IA Labs launches Digital Accessibility Index 2023
As part of their official company launch in April 2022, IA Labs published the first edition of the Digital Accessibility Index (DAI). Commissioned by the National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI), this annual report gives valuable insights into the digital accessibility of key areas in Ireland’s public sector, including government parties, education, housing, healthcare, and Ireland’s leading companies. The DAI returned for its second edition this November 2023, launched by the Minister for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation Dara Calleary.
Over 170 websites are included in DAI 2023. The IA Labs team performed manual accessibility audits on these websites’ home pages, navigation menus, and footer sections, measuring compliance against the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, the international standard for digital accessibility. Their audits revealed a wide variety of issues, including low colour contrast, unlabelled images, buttons, and links, and entire sections that couldn’t be parsed by assistive technologies. Based on these issues, each website was allocated a pass or fail mark. While a pass mark does not guarantee a website is completely digitally accessible, it would be considered at least usable.
DAI 2023 presents stark findings: only 27% of the websites of Ireland’s top 100 companies can be used by people with disabilities, a 1% decrease from last year’s report. These 100 websites contained an average of 38 accessibility issues each according to IA Labs. Similarly, 95% of Ireland’s top university and secondary school websites are inaccessible, while a mere three out of 20 healthcare institution websites can be accessed by those with disabilities. The only marked improvement recorded by DAI 2023 was in Ireland’s political parties: three out of eight party websites were digitally accessible, in comparison to DAI 2022’s zero.
Digital accessibility is a growing issue, not only in Ireland but around the world. Many countries adhere to some form of digital accessibility law, with the European Union passing the EU Web Accessibility Directive in 2016 to regulate accessibility on public sector websites and mobile applications. However, the Directive has been extended to the private sector – under the European Accessibility Act (EAA), all digital assets, products, and services entering the EU market after June 2025 must be accessible. With only 19 months left until the EAA’s deadline, it is clear that businesses based in Ireland have a long way to go towards digital accessibility, or else face risking legal penalties.
Kyran O’Mahoney, IA Labs Chief Executive Officer and NCBI Chief Technology Officer said, “The findings of the Digital Accessibility Index 2023 demonstrate that, while tangible progress has been made, we still have a way to go towards becoming a fully inclusive society, where digital spaces are accessible to all. With the forthcoming European Accessibility Act, the clock is ticking for many businesses across Ireland, who must now work to ensure that their websites and mobile applications can be accessed by all users. Technology is the single greatest enabler for any person living with a disability; and for businesses, having a fully accessible website ensures that you can reach every single customer. Digital accessibility is a win-win.”
Dara Calleary, Minister for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation said, “I welcome the publication of the Disability Accessibility Index as a means to help enterprise and the public sector alike identify where they can improve to make their information more accessible to people with a disability and help move us closer to achieving a more equal and inclusive society.”
IA Labs plan to continue publishing the DAI as an annual report to track Ireland’s progress towards full digital inclusion. The team would like to sincerely thank everyone involved in the report’s publication and launch, in particular NCBI and Minister Dara Calleary for their support. If you want to find out more about the work we do to make the digital world more accessible to those with disabilities, you can view our list of services or read DAI 2023 in full.