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A recent report by NEC Digital has revealed that there is a growing call for continued government focus on enhancing web accessibility across the public sector, which may include increased investment in website accessibility or tighter regulations.

NEC Digital analysed over 1,300 websites across local authorities, social housing, and healthcare to assess how accessible these websites were for a user initially trying to access the site. Looking at the number of errors, contrast errors and accessibility alerts on the page, each website was assigned an ‘accessibility score’ out of 10. The higher the score, the more accessible the page. The average ‘accessibility score’ of the analysed public sector websites was 5.83

The research found council websites had the least accessibility errors in an analysis of public sector webpages. However, an average of nine errors still remained across public sector sites, potentially locking out users with access needs.

Almost nine million people in the UK have accessibility needs, according to research by Purple, and around three million people are colourblind, which can make accessing digital services more difficult. NEC Digital says accessibility is especially important when it comes to public sector and healthcare websites, when visitors may be in search of vital information.

2018 regulations require public sector bodies to make their website or mobile application accessible. Since then, UK Government support has helped public sector bodies meet the needs of their users. However, the study reveals that some of them still have barriers to accessibility, particularly issues that would exclude individuals reliant on screen readers from accessing the information on the page as easily as they could.

The Digital Divide report reveals that while public sector web pages had 5.6 times fewer accessibility errors than the average webpage, many pages still had errors and colour contrast issues that could impact low-vision users.

The number of errors was as high as 23 for local councils and 42 for NHS pages, impeding access for users with visual access needs.

Key findings revealed public sector pages had an average of 9.1 detectable accessibility errors and 8.0 contrast errors, 5.6 times lower than the web average, and local council websites only had an average of 2.0 errors and 1.7 contrast errors.

The number of errors on a council website was found to be as high as 23. The NHS website pages analysed had an average of 5.4 accessibility errors. Private hospital websites had 3.6 times as many errors as their NHS counterparts and more than four times as many contrast errors.

Of the public sectors analysed, housing association pages performed the worst, with an average of 13.2 errors, potentially leading to inaccessible housing support and making it more difficult for people to reach out for help with accommodation issues, while almost three-quarters of the pages analysed had at least one colour contrast issue that could impact low-vision users.

Errors are issues that will impact certain users with disabilities or fail to meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), alerts are simply elements that may cause issues, and contrast errors are instances of text that do not meet WCAG contrast requirements.

Colour contrast impacts the readability of a webpage’s content, and it is especially important for users who have low vision or for users who have colour blindness.

In response to a recent survey into website experiences for disabled and neurodivergent adults in the UK, charities have the opportunity to access a free website accessibility health check with the goal of ensuring equal access and inclusivity for all people on all platforms.

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