Disabilities charity AbilityNet calls on UK Government to enforce web accessibility
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A disabilities charity is calling for the creation “wardens of the internet” with powers to fine companies and organisations whose websites and apps fail to comply with equalities legislation.
In an open letter to the UK Government last month, Robin Christopherson, head of digital inclusion at AbilityNet, a charity that supports access to digital technology for people with disabilities, asked the Government to enforce websites and app accessibility for disabled users.
Questioning why the Government does not enforce legal requirements on equalities, he asked: “You can barely leave your car one minute over time without getting a parking ticket, but where are the government’s wardens of the internet? Why can't every law be enforced equally?”
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In the letter Christopherson points out that the Equality Act 2010 states that those supplying goods and services, as well as employers and schools, should make “reasonable adjustments” to ensure that what they offer is accessible to people with disabilities.
While the act does not specify exactly what “reasonable adjustments” are, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WGAG) are the recognised international standard and GOV.UK requires all UK government services to meet WGAG 2.0 level AA.
“It would only take a small department to work on and if they had powers like traffic wardens or those issuing speeding fines, it would also generate a lot of money!” Christopherson suggests.
In a recent accessibility survey by SOCITM of UK local authority websites, Scottish council websites had the highest pass rate for accessibility, with 81 per cent rated good or very good, but across the UK as a whole just 46 per cent of council websites passed disability accessibility tests on a mobile device.
Speaking to Holyrood’s sister website PublicTechnology.net, Christopherson suggests a number of measures councils could take to improve their online services such as inviting feedback, holding surgeries and forums and having a clearly signposted and well populated accessibility page.