5 December 2006
Press Release

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



Testing of 100 leading websites around the world found that only three meet international standards of accessibility for persons who are blind, have low-vision disabilities, or cannot use a computer mouse, according to a new survey commissioned by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

The new study, which is being released as the United Nations marks the International Day of Disabled Persons, looked at some of the leading websites in 20 countries that have relatively developed Internet infrastructure, and concluded that the vast majority of websites do not approach accepted international standards of accessibility.  But the survey found that a quarter of the websites investigated could easily be brought into conformance with the standards.

The report, conducted by the British accessibility firm Nomensa, looked at the leading websites for travel, finance, media, Government and retail shopping in each of the 20 countries and found that only three Government sites -- for the German Chancellor, the Spanish Government and the British Prime Minister -- met the basic standards for accessibility.

The 20 countries are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Germany, India, Kenya, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Russian Federation, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States.

“This survey shows that we’re not close to reaching the Internet’s full potential for use by persons with disabilities,” says Thomas Schindlmayr, policy specialist for the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.  “Webmasters around the world -- including at the United Nations itself -- should be aware that they are losing a significant portion of their intended audience by not being fully accessible to all people.”

An accessible website does not necessarily require great expense and the report found that many of the websites under review were within “grasping distance” of the minimum standards.  There were 8 sites that had only one issue to resolve and 25 others with two.

The survey used the globally recognized benchmarks for accessibility adopted in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.  Websites, according to the Guidelines, must allow users, particularly those who used web readers, to easily adjust text size, to easily navigate through a website, to easily differentiate between colours, to offer an alternative to JavaScript that prevents many people from accessing key information, and by allowing keyboard shortcuts.

“Fully accessible websites are not only good for persons with disabilities, they are good for everyone,” Mr. Schindlmayr said.  “Persons with disabilities shop, they travel and they need information just like everyone else.  Allowing people to exercise their human rights and play their full part in the economic, social and political lives of their societies just makes good sense all around.”

For information, please visit www.un.org/esa/socdev/enable or contact, at the Department of Public Information, Edoardo Bellando, tel. (212) 963 8275, e-mail bellando@un.org, or Daniel Shepard, tel. (212) 963 9495, e-mail shepard@un.org.

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For information media • not an official record