Report finds Irish companies failing to meet the challenge of website accessibility
Public sector bodies and private sector companies have been urged to prioritise digital accessibility, after a new report showed that 72% of leading Irish companies do not have accessible websites. The first Digital Accessibility Index for Ireland, published by IA Labs, found that not one sector achieved a greater than 50% accessibility pass rate.
The Digital Accessibility Index analyses websites against a range of requirements set out by an EU Directive on digital accessibility which was introduced for public sector bodies in 2020. This includes ensuring that websites are navigable for people who use screen readers, fully usable for people who only use keyboards due to having reduced motor skills and adjustable colour contrast for people with low vision. Research on accessibility was carried out by IA Labs in 2021 and 2022, with comparisons drawn between the two years.
According to data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), there are approximately 600,000 people in Ireland with a disability. Inaccessible websites and digital platforms can deny people with disabilities access to online services and products.
In the retail sector, the research found that Ireland’s top five grocery retailers were classified as inaccessible as were all ten of the country’s leading online housing and rental platforms.
Separately, only one out of the country’s 20 private hospitals analysed passed the digital accessibility audit. In terms of education, not one website passed out a sample of 28 websites of Irish universities, private and public sector schools.
IA Labs, a spin-out company from NCBI, Ireland’s national sight loss agency, was established in 2021 offering consultancy and auditing services to public and private sector companies on digital accessibility. Based in Dublin, IA Labs is a market leader in the provision of digital accessibility services.
Currently, EU Regulations on digital accessibility only cover public sector bodies. Private companies are not required by law to be digitally accessible, however, this may be extended in future to cover private companies.
In the public sector, the research found 89% of government departments have accessible websites, with the websites of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Department of Foreign Affairs currently deemed not accessible.
Looking specifically at Irish political parties, only the websites of Fianna Fail, Labour and People Before Profit are considered to be digitally accessible for all users.
Kyran O’Mahoney, founder of IA Labs, said: “The findings of the Digital Accessibility Index highlight the need for companies and public bodies to seriously consider their digital offering. 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.”
“Society is a better place when people of all abilities are able to participate in and access it,” said Chris White, CEO of NCBI. “We believe digital accessibility is necessary for creating that world and that Ireland as a hub for global IT companies should be at the forefront of digital accessibility. IA Labs was established to help and support companies and public bodies achieve this goal through its unique and comprehensive offering.”