Central Government seems to be failing users with disabilities

20 Aug 2019

At Sitemorse we published our 2019 Q3 UK Central Government INDEX this week. The INDEX has been published quarterly since 2006 and ranks the websites of nearly 200 UK Central Government organisations, based on User Experience, Search Engine Optimisation and Governance, Risk and Compliance.

Congratulations to the Student Loans Company for taking first place and to Sir John’s Soane’s Museum for being the most improved. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority also deserve a mention for rising 46 places to second in the table.

However, it is somewhat concerning that no organisation within Central Government has passed Level A and AA on all of their pages.

If we focus purely on Accessibility, then there are some rather disappointing statistics:

  • Only 2 organisations scored 8 or higher
  • 58% of organisations scored 3 or less
  • 32% actually scored zero

On 23 September 2018 The EU Directive on the accessibility of public sector websites and mobile apps (Directive (EU) 2016/2102 using European standard EN 301 549 V1.1.2 (2015-04)), came into force for in the UK. 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

Accessibility means more than putting things online. It means making your content and design clear and simple enough so that most people can use it without needing to adapt it, while supporting those who do.

There are three key dates for compliance to be achieved:

  • 22 September 2019 - New public sector websites (those published after 22 September 2018)
  • 22 September 2020 - All other public sector websites
  • 22 June 2021 - Public sector mobile apps

Perhaps the organisations have been distracted by Brexit or maybe they are focused on September 2020 and within the next 12 months we will see huge improvement. Clearly Central Government needs to do more.

We’ve already seen that in the US that lawsuits alleging web sites discriminating against people with disabilities are increasingly common – how long will it be before we see the same happening in the UK?

Top ten websites

  1. Student Loans Company
  2. Nuclear Decommissioning Authority
  3. Science Museum Group
  4. Security Services (MI5)
  5. Department of Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs NI
  6. The Executive Office NI
  7. The Pensions Regulator
  8. Ministry of Justice (MoJ)
  9. The Northern Ireland Executive
  10. Research for Development Outputs

Five Most improved websites

  • Sir John Soane’s Museum
  • Nuclear Decommissioning Authority
  • Transport for London
  • Department of Education NI
  • Natural Environment Research Council

The full 2019 Q3 UK Central Government results can be found here: Sitemorse 2019 Q3 UK Central Government INDEX