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New research from national disability charity Scope has found that millions of disabled people could be missing out on vital online services and information due to website inaccessibility.

After carrying out accessibility tests on council websites, Scope revealed that nine out of 10 of England’s biggest councils are failing to meet website regulations.

23 September 2020 marked the legal deadline for public sector websites to meet regulations. These set a legal duty for public sector bodies to make their websites accessible.

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However, as the deadline approached, Scope found that out of the top 10 biggest counties by population in England, nine of their county council websites still had accessibility errors. These nine councils serve a combined population of more than 10 million people.

Accessibility issues included: confusing layouts, problems enlarging text, poor colour contrasts, and difficulties with screen reader accessibility and using keyboard navigation.

Scope has warned that as more lockdowns take place across the country, more disabled people could find themselves unable to access vital services and digital information. This could be worsened if the government asks millions to shield again, the charity adds.

Kristina Barrick, Head of Digital Influencing at disability equality charity Scope, said: “Organisations have had two years to prepare for this deadline and make changes to their websites to benefit disabled people. Sadly many have failed.

“Public should mean available to everyone yet our findings suggest many disabled taxpayers are still being shut out of accessing digital services. Public sector organisations provide crucial services which simply are not available elsewhere. It’s worrying to see disabled people being forgotten about again.

“With local lockdowns on the rise across the UK, it is unacceptable that disabled people may be unable to access information about support available in their area. Public sector organisations have had plenty of time to prepare for this deadline, and there are plenty of resources available to support them to make their websites more accessible.

“We’re urging councils and all public sector organisations to fulfil their legal duty and make sure nobody is being blocked from accessing vital services and information.”

Scope’s Big Hack website has lots of free resources available for organisations to improve their accessibility, including:

  • Six common accessibility issues and how to fix them
  • Six webinars from GDS to improve accessibility within your organisation
  • Who the laws apply to

The laws apply to public sector bodies like local authorities, central government departments, universities and NHS trusts.

Some organisations are exempt from the accessibility regulations. For example, non-government organisations like charities. Charities are exempt unless they are mostly financed by public funding, or provide services that are essential to the public or directed at disabled people.

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