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Disabled deprived of access to many top Web sites – Shared by Rey Mendoza

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Many Web sites around the world are beyond the reach of disabled persons but could easily be improved to meet international accessibility standards, a survey commissioned by the United Nations found on Tuesday.

The study, conducted for the world body by British technology firm Nomensa, looked at 100 popular sites in 20 countries and found the vast majority failed to meet international standards of accessibility.

“We’ve clearly got some obstacles to overcome,” Nomensa’s Leonie Watson, who is blind, told a news conference at U.N. headquarters.

While many sites have taken steps toward wider accessibility, they need to do more to become fully available to people who cannot use a computer mouse, have low-vision disabilities or are blind, she said.

Among the most common problems encountered in the survey were the use of a common scripting language called JavaScript and of graphics unaccompanied by explanatory text, she said.

A heavy reliance on JavaScript makes it impossible for about 10 percent of Internet users to access key information because they lack the needed software to do so, she said.

Textual descriptions of graphics enable individuals who are blind to “see” them by using screen reader software that converts the text into electronic speech, she said.

Another problem turned up by the survey was the use of poorly contrasting color combinations, making Web pages difficult to read for people with mild visual impairment like color blindness.

The survey looked at popular travel, finance, media, government and retail sites in countries with relatively well-developed Internet infrastructure.

The study found that three of the 100 sites evaluated met the basic accessibility criteria — those of the German chancellor (, the Spanish government ( and the British Prime Minister (

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