Global Web Accessibility

April 7, 2011

Cover of Journal of Information Technology and Politics

A scientific publication titled Global Web Accessibility Analysis of National Government Portals and Ministry Web Sites (Morten Goodwin, Deniz Susar, Annika Nietzio, Mikael Snaprud, Christian S. Jensen) was recently published.

The publication presents web accessibility benchmarking methodology, and uses this methodology to present a survey on the accessibility of public web sites in the 192 United Nations Member States. It further identifies common properties of Member States that have accessible and inaccessible Web sites and shows that implementing antidisability discrimination laws is highly beneficial for the accessibility of Web sites, while signing the UN Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities has had no such effect yet. The article also demonstrates that, despite the commonly held assumption to the contrary, mature, high-quality Web sites are more accessible than lower quality ones. Moreover, Web accessibility conformance claims by Web site owners are generally exaggerated.

The countries with web sites that receive the best accessibility scores are:

  1. Germany
  2. Portugal
  3. Spain

The survey also shows that the economy of a country influences the accessibility of web sites, so that, not surprisingly, wealthy countries have more accessible web sites than poor countries. However, the study shows that accessibility laws have more impact than the financial status. Thus, it is not necessarily costly to make web sites accessible. It is however important to have well established accessibility laws which are actively followed up.

(Full disclosure: I am a co-author of the paper)
Morten Goodwin


Universal Design: Is it Accessible?

January 10, 2011

Universal Design: Is it Accessible?” is an interesting and controversial paper published in by Jane Bringolf in The RIT Journal of Plurality and Diversity in Design.

In the paper Bringolf argues that universal design sometimes fails to meet its own principal. For example, despite being far from universal, concepts such as accessibility and disability are often used to describe universal design. Bringolf further argues that this is partly why universal design is understood as a disability product rather than something made for all users.

The author claims that in a legislation with focus on people with disabilities, the benefits for all are lost. Instead the focus for designers and developers is to meet the regulations. This requires designers and developers to think in specially designed for disabled people when developing new products, which is exactly what universal design is trying to prevent.

The author controversially claims that neither legislation nor further research is the solution to a more universal designed world. To avoid people with disabilities becoming just another legal problem for designers, the author wants to re-brand universal design.