Two-thirds of councils pass web accessibility test

New survey points to fall from last year, but Socitm points out the test has become more demanding

More than two-thirds of councils have passed stage two of the accessibility test created by the Better Connected service of public sector IT association Socitm, but the number has declined slightly from last year.

Fingers on computer keyboardIt said that in a recent survey covering a mix of counties, districts, metropolitan authorities and unitaries throughout the UK, 134 of 195 passed the test for their sites to be used by people with disabilities. This amounted to 69%, but the figure for last year was 77%.

“These results should not be read as deterioration because a different, and arguably more difficult, set of tasks were tested this year,” Soctim said.

“In particular, to pass ‘order a bulky waste collection’ - a test conducted on a mobile device - sites had to offer an online order form (not a PDF) which, with its associated payment module, had to be responsive when accessed from a mobile device.

This follows a test late last year in which 275 of 416 councils passed the less demanding stage one.

Socitm also highlighted that 60 of the 195 councils subjected to the stage two test have passed it for each of the past three years.

Understanding and awareness

“These councils should be congratulated,” it said. “Not only do they understand the issues around accessibility, they have clearly invested in the awareness and expertise required to maintain it.

“This includes requiring accessibility standards to be met and maintained by any third party software used to deliver the website and its services.”

The tests were carried out with the Digital Accessibility Centre, with testers who have disabilities, and based on how closely the sites complied with the WCAG 2.0 global web standard. This demands features such as unique and informative web page titles, good heading structure, visible focus indicators on links and form elements, and appropriate text alternatives for images.

“Accessibility is hard to maintain as it cannot be guaranteed by use of a particular content management system or software,” Socitm said.

“Sites that are accessible at set up can quickly become inaccessible unless editors and developers understand how things like moving content, keyboard traps, illogical heading structures and websites that do not ‘respond’ when viewed on mobile devices can make it difficult and sometimes impossible for people with disabilities to use them. “