Companies exclude over £80 billion in revenue and leave themselves exposed to legal action for ignoring the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)

Research conducted in March 2006 by user experience experts Nomensa, shows that almost 75 percent of businesses in the FTSE 100 list of companies fail to meet the minimum requirements for website accessibility. The homepages of each website were measured and evaluated, using manual testing for the first time, against the globally recognised Web Content Accessibility Guidelines* (WCAG).

Only 24 sites achieve the minimum level of accessibility – and none go beyond that to double A or triple A standards*. Out of those 24 sites that met some level of accessibility (single A standard*), two companies stood out from the rest: the Daily Mail & General Trust and Xstrata. In fact, these two organisations only failed to reach the next level by one checkpoint.

Of those this one checkpoint was the most common point of failure – the inability for pages to be expanded or contracted according to the users preference. This failure can exclude people that wear glasses or use screen magnification software, and also people using a PDA, internet television or mobile phone.

The five most common website flaws
1. Poor quality web code
2. Poor use of lists
3. Not using headings and titles properly
4. Missing alternative text for graphical elements
5. Using pop-up windows

Overall, 60 home pages were found to have images that did not come equipped with a text based description, making it impossible for visually impaired people to fully interact with the site.

Impact on industry
Simon Norris, managing director of Nomensa comments: “The Disability Rights Commission (DRC) estimates that there are over 10 million people with disabilities in the UK and by ignoring accessibility and usability, companies are excluding over £80 billion in untapped revenue.”

He continues, “Companies just aren’t appreciating how important this is. As well as leaving themselves exposed to legal action, ignoring accessibility actively turns visitors away. Rejecting usability, in favour of a flashy front of house, encourages negative feelings which can end up dismissing the brand entirely. In our experience, those companies that bridge the gap between creative design and user experience, encounter a positive effect on their bottom line.”

The National Statistics Office states around 30 million adults access the Internet in the UK. Norris is also keen to point out that user experience is not just about supporting people with physical disabilities. Accessibility and usability issues can be accentuated over devices such as mobile phones, PDAs and laptops that are being used to access the Internet without any enhancing software / hardware.

There are also countless millions of people with conditions that affect the way they access the Internet, but do not feature on any register. For example: learning difficulties, cognitive impairments, people with glasses or those that have Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). According to the Dyslexia Institute, there are over 2 million people with severe Dyslexia. All of these groups have the right to access the internet via the best method for their needs. Sadly this is not always achievable.

Understanding the accessibility of a website is the first step in understanding how to:
• Raise the number of visitors to a site
• increase potential revenue
• improve customer loyalty
• maintain an undisputed brand image

Vertical sectors
There were no sectors tested that were significantly advanced, however, there were some companies within sectors that were notably ahead of their peers. For instance:

• Retail – Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury’s
• Financial Services – Alliance and Leicester, Royal and Sun Alliance
• Services – Yell Group, Rentokill-Initial
• Pharmaceutical – GlaxoSmithKline

Research Methodology
The homepages of 99 FTSE 100 company websites were measured and evaluated, for the first time manually, against the globally recognised Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), over a two week period in April 2006. Of the 47 checkpoints required, only four can be tested automatically with any degree of accuracy. Nomensa used its expert inspectors to carry out the remaining 43 checkpoints manually.

Léonie Watson, head of accessibility at Nomensa says: “This is the first time that this research has been largely undertaken manually. We believe that as accessibility is about people, it makes no sense to rely on machines for evaluation. It just isn’t enough.”

The 99 individual companies who had stock listings on the FTSE 100 were selected from the Financial Times on 8th February 2006. Since this time some websites will have undergone changes, but in order to conform to recognised techniques for conducting accessibility inspections, a definitive timeframe was set.

Notes to Editors
About Nomensa
Established in 2001, Nomensa is the digital agency specialising in perfecting online user experience. It combines usability, accessibility and strong web development skills to help public and private sector clients develop online strategies, be more inclusive and accountable.

Nomensa has a research based methodology that put people at the centre of its activities. Everything it does focuses on understanding the experience people have when using technology.

Nomensa currently works with a variety of public and private sector clients, including Haringey Council, Local Directgov, British Gas and Broads Authority.

For more information or a copy of the full report, please contact:
Charlotte Hanson / Georgina Firth
Tel: 0845 408 2031

Images available: Eye tracker devices in action

About the DDA
The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), places an obligation on companies, and indeed any organisation that provides a service, to ensure that their services, including web sites, are accessible to people with disabilities. The DDA is pre-emptive, meaning that steps should be taken by organisations before a complaint is levied by a customer or user.
Since 1999, under the DDA, it has been unlawful to provide a service that does not offer equal access to people with disabilities. Given that the majority of web sites will have undergone at least two major revisions during that time, the arguments for not having included accessibility into the development strategy, on grounds of time, finance or ability, begin to lose their credibility.

About the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
List of Checkpoints for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0
Copyright © 1999 W3C (MIT, INRIA, Keio), All Rights Reserved. W3C liability, trademark, document use and software licensing rules apply.

Priority 1: A Web content developer must satisfy this checkpoint. Otherwise, one or more groups will find it impossible to access information in the document. Satisfying this checkpoint is a basic requirement for some groups to be able to use Web documents.

Priority 2: A Web content developer should satisfy this checkpoint. Otherwise, one or more groups will find it difficult to access information in the document. Satisfying this checkpoint will remove significant barriers to accessing Web documents.

Priority 3: A Web content developer may address this checkpoint. Otherwise, one or more groups will find it somewhat difficult to access information in the document. Satisfying this checkpoint will improve access to Web documents.

Conformance: This section defines three levels of conformance to this document.

• Conformance Level "A": all Priority 1 checkpoints are satisfied;
• Conformance Level "Double-A": all Priority 1 and 2 checkpoints are satisfied;
• Conformance Level "Triple-A": all Priority 1, 2, and 3 checkpoints are satisfied;

Published on: 12:00AM on 2nd May 2006