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Parties' Web Sites Difficult For Disabled Users

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: The following article is reprinted from and copyright of the Aberdeen Press and Journal, April 28, 2003.

Disabled web users are being excluded from Internet access to the election manifestos of the country's main political parties, a new study has revealed.

The parties' web sites fall seriously short of accessibility guidelines according to the review by Dundee University's digital-media access group.

In conjunction with the commercial law firm Brodies, the team examined the sites of each of the main political parties standing in the 2003 Scottish Parliament elections to find out how accessible they would be to disabled users.

A selection of key guidelines were used to gauge how accessible manifesto information would be to people who are blind, visually impaired, deaf, cognitively impaired, motor-impaired or have dyslexia.

The study revealed that most party sites would present serious accessibility problems to disabled users. Many sites, including those of Scottish Labour Party and Scottish Conservatives, failed to follow basic accessibility guidelines - which have been in existence as long as the Scottish Parliament itself.

Martin Sloan, of Brodies, said: "The Representation of the People Act 2000 has forced the physical process of voting at elections in the UK to be made more accessible to disabled people. This review shows, however, that despite the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 requiring web site providers to make their sites accessible, it is clearly still very difficult for many disabled voters to be able to access information."

Labour, Lib Dems and SNP sites performed badly. The Scottish Socialist Party's site was found to be the most accessible.