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European government websites failing the disabled

Antony Savvas

Almost every government website in Europe fails to meet basic standards for accessibility to the disabled.

A report by the UK Cabinet Office’s e-Government Unit found that 97% of official government sites could not be used by disabled people, mainly because they ignored well-known techniques for delivering more accessible data.

This comes despite governments heavily promoting the use of on-line services, and promising that they can make it easier for the disabled to access basic services.

To improve the situation, the report suggested that governments may have to be ordered to pay penalties and compensation to those citizens unable to use the sites. It is estimated that 39m people in Europe have some form of disability.

Published to coincide with the UK's EU presidency, the report surveyed 440 public service websites across Europe.

But the survey found that only 3% of the sites surveyed passed basic tests on accessibility set down by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the web’s main standards body.

These standards include navigational features to make it easier for the disabled to use websites, and the ability to easily use special software packages designed to convert data into a more accessible format.

The Royal National Institute for the Blind and the Royal National Institute for Deaf People collaborated on the survey.


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