University Websites Fail Basic Accessibility Guidelines.

 In Internet, Web Design

After my investigation into what websites used valid markup I thought it would be interesting to check how accessible some of the sites are based on the W3C WAI Guidelines. In the UK it is, in theory, against the law to not have an accessible website as it discriminates against the Disabled.

Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) does not refer explicitly to website accessibility, but makes it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities. The DDA applies to anyone providing a service; public, private and voluntary sectors. The Code of Practice: Rights of Access – Goods, Facilities, Services and Premises document published by the government’s Disability Rights Commission to accompany the Act does refer explicitly to websites as one of the “services to the public” which should be considered covered by the Act.

Source:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_accessibility

While I do not think any Webmasters have been prosecuted for this I do think it is important that certain websites conform to the W3C WAI Guidelines. These would include websites for Universities and the Government.

As a quick, and not very scientific, investigation I have decided to check the Top 20 Universities to see if they conform to the W3C WAI Guidelines. As I am not an Accessibility specialist I am keeping it quite simple, I will be checking the home page of each University and running the automated checks from Watchfire WebXact. Just for reference I will also include the results from the W3C Markup validation from my previous tests.

  1. Oxford: Valid XHTML 1.0 Strict : Meets Priority 1 and 3. Contains 1 error with 8 instances in Priority 2
  2. Cambridge: Valid XHTML1.0 Strict: Meets Priority 1. Fails Priority 2 and 3.
  3. Imperial College: XHTML1.0 Transitional 590 errors. Fails Priority 1,2 and 3
  4. London School of Economics: HTML 4.01 Transitional with 79 errors: Meets Priority 1. Fails Priority 2 and 3
  5. St Andrews: Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional: Meets Priority 1. Fails Priority 2 and 3.
  6. University College London: XHTML 1.0 Transitional with 53 errors: Meets Priority 1. Fails Priority 2 and 3.
  7. Warwick: HTML 4.01 Transitional with 4 errors: Meets Priority 2. Fails 1 and 3. There was only 1 Alternative Text Error in Priority 1 though, and 2 in Priority 3.
  8. Bristol: Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional: Meets Priority 1. Fails Priority 2 and 3
  9. Durham: HTML 4.01 Strict with 4 errors. Fails Priority 1, 2 and 3. There was only 1 Alternative Text error in Priority 1, and 1 Link Phrase for Priority 2.
  10. King’s College London: XHTML 1.0 Transitional with 1 error. Meets priority 1. Fails Priority 2 and 3.
  11. Bath: Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional. Meets Priority 1. Fails Priority 2 and 3.
  12. Loughborough: Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional. Meets Priority 1. Fails Priority 2 and 3.
  13. Edinburgh: HTML 4.01 Transitional with 17 errors. Fails Priority 1, 2 and 3. There was one Alternative Text error in Priority 1.
  14. Southampton: Valid XHTML 1.0 Strict. Passes Priority 1 and 2. Fails Priority 3. 1 error in Priority 3 requiring more whitespace between adjacent links.
  15. Aston: HTML 4.01 Transitional with 8 errors. Passes Priority 1. Fails Priority 2 and 3.
  16. York: XHTML 1.0 Transitional with 1 error. Passes Priority 1. Fails Priority 2 and 3.
  17. Exeter: Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional. Passes Priority 1. Fails Priority 2 and 3.
  18. School of Oriental and African Studies: XHTML 1.0 Transitional with 91 errors. Passes Priority 1. Fails Priority 2 and 3.
  19. Nottingham: XHTML 1.0 Transitional failed validation as the document could not be checked. Passes Priority 1. Fails Priority 2 and 3.
  20. East Anglia. XHTML 1.0 Transitional with 1 error. Passes Priority 1. Fails Priority 2 and 3.

Well I won’t lie, I carried out these tests to try and prove that the majority of the top Universities failed the basic requirements for web accessibility. While 12 of the top 20 Universities fail to use valid HTML/XHTML markup only 4 of the top 20 Universities fail to meet the 1st priority defined in the W3C WAI Guidelines.

While the results were not as damning as I may of hoped it is still very poor that 20% of the top 20 Universities fail to meet the basic requirements*. It is also poor that 18(90%) of the Universities fail to go beyond the minimum requirement for web accessibility. After all these are supposed to be the cream of the crop, Universities should be leaders when it comes down to the standards we expect/hope people will conform too.

Out of all the Universities it would appear that the University of Southampton is the only one to excel at their accessibility and quality of markup. As a quick further investigation I quickly validated another 5 random pages on the Southampton University Website. Only one page I checked had a small markup error (The International Undergrad Scholarship page), and this page page also created a “Create link phrase” error for Priority 2. The Hartley News Alumni page actually passed all 3 of the priorities.

*While Warwick did actually meet Priority 2, W3C say Priority 1 is the basic requirement and Web content must satisfy this checkpoint.

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