72pc of Irish companies do not have accessible websites, report finds

27 Apr 2022

From left: Minister of State at the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Anne Rabbitte, TD, with IA Labs director Kyran O’Mahoney and NCBI CEO Chris White at the launch of the first Digital Accessibility Index for Ireland. Image: Fennell Photography

The Digital Accessibility Index found that Ireland’s top five grocery retail websites were classified as inaccessible based on an EU directive.

A new report released today (27 April) claims that 72pc of leading Irish companies do not have websites that are considered accessible for people with disabilities.

The first Digital Accessibility Index, published by Inclusion and Accessibility Labs (IA Labs), also showed that no sector in Ireland achieved an accessibility pass rating of more than 50pc.

The index analysed websites against a range of requirements set out by an EU directive that came into effect in 2020. These requirements are meant to ensure public websites and mobile apps are accessible to all people, including those with disabilities.

The EU requirements include ensuring that websites can be navigated by people using screen readers and people who only use keyboards due to reduced motor skills, and have adjustable colour contrast for people with low vision.

Based on these requirements, the report found that Ireland’s top five grocery retail websites were classified as inaccessible, along with all 10 of the country’s leading housing and rental platforms.

In the 2016 census, more than 640,000 people in Ireland stated they had a disability, which represents around 13.5pc of the population, according to the CSO.

IA Labs said inaccessible websites and digital platforms can deny people with disabilities access to online services.

“The findings of the Digital Accessibility Index highlight the need for companies and public bodies to seriously consider their digital offering,” IA Labs founder Kyran O’Mahoney said. “No company sets out to create an inaccessible website, but our research tells us that there needs to be a greater focus on prioritising accessibility.

“The fact that not one of Ireland’s top five grocery retailers has an accessible website is an example of how barriers to access can be created, negatively impacting people with disabilities.”

The report said only one out of the country’s 20 private hospitals passed the digital accessibility requirements. In the education sector, every website was deemed inaccessible from a sample of 28 Irish universities, private schools and public schools.

Currently, EU regulation on digital accessibility only covers public sector bodies, so private companies are not required by law to be digitally accessible. The index found that 89pc of Government departments have accessible websites.

Minister of State for Disability Anne Rabbitte, TD, said: “The findings clearly highlight where compliance with the EU directive is falling short and, importantly, demonstrates how both public and private companies need to be proactive in ensuring their websites are usable by everyone.”

The research on accessibility was carried out by IA Labs between 2021 and 2022, with comparisons drawn between the two years.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic