Intro: This first-of-its-kind study compares the degree of (and factors underlying) web accessibility for people with disabilities, of public sector or NPO websites in Israel and New Zealand — two countries with similar laws and sociological characteristics — based on a representative sample Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 criteria, accepted by many countries. A secondary goal: researching the financial costs of creating accessible websites — a major factor in web accessibility implementation — enabling site owners to offer web accessibility without undue costs that could undermine their freedom of expression.
Prior Research: Web accessibility research is relatively new, the number of publications focusing on evaluating accessibility negligible, and there’s no consensus on the most appropriate research methodology. Moreover, most web developers and website owners lack awareness of the issue (Sloan, 2010). Research into web accessibility has been limited to examining websites from a single sector, of like-minded organizations, or from countries with no common denominator.
Lorca, Andrés & Martínez (2009) offered two hypotheses for web accessibility adoption: operational factors (i.e. creating a more efficient website); corporate social responsibility (e.g. promoting equal-opportunity).
Methodology: Web accessibility was ranked by 25 common mistakes, detailed on the WCAG Grading Form, in six categories: image/color, structure/navigation, video/audio, data tables, forms, and comprehensibility. 20 websites were studied: ten in Hebrew (a research first) and ten in English: 5 public sector websites and 5 non-profit sector websites, early 2015. The lead researcher relied on his own professional field experience, including direct involvement in standardization, advancing the issue formally, and a consultant to various Israeli organizations.
18 computer science/web experts from both countries answered an online questionnaire, ranking the costs involved in implementing the six categories. Financial investment in WCAG 2.0 implementation has never been investigated.
Findings: Most NZ websites have greater accessibility than those in Israel. Most public sector websites are characterized by a higher degree of accessibility than non-profit sector websites. The reasons:
1) Developers in NZ undergo formal, structured training, and have specific expertise in computer science and the internet – in contrast to their Israeli counterparts.
2) Large public sector organizations have significantly larger budgets than NPOs, thus able to hire experienced professionals.
On the economic question, only operational factors determined web accessibility implementation — and they paid off in number of unique users and time spent browsing the site. Forms, data tables and comprehensibility incur the lowest costs; video and audio, structure, and navigation are more expensive to implement — a function of the need for technical intervention and expertise. However, this finding is not conclusive given that the experts differed widely in their cost analysis.