Citizens With Disabilities - Ontario
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Many Leading Websites Are Unworkable For The Disabled

85% fail standards of accessibility, and government sites the best, study says

ROBERTO ROCHA, The Gazette
Published: Tuesday, December 04

Most of the leading websites in Quebec are unusable by people with disabilities, a scathing new report shows.

Eighty-five per cent of the 200 most popular sites for Quebec francophones fail standards of accessibility, the study from AccessibilitéWeb and the Institut Nazareth et Louis-Braille for the blind found.

This chasm prevents disabled people from obtaining information and participating in society as able-bodied people can, despite the technologies available to aid them.

The study, released to coincide with the International Day of Disabled Persons, paints a bleak picture of the Web as a tool to bring information for everyone.

"It's a dream for people like me to access such a wealth of information," Yves Fleury, information officer at the Office des personnes handicapées du Québec, said yesterday at a news conference.

"Handicapped people are also consumers."

The most accessible sites for Quebecers are those of the Canadian government. Revenue Canada got the top mark, scoring 9.28 out of 10.

It was followed by the government's main portal and Environment Canada.

AccessibilitéWeb analyzed three pages in the top 200 sites viewed by French-speaking Quebecers according to comScore, a Web ratings agency.

To be deemed accessible, a website must follow the guidelines of the W3C, the body that oversees Web standards. Accessible sites feature, for example, text alternatives to graphical content, captions on videos, and simple layouts that can be read by voice synthesizers or Braille output devices.

For people with motor disabilities, online forms should have error detection mechanisms and permit a transaction to be reversed.

The top non-government site belongs to the Mozilla Foundation, makers of the popular Firefox Web browser. Groupe Desjardins had the highest-rated website for a commercial organization.

But only 4.5 per cent of sites received a grade of "Excellent" or "Very good," according to AccessibilitéWeb's criteria. More than half were deemed "very poor."

Media websites scored the worst, with an average rating of 5.48.

However, Quebec websites scored better than a similar study by British agency Nomensa for the same event last year.

Out of the leading websites across 20 countries, 97 per cent did not provide even minimum levels of accessibility.

To François Aubin, an expert at usability and ergonomics firm Cognitive Group, the numbers are not surprising. He goes as far to say that half of websites aren't even accessible to able-bodied people.

Many times the text is too small for normal standards and the information is badly organized, he said.

"There's a big paradox in Web accessibility," he said. "Sometimes you make sites accessible, but not for the everyman." As an example, the city of Montreal created a good accessible version of its portal, but the regular site remains confusing for the layperson.

"You can follow all the technical norms, but it's more important for people to find info they're looking for," Aubin said.

The drive to be creative and innovative with Web design often does not consider the impact on a user's perception of it, he posited.

The above article was reproduced from http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/business/story.html?id=409bd10d-8191-434a-a5b2-59d7a8da12a7&k=49495.

Additional Information

A French Canadian study evaluating the accessibility of 200 Canadian and international websites found that over 85 per cent of the sites fail to comply with even the most rudimentary web accessibility standards for people with disabilities.

More than half of the sites were ranked as very poor, including Bank of Montreal, VIA Rail, Dell, Expedia, Rogers, Best Buy, Amazon, Workopolis, and McGill University.

Only nine websites, mostly those of the Canadian federal government, were ranked as having very good or excellent accessibility. Amongst commercial websites, the handful of companies that received "good" rankings were Desjardins (credit union) and REMAX International (real estate).

The study was conducted by the Quebec web accessibility company AccessibilitéWeb http://www.accessibiliteweb.com/ in association with the Institut Nazareth et Louis-Braille, a Quebec organization that provides services to people with vision impairments. Detailed reports about particular websites are available for $499 each.

The French report is available at:

http://www.triennale-2007.accessibiliteweb.com http://www.outbind://9/triennale-2007.accessibiliteweb.com.

Crude English translation (Babelfish):

http://tinyurl.com/27l9gu

The Montreal Gazette published an English article about the report on December 4:

http://tinyurl.com/ytxl4u

Note: The Gazette article incorrectly describes the 200 sites that were evaluated as "Quebec websites" when most were not sites of Quebec organizations.

More accessibility articles.