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A new study suggests that some of the UK's online retailers are not taking the issue of accessibility seriously enough, with progress seeming to stall, according to a new study. 

Last year, Webcredible's Accessibility Report gave the websites of 20 UK high street retailers an average score of 62%, but this year the score has slipped to 60%.

So which retailers need to pay more attention to accessibility? 

The biggest culprit in terms of poor accessibility was Currys, closely followed by Woolworths, which is no surprise since the site is also very poor in terms of usability

The report makes the point that the inclusion of Woolworths this year does bring the overall average down, though it would be worse still if sites like River Island's inaccessible Flash website were also included. 

Currys scores particularly bady on a number of points, such as not making it easy for users to resize text so it is legible and not labelling headings as heading, all of which makes it difficult or impossible for customers with screen readers to use the site. 

Other retailers scoring less than the average of 60% included Body Shop, Early Learning Centre and Mothercare. 

Full table of scores (click image for a larger version): 

B&Q, John Lewis, H Samuel and Argos topped the table, and all of them managed to improve on last year's rating.

DIY retailer B&Q deserves credit for improving its score from 68& last year to 84%. It scored well for a number of factors, and has clearly paid attention to the issue of accessibility. 

Some other retailers would do well to follow B&Q's lead. According to recent stats from fhios, A sixth of the population have health conditions which make it difficult for them to access and transact on many websites. This equates to almost 8m people, or 17% of adults.

Webcredible also estimates that the disabled population in the UK has a combined spending power of £80bn, which should be an incentive for retailers to make their websites more accessible. 

Graham Charlton

Published 19 February, 2010 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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Comments (3)

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taylor

17% is a big number, has anyone done a study that shows such usability improvements generating a lift in traffic revenue?

almost 7 years ago

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J. Vincent

Keep in mind that genuine accessibility affects a population far beyond people with disabilities. For example, proper use of alternative text with graphics benefits nondisabled users with low bandwidth who've turned off automatic graphics loading and some users accessing the Internet via devices other than a computer. In addition, the burgeoning elder population will appreciate accessibility improvements such as good color contrast between text and background, whether or not they identify as having a disability.

almost 7 years ago

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Alex Howland

Obviously it is important to capture as much of the market as possible but retailers are unlikely to do this if the change is at the expense of converting less of the customers from the 83% of the population who are using these websites. To achieve a 100% accessibility score can often place limitations on design and functionality which the retailers will not be naturally inclined to impose. As taylor comments above, a study giving evidence of the potential uplift in traffic / revenue would be an excellent way of encouraging these companies to become more accessible.

almost 7 years ago

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