84% of websites may not be legally compliant

Following on from our previous study (which found that 94% of websites aren't written correctly), OpenGlobal have been conducting some more tests. This time to find out how many websites have not been written according to the Disability Discrimination Act.

The Disability Discrimination Act requires all websites to be written in such a way that does not impede disabled users and takes into consideration the requirements of specialist software and auxilliary aids that disabled users might use.

This sounds quite daunting to the layperson. but thankfully, there is a set of simple guidelines which are being widely treated as the acceptable standard for compliance with this legislation. These are known as the WCAG Priority 1 standards.

They are simply a way of saying what extra information should be provided on websites so that disability software can understand them, and also outlines a few things not to do, such as presenting information in sound, without using an alternative for the hearing impaired. For a professional web designer, it's very simple and should be second nature.

However, we discovered that out of 326 websites tested (of Gloucestershire based SMEs), 84% of them, failed the test in at least one area, and usually in many areas. A similar test by the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) in April 2004 found that 81% of UK websites failed the test. Our test demonstrates that there has been no improvement over the past 6 years.

You can test your own website with our Free Website Review. This tests a single page at a time for compliance with the WCAG Priority 1 standards (along with several other standards tests). Alternatively, if you are more technical, there is a dedicated test at CynthiaSays.com. This test gives specific details about any failures allowing you to fix them, but the results are quite technical.

But should you be worried if your site fails the test?

It's not worth losing sleep over just yet. But it's something that will need to be addressed eventually. You can technically be prosecuted, but even if you were "found out", you're more likely to be given a warning and told to get it fixed as soon as possible.

In 2004, the DRC contacted 800 companies to complain that their websites were non-compliant, and the RNIB has threatened 2 large corporations in the UK. However, so far, there have been no legal cases in the UK over non-compliant websites. In the US and Australia, where there is similar legislation, there have already been successful court cases against companies with non-compliant websites, so it is probably only a matter of time before it happens in the UK.

Government websites are mostly compliant, or are currently being made compliant, and large corporations are now being focussed upon to get their websites up to standard. It will be some time before SMEs start to be actively targetted by the disability organisations.

However, there is nothing to stop individuals making complaints about your website if it doesn't meet the requirements.

What should you be doing if you discover that your website is non-compliant?

Well, if you've paid a professional web designer to design your website, they need to be told off. In our opinion, it's not acceptable for a dedicated professional to be turning out websites which might not be legally compliant. This legislation has been in effect for over 10 years, so most web design companies were started AFTER this legislation came into effect. There is no excuse.

You should look at getting your website fixed so that it satisfies the WCAG Priority 1 requirements. If you can do this yourself, that's great. But, chances are, your web designer will need to do it for you. You may have a case that as the original website design was not legally compliant, your web designer should fix it for free. But we are not lawyers, so you should take your own professional advice on this.

All OpenGlobal client websites are designed to be 100% compliant with the WCAG Priority 1 requirements as standard. This is not an optional extra, this is a legal requirement. We are the only web designers in Gloucestershire to offer this as standard.

If you want to ensure that your website is completely legally compliant, consider moving your website over to one of our website management packages. We proactively manage your website to ensure that it is fully compliant with current legislation and any future legislation as it arises.