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Adam Turner

UK & IE Universities’ progress with Accessibility

Index Accessibility


With all public sector websites needing to be compliant with European standard EN 301 549 V1.1.2 (2015-04) by 22 September 2020; we look at the progress Universities are making in ensuring their websites are accessible to people with disabilities.

At Sitemorse we published our 2020 Q3 UK & IE Universities INDEX this week. The INDEX has been published quarterly since 2011 and ranks the websites of over 220 universities for digital compliance, based on User Experience, Search Engine Optimisation and Governance, Risk and Compliance.

Our Q3 2020 INDEX was compiled following over 225 million tests, checks and measures across over 690,000 URLs.

Congratulations to University of Derby for regaining first place and to Royal Academy of Music for being the most improved, rising 162 places up the table.

Overall, 28 universities improved the accessibility of their website, whilst 21 have seen it decline and 168 have made no progress.

Whilst no universities passed the WCAG 2.1 Level A and AA tests on 100% of their web pages, there were also none that failed the these tests on every page.

There has been a lot of press coverage of late on some of the top universities ensuring they do not discriminate against less advantaged pupils. Since 2010, Universities and further education establishment have needed to ensure they comply with the equalities act– and partly this ensures that pupils, staff and visitors are not discriminated against if they have a disability.

European Union Directive 2016/2102/EU, creating a set of standards for EU public sector bodies, using European standard EN 301 549 V1.1.2 (2015-04), was approved on October 26, 2016. It came into force for in the UK on 23 September 2018. The aim of the regulations is to ensure public sector websites and mobile apps can be used by as many people as possible.

This includes those with:

  • impaired vision
  • motor difficulties
  • cognitive impairments or learning disabilities
  • deafness or impaired hearing

New public sector websites have needed to be complaint since 22 September this year, all other public sector websites need to be compliant by 22 September 2020.

If we focus on accessibility, The University of Manchester and University of Derby should be congratulated for taking the lead in this sector on accessibility, top scoring with a score of 8 (out of 10).

As for the rest of the universities:

  • 29% of universities scored 5 or 6 (out of 10) for accessibility
  • 45% of universities scored between 1 and 4 (out of 10) for accessibility
  • 25% of universities scored zero for accessibility

In the event of 2 organisations being tied then the organisation who scored higher in the previous quarter’s INDEX is ranked higher.

Top ten websites

  1. University of Derby
  2. Harper Adams University
  3. The University of Stirling
  4. Leo Baeck College
  5. London South Bank University
  6. Manchester School of Architecture
  7. Newman University, Birmingham
  8. University of Sunderland
  9. Leeds Trinity University
  10. University of Worcester

Five Most improved websites

  • Royal Academy of Music
  • School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS…
  • Bangor University (Prifysgol Bangor)
  • University of Northampton
  • FutureLearn

The full UK & IE Universities Q3 2020 results can be found here: Sitemorse UK & IE Universities INDEX

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