A comparative assessment of Web accessibility and technical standards conformance in four EU states
The Internet is playing a progressively more important part in our day–to–day life, through its power of making information universally available. People with disabilities have particular opportunities to benefit. Using the Internet in conjunction with dedicated assistive technologies, tasks that were very difficult if not impossible to achieve for people with various types of disability can now be made fully accessible — at least, in principle. However, in practice, many online resources and services are still poorly accessible to those with disability due to unsatisfactory Web content design.
Design of accessible Web content is codified in standards and guidelines of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Conformance with W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (WCAG) (and/or similar, derivative guidelines) is now the subject of considerable activity, both legal and technical, in many different jurisdictions.
This paper presents results of a comparative survey of Web accessibility guidelines and HTML standards conformance for samples of Web sites drawn from Ireland, the United Kingdom, France and Germany. It also gives some recommendations on how to improve the accessibility level of Web content.
A particular conclusion of the study is that the general level of Web accessibility guidelines and HTML standards conformance in all of the samples studied is very poor; and that the pattern of failure is strikingly consistent in the four samples. Although considerable efforts are being made to promote Web accessibility for users with disabilities, this is certainly not yet manifesting itself in improving Web accessibility and HTML validity.
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