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Socitm applauds councils' website accessibility


Latest annual tests carried out with Digital Accessibility Centre shows steep rise in pass rate

Local authority websites are becoming more accessible to people with disabilities, according to the latest round of testing carried out by the Digital Accessibility Centre (DAC) and supported by public sector IT association Socitm.

The percentage of sites passing the tests has increased to 64%, up from 43% in 2015 and 26% in 2014.

But the results were more disappointing when the tests were conducted on mobile devices, showing a pass rate of just 46%. The results of this year’s Better Connected mobile survey showed that 80% of council websites are now purposed for mobile.

Scottish councils did particularly well with an 81% pass rate for the accessibility test, with London boroughs at 70% and Welsh unitaries at 68%

The accessibility assessment involved DAC testers attempting to complete three specified tasks, including reporting a missed bin, from the main Better Connected 2015-16 survey set, one from a mobile device. They also tested elements of the sites’ home pages, including the ‘contact us’ facility and links for services.

Each test covered 14 aspects of accessibility, with scores aggregated to give each task a rating on a scale of 0-3 and further aggregated to give an overall site score. Those achieving two or three overall were deemed to have passed the accessibility test.

Technologies element

The tests took in the use of assistive technologies like text-to-speech screen readers and keyboard-only controls, and reviewers include people with visual impairment, dyslexia, mobility impairment and learning disabilities. 

Socitm said that accessibility should be built into the design of websites and the third party systems they use, such as software for access to services. All forms and documents presented via websites should also be accessible, and moving elements such as videos should be presented in ways that accommodate disabled people.

This cannot be guaranteed by coders or third party site designers, and requires content editors to be aware of taking steps that undermine accessibility. These include adding images with no ‘alternative text’ or links like ‘click here’ that may not be meaningful when read out by a screen reader.

Picture by Niklas Bildhauer, CC BY-SA 3.0 through Wikimedia

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