~ article ~ 'Most websites' failing disabled

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From http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/6210068.stm

Most of the leading websites around the world are failing to provide
the most basic accessibility standards for people with disabilities.
Ninety seven percent of websites did not provide even minimum levels
of accessibility, a new survey has found.

Accessibility agency Nomensa tested the leading websites in five
different sectors across 20 countries

Only three websites, including the British Prime Minister's site,
achieved the minimum standards.

The report, commissioned by the United Nations as part of its
International Day of Disabled Persons, will make depressing reading
for anyone committed to the idea of equal web access for all.

Multiple failings

"This is a global failure and we are very disappointed with the
results," said Alex Metcalfe, head of client services at Nomensa.

He added: "It is important for commercial, legal and moral reasons
that websites put in place a strategy for accessibility, both in terms
of quick wins and longer term improvements."

Nomensa tested representative websites from five key sectors - travel,
retail, banking, government and media.

In the UK, the websites looked at included Marks & Spencer, Lloyds
TSB, British Airways and The Guardian.

The British Prime Minster's sites alongside the Spanish government
site and the German Chancellor's site were the only three to conform
to the most basic standards.

In order to reach the minimum standards - tested against the Web
Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) - websites needed to provide
adequate text descriptions for graphical content so that visually
impaired people could 'read' pictures. 93% of the websites failed to
meet those guidelines.

A further 73% failed to make the grade because of their reliance on
JavaScript for some of the website's functionality. JavaScript does
not work with some screen readers used by those with impaired vision.

Ninety eight percent did not follow industry web standards for
programming code, meaning the foundations for web accessibility simply
were not there.

Time to talk

Mark Gristock, marketing director of usability firm Foviance, is
unsurprised by the results.

"This is the same results we always get. The guidelines have been in
place for seven years but they aren't actually checkpoints so people
can interpret them in a variety of ways. What is needed is practical
advice about what happens when you build a website.

"Building dull, technically compliant websites is easy but building
commercially successful sites that are also accessible is not," he

It was time to share examples of good practice so that web developers
could start incorporating accessibility into the design of websites,
he suggested

"Accessibility consultants and organisations for the disabled clutch
their knowledge of user requirements to them like they are the key to
future profits - which indeed they are.

"If they had any interest in raising standards, they would be sharing
their findings with the world and opening dialogue with the design and
business community about how best to integrate techniques with
standard processes," he said.

The World Health Organisation estimates that there are around 600
million disabled people worldwide, which represents about 10% of the
world's population. Of these, around 80% are believed to live in
developing countries.

The countries surveyed by Nomensa were Argentina, Australia, Brazil,
Canada, Chile, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Kenya, Mexico,
Morocco, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, United Arab Emirates,
United Kingdom and United States of America.

93% failed to provide adequate text descriptions for graphics
73% relied on JavaScript for important functionality
78% used colours with poor contrast, causing issues for those with
colour blindness
98% did not follow industry web standards for the programming code
97% did not allow people to alter or resize pages
89% offered poor page navigation
87% used pop-ups causing problems for those using screen magnification

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