Public sector tops businesses in web access

Many local government websites are more accessible than those for leading companies, research has found.

According to a survey by the Society for Information Technology Management (Socitm), many local councils are outperforming top companies with major online presences when it comes to accessibility.

The study checked how well sites such as Tesco's and EasyJet's met government accessibility guidance, using a survey as well as "mystery shopping" email tests that asked the companies to help a blind person find information using the site.

Just 53 per cent of the tested councils and 23 per cent of the private sector sufficiently helped the "blind" person.

From a technical standpoint, 71 per cent of local authorities offered the ability to change text sizes on their sites, compared to 25 per cent in the private sector. A third of councils offered transcripts of audio and video recordings, compared to virtually none across the surveyed companies.

The research suggested organisations with a well thought out accessibility statement tended to have more accessible sites an area where local councils lead the private sector.

Martin Greenwood, programme director for Socitm, noted such a statement is a good first step. "The accessibility statement plays a key part in any campaign for raising awareness internally, and possibly externally, of the importance that the council attaches to this issue," he said in a statement.

"It goes without saying that none of this is any use if the intentions in the accessibility statement are not properly implemented, but nor should we overlook the fact that the statement itself is the first step in the right direction," he added.

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