By Chris Winter
The IT Industry has evolved hugely during the past 30 or so years, consider some key events of how the World Wide Web has evolved:
- 1989 – The World Wide Web was invented.
- 1994 – The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) was formed.
- 1994 – Amazon was founded.
- 1995-2000. The dot.com era came and burst.
- 1998 – AbilityNet is a pioneering UK charity that believes the power of digital technology should be available to everyone, regardless of ability or age.
- 1999 – W3C published Web Content Accessibility Standards (WCAG) version 1 to ensure that disabled people have their critical needs met to avoid their exclusion.
- 2008 – WCAG 2.0.
- 2012 – WCAG 2.0 becomes an ISO standard, ISO/IEC 40500:2012
- 2017 – UK Government is guidance to make things accessible and inclusive
- 2018 – WCAG 2.1.
- 2019 – ISO/IEC 30071-1:2019 Information technology — Development of user interface accessibility
- 2022 – WebAIM Million report states that 96.8% of home pages had detected WCAG 2.1 failures! Many of the world’s largest minority remain excluded.
The IT industry recognised the needs of the disabled people in accessing the World Wide Web a quarter of a century ago. Nevertheless, 21% of the UK population who are registered disabled and 15% of the world’s population estimated to be disabled remain excluded.
According to the WebAIM Million report, Law, Government and Politics websites are the most accessible globally. The private sector, including news/weather/information and shopping websites are near the bottom. With only adult content ranking lower than shopping on the basis of detected accessibility errors. Can it be that these industries are consciously choosing to exclude the UK’s 14.6 million disabled people or are they simply viewed as peripheral to their major markets?
The most prolific of the non-conformance issues detected by the WebAIM Million evaluation is that of low contrast text such as pale grey on a white background; consider how often this colour combination is used in data entry fields. This affects not only people with poor eyesight but it can also affect people with perfectly good eyesight.
The second most common non-conformance issue was that of missing alternative text for images. Assistive technologies such as screen readers rely on the descriptions of images held in alternative text to verbally describe the image for those people who cannot view the image.
Success in the public sector is borne out by my very accessible village website. The website content is administered by our 70-year-old webmistress who does not have an IT background. However, she is very clued up on accessibility. It shames those large private organisations with inaccessible websites. It proves that accessible websites are achievable when they are a priority.
About the author
Chris Winter FIET FBCS CITP is an Ambassador for the Digital Poverty Alliance, an evangelist for digital accessibility and a former IBM Fellow, now retired.
About the Digital Poverty Alliance (DPA). The DPA defines Digital Poverty with five key determinants: the affordability of devices and connectivity, accessibility (for the disabled), skills, motivation and a lack of ongoing support. With the breadth of digital poverty being so broad. Its objective is to eradicate digital poverty in the UK by 2030.