Eight websites that didn't want my money... #clickawaypound 2019

By Rick Williams, co-author of the Click-Away Pound Survey

Rick Williams, who is blind, gives his own recent experiences of inaccessible websites to mark the launch of the Click-Away Pound Survey 2019.

Photo of a laptop and smartphoneAs a blind person I would describe myself as a moderately competent screenreader user. I use the internet every day, and as one of the co-authors of the Click-Away Pound Survey, I am keenly aware of the accessibility and usability barriers faced by many disabled internet users.

Like most people, when I have issues with a site I’ll usually shrug and go elsewhere if I can. So I thought it would be interesting to keep track of my personal experience of some of the sites I used during 2018. This is a random and rather small selection of what happened on some sites.

A well-known classified ads website

I tried to place a job advert on my local are page on the website and failed as it had a graphic Captcha with no working alternative. In the end I had to ask for help from someone although I would have preferred not to use the site. I will definitely look for an alternative next time.

A large railway franchise

I tried to book a train ticket on the website and gave up as couldn’t navigate to the Buy Now page. There was an email address to report accessibility issues, and for once I bothered to write but, to add insult to injury, I got a bounce back saying there was no such email address! So I then tried the app. This I did manage, but is so unintuitive that it took me 40 minutes of trial and error.

A mainstream UK news media publisher

I tried to sign up for a regular subscription through the app but the pages wouldn’t work properly with Voice Over on my phone. I did drop them an email and they answered the question wrongly twice. I eventually got them to understand and got a mail that said they knew about this issue and would sort it out, and invited me to ‘join by phone’. Why would I do that given they appear to not care overly much about my requirements? And of course, the last time I looked nothing had changed.

A popular vacuum cleaner brand

I wanted to buy an appliance because they offer an extra year’s warranty if you buy online. Gave up as couldn’t select the product and move it into the shopping basket. Bought it through a large global online retailer in the end but lost the second year’s warranty. Is that an Equality Act issue?  

A local authority in southern England

I needed to buy some parking permits but there is a graphic Captcha, again with no working alternative, which stopped me doing so. I dropped them a note and to be fair they called me within an hour and I bought the permits by phone. They said they would report the problem to the web team and someone would get in touch. So far nothing, and I’m not holding my breath.

An online supermarket

Some years ago, I decided to do my supermarket shopping online. I eventually chose this specific one as their website and app are great and I use them all of the time. I’ve never bothered to check with the others again although I suspect I could do my shopping cheaper.

Charity giving

Mixed results here. One charitable cause was easy and quick to donate to, but I had to give up on another well-known site due to poor usability which meant the charity didn’t get my donation.

A large global online retailer

Like most people I use this site and have learnt its funny little ways and can generally get what I’m looking for. However, when I was trying to get a refund it took 40 minutes to find how to do it and had to ask someone for help before I managed it.

All this is one person’s experience, but it reflects what we found from the Click-Away Pound Survey 2016. A mixed bag, but more barriers than not!

Clearly, my personal experience suggests that business isn’t learning the lesson and confirms our decision to re-run the survey in 2019 and see what has changed, if anything, since 2016.

Help us change the internet experiences of disabled people

  • The first Click-Away Pound helped identify how much business is being lost because of inaccessible sites. You can help us update that information and by completing the survey and enter the prize draw at www.clickawaypound.com

AbilityNet offers a number of products and services to help build accessible websites, find out more here.