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Website issues blocking disabled people from ‘vital services’, charity warns

PUBLISHED: 18:46 01 October 2020 | UPDATED: 17:59 02 October 2020

Pictured: how enlarged text appeared in a Firefox browser on a PC to someone usually text-enlarging only software before it was fixed. Photo: Scope

Pictured: how enlarged text appeared in a Firefox browser on a PC to someone usually text-enlarging only software before it was fixed. Photo: Scope

Archant

Accessibility issues with Norfolk County Council’s website could be “blocking disabled people accessing vital online services”, a disability charity has warned.

The government introduced new legislation to ensure local councils’ websites are accessible to people with disabilities, with the deadline for compliance on Friday, September 23.

But disability equality charity Scope warned that the county council was failing in legal duty.

Campaigners warned that, across the country, “millions of disabled people could be being blocked from accessing vital online services”.

Kristina Barrick, head of digital influencing at Scope, said: “Our findings suggest many disabled taxpayers are still being shut out of accessing digital services.

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“Public sector organisations provide crucial services. It’s worrying to see disabled people being forgotten about again.

“With local lockdowns on the rise across the UK, it is unacceptable that disabled people may be unable to access information about support.”

The charity’s research found Norfolk’s website ranked the second-highest for accessibility issues amount the top ten most populous counties in England.

The issues included:

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• Blind or partially-sighted people, or anyone that does not use a mouse, cannot close the cookies control panel,

• Users that enlarge text had problems with text not enlarging properly and getting mixed up,

• Some links do not make sense when read by a screen reader.

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But Scope said the council, which has more than 4,000 documents on 3,000 webpages, were working with them to make the required changes to the site.

Andy Hall, head of digital inclusion, who tested the council’s websites, said: “We found a number of elements on the website that were problematic.

“The critical thing with local authorities is you can’t just choose another one - you can always go and choose another supermarket.”

A council spokesman said: “We are grateful to Scope for sharing their results and we are already working with them to solve the six issues they raised, one of which has already been fixed.

“They also agreed, on review, that one of these issues did adhere to accessibility guidelines.

“We will continue to work with Scope and other groups to continually improve our website’s user experience for everyone.”

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