PHOTO - Screen capture Website accessibility graph from Spire survey.
A survey released in late June by Asian consulting firm Spire Research and Consulting shows only three per cent of the top 30 companies in Malaysia offer Web accessibility to users with special needs, which fall short of the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) recommendations.
Spire Research and Consulting chief executive officer Leon Perera said the W3C guidelines are regarded as the international standard for Web accessibility. "The recommendations set by W3C detail best practices in website mechanics that address the needs of people with disabilities such as visual or auditory impairments and cognitive and intellectual disabilities."
Perera said the survey comprised the top 30 companies of five countries individually - Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Korea and Hong Kong. "The survey analysed the practice of utilising the W3C's recommendations in creating websites that are usable by people of all abilities and disabilities."
"Out of the five countries, Australia ranked first with 10 out of the 30 companies offering Web accessibility to users with special needs," he said. "Malaysia and Singapore are tied in second place, with both countries only having one company out of the 30 companies, while none of the top 30 companies in Hong Kong and South Korea respectively offer website accessibility to users with special needs."
Perera said Malaysia may be behind countries such as Australia because 'there are no laws in Malaysia that mandate companies to have website accessibility functions.'
"However, it is a completely different scenario in Australia as the Australian government has made it a mandatory requirement for all government websites to have accessibility," said Perera. "This in itself prompts the corporate sector to take heed and emulate the government's initiatives," he says. Leon also adds that under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, it is stated that people with disabilities should be given the same fundamental rights to access information via the World Wide Web as others in the community."
Petaling Jaya City councillor, columnist and disability activist Anthony Thanasayan and advocate for the disabled said the disabled in Malaysia are being marginalised through technology. "There is tremendous room to improve the quality of life of the disabled community through technology. Malaysia being so far behind countries like Australia in the survey is inexcusable. I urge the corporate sector to adopt measures such as website accessibility so that the disabled will not remain marginalised."
Spire Research and Consulting's Perera said that although a Web Accessibility Conference in Kuala Lumpur was held in 2008 by the National Council for The Blind Malaysia (NCBM) to bridge the digital divide in access to technology for people who are physically disabled, website accessibility was still a foreign term to many in Malaysia. "There is certainly a need for business and government leaders to do more on this front. In this day and age, such implementation on a corporate website enhances branding among both disabled and non-disabled audiences. Socially conscious brands tend to gain better preference from consumers."
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