It has been stated that the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are a 12-year-old standard with a 3% implementation. Whether that is true, is undocumented. However, what we can see from this current research is that the same issues continue to affect users of digital material. Organisations surveyed in this research seem to feel that their digital products are largely accessible. Yet the users do not agree, stating the same types of problems they have had for years with very little change.
Users seem to be more likely to raise the issue with website owners, which may be a consequence of legal action taken in different countries, or of website users becoming more aware of the legally mandated accessibility in most countries.
What is clear however, is that there is still a disconnect between what organisations think they are providing (perception), what uses expect (expectations) and what users are getting and how it affects them (reality).
Part of the issue identified in this research is that evaluation of a website’s accessibility is still largely being conducted in-house. This is akin to a student composing an examination, taking it, and then marking it themselves. It carries little validity and no guarantee for the website user. This is also reflected in the low numbers of organisations using third-party external accessibility specialists or carrying any type of certification.
Accessibility statements often state that an organisation is attempting to implement the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, Version x, to the best of their ability, and providing a means to contact them if a user believes this is not the case.
There have been legal cases where an organisation used an automated tool in-house and were found guilty of lack of accessibility as they were not properly educated in the proper use of even interpreting the results. (Gomez vs GNC https://www.adatitleiii.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/121/2018/09/GNC-Decision-S.D.-Fla..pdf)
The researchers asked organisational respondents if they used any standards for procurement such as EN 301549 or AS EN 301549. 49% stated they did, 30% stated they did not, and 21% were not sure. However, they were not clear on how they evaluated tender responses in accordance with those standards. Only 17% stated they needed a third-party validation as proof of accessibility compliance. Of organisations who required proof, 19% stated they required some examples of accessible websites created. However, it was not clear how they would examine those websites to determine if they were actually accessible. Hence, the prevalence of in-house validation and claims.
Once digital accessibility is more clearly mandated, with rules stipulating how claims can be made, and who can claim to be an accessibility expert, we may see improvement of this situation.
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