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Some of the UK's top online retailers have made improvements to the accessibility of their websites over the last 12 months, with Boots and John Lewis the top performers in a Webcredible study. 

The average accessibility score increased from 57% to 62%, but some online retailers' scores have slipped since last year, and there is still plenty of room for improvement.

In the Accessibility of the Online High Street report (PDF), Webcredible estimates that the combined spending power of the UK's disabled population is up to £80bn which, alongside the Disability Discrimination Act, reinforces the need for e-tailers to provide accessible websites.

Some highlights from the study:

  • Thanks to a recent website redesign, Boots was the biggest gainer in the study, raising its accessibility score from a pretty poor 37% to 72% this year, putting the retailer in second place behind John Lewis(74%).
  • 18 of the 19 retailers profiled in the study achieved scores of more than 50%, with five retailers scoring over 70%; Game, HMV, Argos, Boots and John Lewis.
  • Of the 20 accessibility guidelines that Webcredible looked at, the average score was less than 2.5 on just five of them, including embedding text within images, using a high contrast colour for links, and highlighting links that have been focused upon.

The retailer that comes off worse in the study is Currys, with an accessibility score of just 37%, a slight improvement on last year's score of 34%, but still clearly not good enough.

Among the issues with the website is the fact that text cannot be enlarged via the browser, making it very difficult for users with restricted vision. It also makes the mistake of embedding text within images, meaning that key information such as product names and link titles is lost to some users. 

For instance, in the screenshot below, the text next to the search box, the browse link, as well as the free delivery offer is all embedded in images:

Currys links embedded in images

It's good to see that accessibility standards seem to be improving, though there is still work to be done. Currys is obviously one website that needs to address this issue, but there will be others not mentioned in this report, River Island for one, though it does plan to lose the all-Flash site this year.

Graham Charlton

Published 2 March, 2009 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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