Online accessibility for disabled, deaf and visually impaired users has come under the spotlight in recent months since the Disability Rights Commission began an investigation of 1,000 websites with a view to finding out how accessible they are and to developing guidelines for web developers.
Another survey of 1,000 government websites by the Office of the E-envoy revealed that three-quarters of the sites needed rebuilding at a cost of millions of pounds to make them accessible.
The RNIB, which relaunched its website in June using a content management system from software firm Stellent, said accessibility has to be a key area of discussion during the implementation phase.
“A lot of web designers still do not know a lot about accessibility, which is not something you can get with out-of-the-box software products,” said Margaret O’Donnell, website manager at the RNIB.
“We heavily customised the Stellent product as nobody has really done anything on this before. It is also important to keep the pressure up.”
Accessibility for all users, whether they are viewing in the usual manner or with a screen reader or magnifier, should not be looked at simply as a legal issue, however, as there is a sound business case for making sites as usable as possible, O’Donnell said.
“Content in clear language makes such as big difference,” he said. “Our web designers felt the old website was very accessible but when they sat down and listened to pages through a screen reader they said they could not believe what they were hearing.”