Harvard grabs website accessibility account

Harvard will champion the contentious issue of website accessibility for the disabled, after winning a brief from a ‘usability' consultancy.

The agency has been hired by Webcredible – a London-based outfit which advises on making websites easy to use and accessible to all, ­inc­luding users who are blind, dyslexic and physi­cally disabled.

In particular, it helps ­clients – ­including high-traffic websites such as ­Admiral Insurance, Powergen and First Choice Holidays – to ensure that their sites adhere to the Disability Discrimination Act.
The Harvard team, led by senior consultant Charlotte Hanson, has been awarded a significant retainer for a B2B and corporate brief, with a focus on championing ‘online social responsibility’.
Harvard is charged with raising awareness of website accessibility at board level among marketing, e-commerce and web development companies.

‘It’s an area of growing importance, not least with the advent of web 2.0, which is seeing a rapid rise in new companies and communities that are not investing in good web design,’ said Hanson.

The issue has made ­headlines in the US and ­Australia, where failure to take usabi­lity into account has resulted in lawsuits for major ­websites.

Earlier this month, a Californian user sued online travel company Hotels.com for failing to include a wheelchair-accessibility option on its search function.

‘So far there have been no prosecutions in the UK, but it is only a matter of time,’ said Hanson.
There are currently more than 10 million people in the UK with disabilities, according to the Disability Rights Commission.

Robin Christopherson, head of accessibility charity AbilityNet, said: ‘Companies are creating virals and MySpace pages for clients. These sites are a new PR tool, but is acc­essibility really
being considered?’

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