Popular websites failing to comply with Equality Act legislation

Price comparison sites such as Go Compare, Confused.com and Compare the Market are failing to meet the needs of older and disabled users. In particular, research shows that those with physical problems, visual impairments and dyslexia have struggled using these sites.

These websites are failing to meet basic guidelines and requirements for web accessibility, charity AbilityNet has claimed. This charity focuses on helping those with disabilities use the internet to improve their lives. It found that some of these price comparison sites were virtually impossible to use.

These price comparison sites were tested through a number of manual checks, and also by testing technologies such as voice recognition tools and screen readers. AbilityNet gave a rating out of 3 stars, where 3 stars represented a base level of usability for those with disabilities. Most of the price comparison sites tested scored a mere 1 star rating, with only price comparison site Kelkoo scoring a 2 star. In order to gain a 3 star rating or above, price comparison sites would need to meet the needs of those with impaired vision, physical problems or those that have dyslexia. An example could include dealing with the problem of a user not being able to use a mouse.

This issue of not being able to successfully and effectively access these sites is obviously a problem in itself, but it also has wider implications for those that are denied access. These people may not have a wealth of money, and are prevented from shopping around easily for the best deals online. This means that they are probably paying higher fees and premiums than they need to, which is putting a further strain on some peoples’ already tight pockets.

These issues are completely contrary to the Equality Act legislation and possibly Human Rights law, which provides that it is illegal to discriminate against someone, either directly or indirectly, on the basis of a protected characteristic. Disability and age both fall within the protected characteristics. Despite the fact that many companies are not knowingly making it difficult/impossible for disabled/old people to access their sites, it can be compared to ‘real life’ situations. In real life situations, a company would never prevent or make it difficult for a disabled person or an old person to enter their store, and thus the same concept should be applied online in the virtual world with regards to their website. Many businesses still make the mistake of believing that disability law only applies to employment law and employees but this is not the case, it is of course much wider.

Small steps that could be taken include not making the text on the websites hard-coded. This would mean that those that are visually impaired or who live with dyslexia would be able to enlarge the text in order to better read it. Additionally, text labels which attach to images are often either absent or completely uninformative, making it extremely difficult for blind users and text browser users to comprehend the website.

With over 2 million people in the UK alone having a vision impairment of some kind, 3.4 million having various disabilities which prevent them from being able to effectively use a keyboard, and 1.5 suffering from cognitive difficulties, along with millions of people who are dyslexic, not meeting their needs is both morally incorrect of businesses, and could cost them a lot of potential custom and lead to unwanted bad publicity and costly litigation also.

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