Ealing Council Failing To Make Website Accessible

Review finds that 99% of pages non-compliant with legal requirements

A braille terminal. Picture: Sebastien.delorme

A review of council websites across the country has found that Ealing Council’s web site fails to meet its legal obligations to make it accessible to visually impaired residents.

All but two of the 500 documents on the web site that were reviewed by codemantra between November 2021 and January 2022 were found to meet the required standards. More than than 14,073 of errors were found among 8,679 of pages that were scanned. Important documents found to be non-compliant on the Ealing Council website included details on the borough’s Mental Capacity Act Health Welfare Finance Report.

Regulations require public organisations to make all content published after September 2018 fully accessible, allowing websites and mobile apps to be used by as many people as possible, including those with impaired vision, motor difficulties, cognitive impairments or learning disabilities, deafness or impaired hearing. The deadline for websites to comply with the regulation passed last September.

Ealing Council is among dozens of London authorities that are still not compliant with UK regulations and globally-recognised accessibility standards, with the error affecting hundreds of documents and forms. This means that residents who live with visual impairments or reading disabilities are denied access to important information and services and unable to complete forms they cannot read.

codemantra’s Mark McCallum said: “While many councils have adapted websites to comply with digital accessibility regulations, we’ve found that the documents and forms that lie within the webpages have been largely ignored. In some cases, councils’ accessibility statements do accept they have failed to make documents accessible – but this hardly helps the website users. This failure is akin to providing wheelchair access into a building, but not having an elevator once inside. Particularly as COVID infections are rising, it is crucial that sight disabled Londoners are able to access information and find support where they live.”

As well as councils facing potential reputational and legal risks for non-compliance, productivity losses due to excluding individuals with vision impairment or burdening them with unnecessary barriers can be enormous. According to 2021 data published by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), there are 8,700 people in Ealing borough living with sight loss and 1,360 who are registered blind or partially sighted.

Mr McCallum added, “By addressing all the content on their websites and ensuring it is available to all regardless of disability, local authorities can make their communities a better place and create wider benefits.”

codemantra uses an AI-driven platform that automates digital document accessibility compliance, and transforms documents into accessible formats.

An Ealing Council spokesperson said, “‘Work continues to make our council pages more user-friendly to all our residents and we have updated our accessibility statement on our website as we make improvements, such as converting PDF documents to more accessible web pages. This makes us compliant with legislation as it informs our website users that we know what the issues are and we’re working to resolve them.”

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February 3, 2022