Few Meet Web Accessibility Standards for Users With Special Needs

By Rachel Kelly | Posted: 07 January 2011 2009 hrs

SINGAPORE : Only 5 per cent of Singapore’s top 100 companies ranked by sales revenue meet international standards for web accessibility to users with special needs.

The 5 out of the top 100 which meet World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) recommendations are: Shell Eastern Petroleum, Hewlett-Packard, Glaxo Wellcome Manufacturing, Petrobras Singapore and Exxonmobil Asia Pacific.

In a recent study, Spire Research and Consulting said firms in Singapore appear to be lagging behind regional counterparts, missing out on a potential
opportunity to expand their brand and consumer presence.

Some examples of what some big corporates are doing to make their websites more accessible to users with disabilities include having text beneath pictures which describes the graphics to the visually impaired via a screen reader, and transcripts of videos that are available for web visitors with hearing difficulties.

In Singapore, these seem to be initiatives taken by just a few companies.

Leon Perera, group managing director, Spire Research and Consulting, said: “Well, I think that this city simply hasn’t been pushed by the leaders in the
private sector as well as the public sector enough as it should be.

“If you look at countries with a comparable income level to Singapore, more initiatives seem to have been made in this front in terms of government mandates as well as in terms of what leading companies have been doing.

“The South Koreans … I think have set a good example because they have actually passed legislation, the Digital Divide Act, which mandates certain types of accessibility to be provided by certain types of organisations for special needs users and the disabled community as well.

“I think what is needed in this case is more awareness around the issue and more leadership.”

Experts said that costs to make such changes to the website are negligible, and in most cases such projects take only about three to six months to complete.

And while the time period of updating an existing site may be short, the changes can go a long way. Experts said such initiatives to a corporate website
can help branding as consumers move to a greater awareness of brands that are socially conscious.

Serene Loo, media manager, Shell Eastern Petroleum, said: “We are committed to making Shell’s websites accessible to people regardless of ability or age. We understand how important the Internet is to our customers who have special needs, and we want them to have equal access to our online content.

“Our websites employ universal design principles to ensure that the website can be viewed and navigated effectively by a wide range of users with different needs.”

SingTel, one of the 95 firms which did not meet standards according to the report, said it is looking into how it can improve services that aid access
for the hearing and visually impaired.

Reproduced from http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporebusinessnews/view/1103336/1/.html