UK charity puts pressure on government to enforce web accessibility

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Tuesday, 5 July 2016 08:25am

Robin Christopherson, head of digital inclusion at Abilitynet, a UK disabilities charity, has written an open letter to the British Parliament, to put pressure on the people in power to fine organisations whose websites and apps fail to comply with WCAG 2.0.

Traffic warden issuing a parking ticket on a busy London road

The purpose of the letter

Abilitynet are questioning why the government doesn’t enforce legal requirements for basic inclusion rights. As over 1 in 5 people have a disability globally, there is a massive need for governments at all levels to enforce a change to become more responsible for making sure organisations meet equality rights.

Within the letter, Christopherson uses an example of the enforcement of traffic fines to get his point across about digital accessibility. He wants to see ‘internet wardens’ like there are with traffic offences, and goes on to say that adopting this focus is a real win-win. In recent times, many organisations only provide their offerings online and if this online space isn’t accessible thencompanies face losing out on a big market and customers face losing out on access to a service or good – which is a basic human right.

Christopherson furthermore suggests that the way forward is to “leverage the power of your citizens, your users, and invite feedback” as well as incorporating accessibility into the planning stages of any digital project.

This is not a first with issues about accessibility in the UK and the lack of enforcement from the government.  Only earlier this year, the UK government was reported to fail on acting on video-on-demand accessibility.

Accessibility, a global issue

The issue of inclusion for those people with a disability continues to gain prominence around the world. Indeed, Accessibility News International reported in late June 2016 that the U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights has settled complaints in seven states and one territory over issues related to websites that are not accessible to people with certain disabilities.

The department had found that websites were not using text descriptions, also known as ‘alt tags’ on important images. Text descriptions, when used with screen readers, help blind and vision impaired people understand all of the visual information, along with information contained within image files, on a website.

The news in the UK and the USA has implications globally, with Australian campaigners for more inclusion becoming increasingly vocal in their fight for equal access to the web and digital communication.

You can contact the Media Access Australia team to assist you with a range of web accessibility consulting services and training.

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