Almost all European web sites fail accessibility test

Almost all European web sites fail accessibility test

The accessibility of websites in Europe is in bad shape. At least, that is the conclusion of a study by the Belgian consulting firm Craftzing. Of all European web pages examined, 94 percent failed criteria such as sufficient colour contrasts, visibility of links and the presence of image alt attributes.

The study concerns the Digital Trust Index that Craftzing conducts annually. The company focuses on a different theme each year. This time, the theme was website accessibility. This concerns the effort required for the visually impaired, (colour) blind and physically disabled to access or read website, among other things.

A quarter of pages failed multiple criteria

Craftzing subjected 260,000 homepages of European companies and organisations to an (automated) test based on WCAG accessibility requirements as put forth by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). As many as 94 percent of all pages failed at least one test. A quarter even failed on more than three criteria examined.

The biggest stumbling block proved to be the presence of sufficient colour contrast between elements on web pages, e.g. between text and backgrounds. Of the pages examined, 71 percent failed this test. Another common problem is a clear description for links: 63 percent of pages failed this test. Additionally, descriptive text is often missing in images (33 percent) and sometimes in buttons (18 percent). This matters because if a link or image contains no text, screen readers for the blind and visually impaired cannot use it.

Even the best scored poorly

In the ranking of individual countries’ scores, Norway takes the top spot but still has a failure rate of 87.68 percent with 4,439 tested pages. Last place goes to Hungary, where over 96 percent of all pages failed the test (based on 7985 pages tested). In general, Nordic countries fared a little better compared to their Southern and Eastern European counterparts. Overall, however, the results seem rather poor.

The number of sites tested varies widely per country: Over 60,000 pages were examined for Germany, but only 8,361 for Sweden and a paltry 4,400 for Slovakia. This has to do with the size of the country and the number of pages supplied by the source used, the Tranco List, a research-oriented ranking of top sites.

EU legislation will mandate accessibility

EU legislation mandating minimum accessibility criteria will take effect in June next year. The standards used are largely based on W3C’s WCAG guidelines. Judging from the results of this test, European companies, governments, and organizations still have work to do.

As a disclaimer, Craftzing admits that an automated test such as the one performed has limits. For example, only a third of all WCAG criteria could be tested this way. Of the 16 million tests the researchers fired at the examined pages, ‘only’ 6.4 million came back with a clear pass/fail result.

Also read: W3C gives new recommendations for building an accessible site