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whoohoo.co.uk 'an example of excellence in website accessibility'
15th April 2004

whoohoo.co.uk, Egg.com and Oxfam.org.uk were among just five websites praised for their excellent accessibility, following a landmark study by the Disability Rights Commission that is already influencing the Internet's standards-setting body, the W3C.

Disability Rights Commission LogoCity University London tested 1,000 UK-based sites on behalf of the DRC, an independent statutory body responsible for advising Government on the effectiveness of disability discrimination legislation. The year-long investigation for the research is the most comprehensive examination into the accessibility of websites - covering Government, business, leisure, web services and e-commerce websites. Its findings, released yesterday, confirmed what many already suspected: very few sites are accessible to the disabled – albeit an inaccessible site presents a risk of legal action under the UK's Disability Discrimination Act.

However, while the report did not "name and shame" the 808 sites that failed to reach a minimum standard of accessibility in automated tests, City University has today revealed five "examples of excellence" from its study:

  • Egg Bank (http://www.egg.com) - Internet bank
  • Oxfam (http://www.oxfam.org.uk) - charity
  • Spinal Injuries Scotland (http://www.sisonline.org) - spinal injuries voluntary organisation
  • COPAC (http://www.copac.ac.uk) - on-line catalogues of research libraries
  • whoohoo.co.uk (http://www.whoohoo.co.uk) - comedy dialect translator

Helen Petrie, Professor of Human Computer Interaction Design at City University, said: “The Spinal Injuries Scotland site highlights how an accessible website can be created on a small budget and still be lively and colourful. Additionally, Egg’s site shows larger firms can embrace accessibility without compromising their corporate image or losing any sophistication from their e-services.”

Despite these examples of excellence, the overwhelming majority of websites were difficult, and at times impossible, for people with disabilities to access.

Petrie added: “Web developers need to use the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) guidelines as well as involve disabled users to ensure web sites are usable for these groups.”

The user group also revealed that nearly a quarter of the most routine and straightforward online tasks could not be completed because of poor access. Blind people were the most disenfranchised from the web, as they were unable to perform nearly half the tasks set them despite the use of assistive technology such as screen readers.

Professor Helen Petrie said: “The investigation found many web developers were unaware of the steps needed and the costs involved to make their websites accessible for disabled people.

“Web developers need to use the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) guidelines as well as involve disabled users to ensure websites are usable for these groups.”

In undertaking the research, City University’s Centre for Human Computer Interaction used commercially available software tools for automated testing to test for technical compliance with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) guidelines.

City University London used Watchfire's enterprise accessibility solution to perform the automated website testing on behalf of the Disability Rights Commission (DRC). Developed for large, multi-user environments, Watchfire's accessibility module integrates the testing capabilities of Watchfire's leading website accessibility tool, Bobby(tm) with the robust scanning and reporting capabilities of Watchfire's enterprise technology. Watchfire provides Online Business Management software and services to help organisations protect their brand, reduce risks associated with privacy and accessibility breaches and enable regulatory compliance.

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