A report by e-accessibility charity AbilityNet finds that none of the major political party websites comply with the minimum legal standard of accessibility Allana Grant in UK Politics
05 May 2015
As the general election campaign enters its final stages, the scramble for last-minute votes has begun.
Today, Conservative leader David Cameron was spotted canvassing for votes in the capital, his coalition partner Nick Clegg set off on a two day whistle stop tour of the UK, going from Land’s End to John O’Groats, whilst Labour leader Ed Miliband’s focus was on winning key seats in the south of England.
However, in the closest election for generations, where literally every vote counts, perhaps the main political parties should be turning their attention to the 1 in 5 disabled voters in Britain who could very well play a pivotal role in the outcome of Thursday’s election.
Research from the Benefits and Work website has shown that working-age welfare claimants, the majority of whom are disabled, could more than likely sway the destination of dozens of key marginal seats.
Although the government was instrumental in helping launch “Operation Disabled Vote (ODV) last November; it would seem that the initiative, which called upon disabled voters to register to vote, was merely the first step on the road to gaining equality for the UK’s millions of disabled voters.
Disabled voters remain amongst the most excluded and marginalised groups in Britain.
A fact which is becoming only too apparent as digital technology, and in particular digital media, advances at a rate of knots.
And in this, the most digital election the country has thus far witnessed, it has become evident that disabled people are being denied access to important information and services.
Information that may well allow them to make a balanced decision on Thursday, or in many cases, provide details about the method by which they cast their vote.
In the months running up to the election, AbilityNet, a leading E-Accessibility charity which has been in existence for more than 20 years, employed several disabled web accessibility testers to see just how well the UK’s main parties websites stood up to scrutiny.
A battery of industry standard tests, including checking code, performing manual checks for best practise and assessing usability for disabled users, was conducted on all seven of the main party websites by people with a variety of impairments and life limiting conditions.
The results were published by AbilityNet in a damning report on Friday: finding that no one of the major party’s websites complies with the minimum legal standard of accessibility.
In fact, AbilityNet’s testers have gone so far as to say that all the sites, without exception, are “difficult and frustrating” for disabled people to use, and that they “fell far short of reaching the minimum legal requirements”.
Here is how the sites ranked in order of ease of use:
A shocking outcome to say the least! with the party in current government not even making it in to the top 3.!
Robin Christopherson, Head of Digital Inclusion at AbilityNet said: “If web accessibility were to determine the outcome of the General Election on 7 May then the top 3 parties would be Labour, SNP and the Liberal Democrats although none of the above meet minimum accessibility requirements so it’s questionable whether they deserve the disabled vote. In an election where every vote counts, the political parties should take note and put web accessibility at the top of their digital agendas”
It is certain that this Thursday’s election will be won and lost in margins; With as little as a few thousand votes deciding the key seats.
So the failure of Britain’s 7 main parties to address the needs of the country’s millions of disabled citizens could, it seems, cost them dearly!