Survey Shows Accessibility Barriers on Forty-eight State Coronavirus Websites
National Federation of the Blind Demands States Take Swift Action
Baltimore, Maryland (April 30, 2020): The National Federation of the Blind, America’s civil rights organization of the blind, responded today to a recent survey finding accessibility barriers on forty-eight of fifty state websites that provide critical information about the coronavirus pandemic. The survey was commissioned by The Markup and conducted by Web AIM, a widely respected web accessibility organization. Web AIM tested the sites with its automated tool WAVE, which it acknowledges detects fewer than forty percent of web accessibility errors, indicating that these sites may have additional issues that were not detected. The tool found no accessibility issues on the sites of Maine and New Mexico.
“Equal access to websites is always critical, and we have been advocating for an accessible internet for over twenty years,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “During this national emergency, it is particularly important that blind people get timely and accurate information about the coronavirus and the steps that we should be taking to protect ourselves and our families. We realize that many of these websites were put up quickly and that the ever-changing situation means that they must be updated frequently, but state and federal laws still require equal access, and blind Americans demand it. At the same time, we are willing to collaborate with state governments by providing technical expertise and testing by blind users through our Center of Excellence in Nonvisual Access to Education, Public Information, and Commerce. We urge state governments to work with the National Federation of the Blind to identify and rectify all accessibility barriers quickly and to put plans in place to maintain accessibility going forward.”
Improperly coded websites cannot be read accurately by screen-reader technology used by the blind, which converts the content of websites into synthesized speech or into Braille that can be displayed on a connected device known as a refreshable Braille display. In addition, poor color contrast and the inability to adjust text size make sites difficult to read for low-vision users, including seniors. Common barriers identified by the survey and in interviews with blind people conducted by The Markup include poor contrast, unlabeled buttons and graphics, infographics whose content is not also presented as text or in tabular form, and PDFs that are only images or are not properly tagged to be read by screen readers.