Onetel is leading the field in website accessibility for the disabled, according a new report.
West Midlands-based computing and disability charity, AbilityNet's eighth assessment of websites in selected sectors has awarded www.onetel.co.uk a four-star rating - only the second time that any site has gained such a high score. The Labour Party achieved a similar ranking in the last report on the main political parties.
Kingston Communication's information- only site --www.kcom.com - also gained four-stars - judged by AbilityNet as slightly less significant, as this site has no ecommerce functionality, but nonetheless a considerable achievement.
The survey evaluated the top ten sites for both usability and accessibility with a programme of both automated tools and a wide range of manual checks. Only sites which meet the basic needs of visitors with a vision impairment, dyslexia or physical problem making mouse use difficult, attain three stars and above.
The report's author Robin Christopherson, AbilityNet's web consultancy manager, and himself blind, said: "For the millions of people with a disability or dyslexia the goods and services provided by the organisations featured in our report provide a lifeline - a prerequisite for both independent living and security.
Typical problems encountered included: n Text size on some sites, particularly for headings and links is 'hard-coded' so that it cannot be easily enlarged. ..TEXT: * The text labels attached to images upon which blind visitors and text browser users rely for an explanation are often uninformative or completely absent.
* Pictures of text are often used instead of actual text. This means that the user cannot modify the text size or colour contrast.
* Some sites contain adverts and features made up of moving images that will be distracting for visitors with a cognitive impairment, or interactive presentations known as 'Flash Movies' which can present access problems for visitors who cannot use a mouse, are vision impaired or who use speech output or voice recognition software.
Mr Christopherson said: "We are now beginning to see examples of highly professional and accessible sites that prove incontrovertibly that an organisation's website can and should be accessible to the broadest audience possible.