How accessible are Britain's online newspapers? Part 11 - Feature chart and scores

Martin Belam  by Martin Belam, 20 November 2007

Over the last two weeks I've been testing the accessibility credentials of 9 of Britain's leading online newspapers, The Daily Express, Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, Daily Star, Guardian, Independent, The Sun, The Telegraph and The Times.

Newspaper mastheads

I've been looking at how they perform at basic accessibility tasks like re-sizing the text in a browser, rendering the page without images or JavaScript, and how a screen-reader emulator called FANGS copes with their pages. Yesterday I wrote in more detail about the scope of the tests and my method of scoring the newspapers.

Today I wanted to publish a grid laying out the successes and failures of each newspaper on the tests.

Online accessibility feature comparison chart for 9 British newspapers
Feature Express Mail Mirror Star Guardian Indy Sun Telegraph Times
Text resize widgetNoNoNoNoYesYesNoNoNo
IE6 text resizeNoNoYesNoYesNoNoNoYes
Firefox text resizeNoYesYesNoYesYesNoYesYes
Alt textYesYesYesYesYesNoYesYesYes
Meaningful alt textNoYesYesNoYesNoYesYesYes
Navigation without imagesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Functionality without imagesYesNoYesYesYesYesNoYesYes
Navigation without JavaScriptNoYesYesNoNoYesNoNoYes
Functionality without JavaScriptYesYesNoYesYesNoYesNoYes
Skip content linksNoYesNoNoYesNoYesNoYes
AccesskeysNoYesNoNoYesNoNoNoNo
Words in FANGS to reach story544 - not main story110132584715127341272380321

Whilst I was performing the tests, I also marked the newspapers, and the table below shows the rankings of the papers and how they scored. For more information about how the scores were determined, you can see yesterday's post about the methodology of the tests.

British newspaper accessibility test results
Position Newspaper Score
1. The Times icon  The Times 16
2. The Guardian icon  The Guardian 15½
3. Daily Mirror icon  Daily Mirror 13
4. Daily Mail icon  Daily Mail 11½
5. The Telegraph icon  The Telegraph 10
6. The Independent icon  The Independent 9
7= Daily Star icon  Daily Star 8
7= The Sun icon  The Sun 8
9. Daily Express icon  Daily Express 7

As I mentioned at the beginning of this series, I've really only scratched the surface with these tests. I've tried to follow the WAI guidelines for testing as much as possible, but obviously I would have preferred to assess a bigger sample of pages from each newspaper. Had I been doing this as a professional venture, I would have also wanted some one-to-one sessions with experienced web users with accessability needs to test the sites 'in the field'.

Overall my conclusion has to be that only a couple of newspapers are taking seriously any obligation to make their services accessible. I was particularly concerned by The Sun and the Daily Mail using CAPTCHA technology with no alternative for users with accessibility issues, but the general pattern for most papers was quite poor. Many are putting completely unneccessary barriers in the way of people reaching their content by making simple decisions like using fixed font sizes, and not including 'skip navigation' links.

Sadly, given the range of issues I found with my small and crude set of tests, I have to conclude that website accessibility testing is very low on the priority list for most newspapers.

3 Comments

Journalism.co.uk is just in the process of publish a set of studies into accessibility - they've had the benefit of being able to assess the papers with real users. Plus, because they are proper journalists, they got responses to the tests from the papers involved. Looks like a great set of articles shaping up.

I know it makes a simple table more difficult, but a text-size widget is unnecessary at best (http://blog.fawny.org/2007/11/28/widgits/), and accesskeys certainly shouldn't be included (http://www.nomensa.com/resources/articles/accessibility-articles/access-keys.html).

Also, I'd suggest that the number of words before the story is only really a problem if you don't have skip links.

Also, I'd suggest that the number of words before the story is only really a problem if you don't have skip links.

Absolutely, but as you see, 5 of the newspapers don't include skip links. I purposefully devised the scoring so that a paper like The Guardian wasn't penalised for the huge amount of text to wade through if you didn't use the skip links they provided.

Regarding text widgets - these tests were pretty lightweight, and I think the presence of one is an indicator of whether a newspaper publisher has even considered accessibility issues in their site design. For that reason I included it in the table.

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