Banks criticised for lack of online accessibility

27 February 2004
A new report by a national computing and disability charity has criticised UK online banks for not providing at least minimum accessibility standards.

The eNation report by AbilityNet rated nine UK online banks with a star system, with only NatWest gaining three stars out of a possible five, meaning it narrowly satisfied the minimum criteria for users with disabilities.

Checks are made using both automated tools and manual checks to determine whether websites are accessible for users with dyslexia, vision impairment or a physical disability that makes mouse use hard.

Other ratings gave Barclays, Lloyds TSB, Smile, Egg, IF and FirstDirect with two stars and HSBC, Halifax and Cahoot only gaining one, meaning they were "very inaccessible".

However Web Consultancy Manager at AbilityNet, Robin Christopherson, who is blind himself, claimed the results were not completely negative.

"The online banks score significantly higher than the sites tested in our previous surveys focusing on airlines and newspapers, none of which reached minimum accessibility standards," he said.

Mr Christopherson added: "Banks have realised quicker than other service providers perhaps, that the end user is looking for critical functionality - to check their account and make transactions - rather than to be impressed and entertained by ingenious design and creativity."

Amongst the most common problems with the sites were the lack of "tool tips" which help blind visitors gain descriptions of pictures, as well as pictures of text used instead of actual text.

AbilityNet warned banks that they could be missing out on a potential market of 1.6 million blind users, and another 3.4 prospective customers with disabilities, if they continued to exclude disabled people.