According to a study, nearly three-quarters of large Irish businesses do not have an accessible website.
This could prevent up to 600,000 people from accessing online services and information, according to a report compiled by Inclusion and Accessibility Labs (IA Labs).
The audit covered companies and organizations in the public and private sectors, including schools and universities.
The IA Labs Digital Accessibility Index analyzes websites against a series of requirements defined by a European directive on digital accessibility which was introduced for public sector bodies in 2020. Private companies do not are not required by law to be digitally accessible. Among the criteria is ensuring that websites are navigable for people who use screen readers, fully usable for people who only use keyboards, and have adjustable color contrast for people with visual impairments.
According to the index, no sector has achieved an accessibility success rate above 50%, with Ireland’s main grocery retailers rated as inaccessible, as well as the top 10 online accommodation and rental platforms. .
Only one of 20 private hospitals in Ireland had its website meet the standard to pass the accessibility check, and out of 28 sampled websites of Irish universities, private and public sector schools, none passed .
“Education is a challenge for everyone, but if you have a disability, not even being able to read the information on the website means you have an even bigger challenge,” said Kyran O’Mahoney , CEO of IA Labs. .
On the other hand, the majority of government ministry websites are accessible, but the websites of the Department of Business, Trade and Employment and the Department of Foreign Affairs are not.
Mr O’Mahoney said the index showed more needed to be done to bring Ireland to the forefront of digital accessibility, with data from the Central Statistics Office indicating that there are around 600,000 people with disabilities in Ireland .
“So many people rely on technology as a key enabler,” he said. “Thanks to Covid-19, this reliance on technology for people with sight loss was much greater because everyone was living a fundamentally digital life.”
IA Labs was founded by Mr O’Mahoney in 2021, as a spin-out from NCBI, Ireland’s national vision loss agency. The company aims to give a voice to those excluded from the digital revolution, by offering consulting and auditing services to companies in the public and private sectors on digital accessibility.
“This is really important work and provides a benchmark for assessing digital accessibility and inclusion for all citizens of this country,” said Minister of State for Disability Anne Rabbitte. “The results clearly highlight gaps in compliance with the EU directive and, most importantly, show how proactive public and private companies need to be to ensure their websites are usable by everyone.”