Scope has warned that millions of disabled people could be blocked from accessing essential online services due to poor website accessibility.
After carrying out test on 10 of England’s biggest council’s website, the charity has revealed that nine out of 10 are failing to meet website regulations.
“Organisations have had two years to prepare for this deadline and make changes to their websites to benefit disabled people. Sadly many have failed,” reveals Kristina Barrick, head of digital influencing at Scope.
“We’re urging councils and all public sector organisations to fulfil their legal duty and make sure nobody is being blocked from accessing vital services and information.”
Today (23 September) is the legal deadline for public sector websites to meet new regulations set out two years ago. These set out a legal duty for public sector bodies to make their websites accessible.
The law applies to public sector bodies like local authorities, central government departments, universities and NHS trusts. Some organisations, like charities, are exempt from the law.
“Public should mean available to everyone yet our findings suggest many disabled taxpayers are still being shut out of accessing digital services,” emphasises Kristina.
“Public sector organisations provide crucial services which simply are not available elsewhere. It’s worrying to see disabled people being forgotten about again.”
Evidence shows that disabled people cannot use many UK websites because they are not accessible, leaving the 14 million disabled people in the UK left behind online.
Despite the lawful regulations coming into place today, Scope tests found that out of the top 10 biggest counties by population in England, nine of their county council websites still had accessibility errors.
The nine councils found to have accessibility errors serve a combined population of more than 10 million people.
Councils included in the tests are: Staffordshire; Norfolk; Nottinghamshire; Hertfordshire; Hampshire; Lancashire; Surrey; Kent; West Sussex; Essex. Essex was the only council found to have no accessibility issues online.
Accessibility issues found during the tests included: confusing layouts; problems enlarging text; poor colour contrasts; difficulties with screen reader accessibility and using keyboard navigation.
The new findings have led to fears that many other public sector websites will miss the deadline despite having two years to prepare. This will make it harder for disabled people to access vital services.
Scope is concerned that disabled people could be unable to access vital services and digital information, especially as more local lockdowns come into effect across the country and concerns that the government could ask millions to shield again.
“With local lockdowns on the rise across the UK, it is unacceptable that disabled people may be unable to access information about support available in their area,” emphasises Kristina.
Resources are available for organisations to improve their accessibility through Scope’s Big Hack website.