessibility is perceived solely to be about visually impaired users.
The cost for accessibility isn’t seen as the main concern with web site owners; it’s more about a lack of competence and staff resources.
If you’re interested in learning more about the study and the results, don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org