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BizReport : Ecommerce archives : March 03, 2009

British e-tailers inconsistent with site accessibility

Many e-commerce websites in the U.K. have improved accessibility, found Webcredible's follow-up to last year's report, but some are doing worse than last year.

by Helen Leggatt

In its Accessibility of the Online High Street report, Webcredible estimates the combined spending power of the U.K.'s disabled population at around £80bn ($113bn) demonstrating the need for e-tailers to provide accessible websites.

In addition, the Disability Discrimination Act states that, "It is unlawful for a service provider to discriminate against a disabled person by refusing to provide any service which it provides to members of the public".

For both those reasons, it's important for site owners to ensure people with disabilities, including blindness, epilepsy and deafness, aren't at a disadvantage when visiting their site.

Webcredible's survey of the U.K.'s top online retailers found that 7 of the 19 retailers achieved lower scores than they did last year - including 2007's top-rated site, H. Samuel, which dropped to 7th place this year. It is apparent from the report that many e-tailers are inconsistent at implementing the guidelines.

Boots was the biggest gainer in the study, raising its accessibility score from a poor 37% to 72% this year, putting the e-tailer in second place behind John Lewis(74%).

The areas that need improvement remain as last year, including using appropriate alternative text for images, not embedding text within images so that it can be resized properly, and providing skip links to get to the main content more easily.

"The vast majority of websites now offer average to good accessibility on many of the guidelines, but sloppiness and inconsistency is still inherent when it comes to the implementation of accessibility - perhaps more so than in 2007, with some retailers letting their scores slip," concluded the report (.pdf).

Tags: accessibility, blindness, Boots, British, deafness, disability, Disability Discrimination Act, e-commerce, e-tailers, epilepsy, H Samuel, John Lewis, U.K, Webcredible

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