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The Problem With Accessible Website Design

By Shaun Anderson

Worrying about being prosecuted under the UK Disability Discrimination Act for the inaccessibility of your company website?

Frightened by web consultants who say your site doesn’t comply – and that the RNIB will prosecute you? Relax – you have more chances of winning the lottery than facing a judge because of your site.

The reality is that, while of course your site should be accessible to visitors with disabilities, the chances of being prosecuted are virtually non-existant, in the UK anyway.

People think the RNIB is out to get them, but this is simply not the truth. The first step these guys will take is to call you up and politely ask you to make a few, probably minor changes to the site, and only if specifically asked to represent one of their ‘clients’.

The RNIB does not surf the net looking for people to prosecute – that’s ludicrous.

If you don’t make the minor changes they might file a complaint against you and after a very long process exhausting all the niceties, they might refer your case to the DRC.

Any website owner with half a brain would immediately make changes that could make their site just a little more accessible and so, nuke any possibility of legal proceedings.

You have to be seen to be TRYING to make your site a bit more accessible.

The liquid nature and growth of the web and the desire to keep pages fresh and unique means that a lot of sites will fail accessibility tests, especially after website updates.

Some pages might fail validation because the designer has introduced a funky new design element and forgot to test it (and is currently tweaking it), or fail to meet Priority 1 because of forgetting to add an ALT tag to a new image.

At the time of writing, the RNIB site currently does not comply with W3C HTML validation recommendations on 7 pages out of 25 using the Silktide SiteScore tests. It’s probably a glitch in a small bit of code, but this is exactly the very reason why you won’t be prosecuted in the UK.

Even the best advisors on website accessibility in the UK mess it up from time to time – and that includes Accessibility 101! The smallest errors in code can lead to a failure to conform to W3C recommendations or to comply with the UK government minimum recommended ‘Priority 1’ WCAG standard. I bet even some pages on UK Government websites fail some sort of tests!


There’s a business case and moral obligation to make your site as accessible as you can.

There are over 8 Million people registered as having a disability in the UK, and a lot of them use the net – do you really want to ignore them?

Prosecutions have been successful in Australia and the US – it will happen here, just not any time soon – so don’t worry too much about prosecution – and don’t listen to the snake oil salesman who want your hard earned cash for total website redevelopment!

About the Author:
Shaun Anderson is the creator of Accessibility101 & Hobo

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Camilla Todd
Camilla Todd is Head of Digital Marketing at WNW Digital and manages Search Engine Optimisation, PPC, Social Media campaigns and Brand Awareness for WNW Digital SEO clients. You can follow her on Twitter @camilla_wnw, email her at or phone on 01392 349580

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