Council’s website is only 1% compliant with accessibility guidelines

Croydon Council has failed to meet its legal obligations to make its website accessible to visually impaired residents, an independent investigation has found.

Not very well: Croydon Council’s ‘clumsy’ website

Regulations passed in 2018 gave UK public organizations three years to ensure all content published after a set date was fully accessible, allowing websites and mobile apps to be used by as many people as possible. , including people with reduced vision, motor difficulties, cognitive impairment. or learning disabilities, deafness or hearing impairment.

The deadline for websites to comply with the regulations was September 2020.

But an assessment by document processing company Codemantra found that just 1% of Croydon Council’s website complies with the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Apps) Accessibility Regulations 2018.

Using internationally recognized accessibility standards, Codemantra checked 701 documents on the Croydon Council website. He found that 697 failed to meet the standards.

Checking 12,309 pages of the council’s website that were scanned, the assessment found over 19,859 errors.

Transformation: Neil Williams quit his £100,000+-a-year job as head of the council’s digital department

Important documents deemed non-compliant on Croydon Council’s website included details of the borough’s Family Justice Center referral form.

And all this despite the council, under the leadership of Jo Negrini, having spent millions of pounds on an expensive recruitment drive under a ‘digital director’.

Neil Williams was appointed manager of the council’s new Croydon digital service in 2018. He inherited what was then recognized as one of the least user-friendly websites among local authorities in London.

The council had recently breached all sorts of data protection laws by outsourcing the management and control of its entire database, including the council’s personnel records and tax accounts, to India.

To fulfill the council’s statutory obligations to people with special educational needs and disabilities – SEND – Croydon launched a local supply site which was also found to break the law in several respects.

And he gained national notoriety when he spent at least half a million pounds on his controversial and utterly useless CrapApp for residents to report theft tips, missed bin collections and dead animals, which was so bad that it had to be scrapped in 2018.

After joining the council, Williams signed a “pledge” in which he basically promised to do his job right: “transforming digital services for residents, putting their needs first and radically improving their living experiences. ‘interaction with the online board’. .

It was Williams and Negrini’s shared vision of “digital first,” where much of the council’s contact with borough residents would be handled remotely, online, with forms on the council’s website. . Vast savings were promised…

Despite hiring dozens of staff, many at six-figure consultancies, to realize the cost savings promised by digital-first, Williams announced he was leaving his board position at the end of last November.

AAccording to Codemantra’s investigation, Croydon Council is among dozens of London authorities failing to comply with UK regulations and globally recognized accessibility standards, with the error affecting hundreds of documents and forms.

This means residents who live with visual impairments or reading disabilities are denied access to important information and services and are unable to complete forms they cannot read.

“While many councils have adapted websites to comply with digital accessibility regulations, we have found that the documents and forms that reside on web pages have been largely ignored,” said Codemantra’s Mark McCallum. . Inside Croydon.

“In some cases councils’ accessibility statements accept that they have not made documents accessible – but this does little to help website users.

“Failure is like providing wheelchair access in a building, but not having an elevator once inside.

“Particularly as covid infections rise, it’s crucial that Londoners with low vision can access information and find help where they live.”

In addition to boards that face potential reputational and legal risks for non-compliance, the productivity losses from excluding people with visual impairments or imposing unnecessary barriers on them can be enormous.

According to 2021 data published by the Royal National Institute of Blind People, there are 10,300 people in Croydon council who are living with sight loss and 1,825 who are registered blind or partially sighted.

“By curating all content on their websites and ensuring it is accessible to everyone, regardless of disability, local authorities can make their communities a better place and create wider benefits,” said McCallum.

Council website accessibility testing was undertaken by codemantra between November 2021 and January 2022. Codemantra uses an AI-based platform that automates accessibility compliance of digital documents and transforms documents into formats accessible.

Inside Croydon invited the board to comment on this latest dismal failure, but Fisher’s Folly’s propaganda department did not respond.

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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and their political times in London’s diverse and most populous borough. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email [email protected]

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