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Web designers wrong to think accessibility is 'difficult and expensive'

Tuesday, December 23rd 2014 by Ellen Branagh

Accessibility is often seen as less important than things like style when designing websites, according to the head of a new body set up to address issues faced by disabled and older people in accessing digital services.

Kevin Carey, chair of the new Digital Accessibility Alliance, said there is a mistaken belief that accessible sites are unattractive, difficult and expensive.

The alliance features members from government departments, regulators, business and the not-for-profit sector. It was set up to address issues that disabled and older people face when accessing services such as online banking and digital TV, or while using public transport.

Its aim is to promote access to digital services and good practice, as well as encouraging compliance with laws on online inclusion such as the Equality Act 2010.

The Equality Act prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities, including on websites.

Speaking to Cable.co.uk Mr Carey, who is also chair of the RNIB (Royal National Institute for the Blind), said barriers to accessibility include the public sector not taking its own accessibility rules seriously enough, and businesses not understanding markets.

“Almost all the solutions to tackling these barriers revolve around political will by the public sector and proper commercial practises by businesses,” he said.

Mr Carey said there are a few technological barriers to accessibility but they are “tiny” compared to the “people” obstacle.

He added: “The Government policy is right on accessibility, but in my view it is too often the case that accessibility is ranked lower than other attributes such as house style.

“There is, in my opinion, the false belief that accessible sites are not visually attractive.

“This is partly because of the disability sector itself, but also the case that designers tend to think accessibility is difficult and expensive.”

The alliance, which was announced earlier this month, has met for the first time to agree its priorities and will meet at regular intervals throughout the year.

It will build on the work of the previous eAccessibility Forum, which worked to ensure accessibility, affordability and equal participation for disabled users in the digital economy.

As the alliance was announced, digital minister Ed Vaizey said: “The explosion of digital services provides endless opportunities for all – but the government is all too aware that disabled and older people can often intentionally be left behind.

“By bringing together the various parties, through the alliance, we can work together to address any issues and make a difference.”

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