Cork Businesses At Risk Of Pen...


Cork Businesses At Risk Of Penalties If Websites Are Not Made Accessible

Breda Forrest
Breda Forrest

12:30 20 Nov 2023

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A new report from Inclusion and Accessibility Labs (IA Labs), commissioned by the National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI), has found that 73% of Ireland’s Top 100 companies have inaccessible websites – meaning that they cannot be used by the 600,000 people in Ireland who live with a disability.

While accessibility adoption has been sluggish across a number of sectors, notably education, healthcare and housing, there has been some positive movement with 27% of the top 100 Irish companies having taken steps to improve their website accessibility, despite not yet being legally obligated to do so.

Two schools in Cork were named in the top 10 and commended for their work in making their websites more accessible: Scoil Mhuire on Sidney Place, and Mount Mercy College on Model Farm Road. The Mater Private Cork was also listed among the top private hospitals in the country.

The current legislative position means that under EU Web Accessibility Directive 2020, public sector websites are mandated to meet the requirements of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 AA standard, and ensure that they can be accessed by all users, regardless of ability.

More recently, however, this legislative mandate has been extended, under the European Accessibility Act, to businesses in the private sector so all websites, digital assets and applications of private sector bodies must be fully digitally accessible by June 2025. With 73% of Ireland’s Top 100 companies failing the test, it is clear businesses based in Ireland have just eighteen months to ensure that their content is digitally accessible – or risk facing legal penalties.

The Digital Accessibility Index 2023 audited the accessibility of websites using a standardised testing process, across a number of key sectors; Government, education, manufacturing, healthcare, retail, technology and professional services. Each website audited in the report, has been allocated a pass or fail mark, based on its level of accessibility. The passing criterion ensures that any user living with a disability, can access every part of the website section being tested; and could use and interact with the elements of the website.

The Digital Accessibility Index 2023 key findings include:

  • 73% of the websites of Ireland’s Top 100 companies are inaccessible, with an average of 38 accessibility issues per site
  • 27% of the top 100 Irish companies have taken steps to improve website accessibility but housing, healthcare and education sectors are lagging behind
  • 95% of the websites of education institutions (universities, public and private secondary schools) have inaccessible websites
  • 17 of Ireland’s top 20 public and private hospitals websites are inaccessible
  • Just three of eight political parties audited have accessible websites – a marked improvement from 2021, when no political party passed the accessibility criteria
  • 80% of real estate and housing associations websites are not accessible

The research was launched recently at NCBI’s Training Centre in Drumcondra, by Minister for TradePromotion, Digital and Company Regulation, Dara Calleary TD.

Chief Executive Officer at IA Labs and Chief Technology Officer at the National Council for the Blind of Ireland, Kyran O’Mahoney said: "The findings of the Digital Accessibility Index 2023 demonstrate that, while tangible progress has been made, we still have a way to go towards becoming a fully inclusive society, where digital spaces are accessible to all. With the forthcoming European Accessibility Act, the clock is ticking for many businesses across Ireland, who must now work to ensure that their websites and mobile applications can be accessed by all users. Technology is the single greatest enabler for any person living with a disability; and for businesses, having a fully accessible website ensures that you can reach every single customer. Digital accessibility is a win-win.

Minister for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation, Dara Calleary said: “I welcome the publication of the Disability Accessibility Index as a means to help enterprise and the public sector alike identify where they can improve to make their information more accessible to people with a disability and help move us closer to achieving a more equal and inclusive society.

I was very pleased that Government recently published Digital for Good which is Ireland’s Digital Inclusion Roadmap. The Roadmap fulfils a commitment in the Programme for Government which sets out a vision of a vibrant, inclusive, and thriving Ireland where no one is left behind. It also shows how Government continues to empower and support everyone to use digital services in a meaningful way.”

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