Public sector websites lead the way in online accessibility

The public sector is leading the way in online accessibility with 82% fewer issues than the average website, according to new research by NEC Digital. 

The study assessed over 1,300 websites across local authorities, social housing and healthcare to find out how accessible they were. It did this by looking at the number of errors, colour contrast issues and accessibility alerts on the page, then assigning a final accessibility score out of 10.

Public sector pages had an average of 9.1 detectable accessibility errors and 8.0 contrast errors – 5.6 times lower than the web average, the study finds. 

Local council websites had the least accessibility errors, with an average of 2.0 errors and 1.7 contrast errors. The average accessibility score for local council websites was 8.05 – better than the average score for all websites analysed (5.83). 

Out of these, the least accessible was Gloucester City Council, scoring only 2.33. However, scores in other sectors went as low as 0.32, so local authorities performed well overall. In fact, over 200 council pages showed no detectable errors at all. 


The NHS website pages analysed had an average of 5.4 accessibility errors. Meanwhile, private hospital websites had 3.6 times as many errors as their NHS counterparts, and more than 4 times as many contrast errors.

Of the public sectors analysed, housing association pages performed the worst, with an average of 13.2 errors. 

Barriers to accessibility 

In conducting this study, NEC Digital seeks to find out the accessibility of local council, housing association and hospital websites, focusing on the impact that a lack of accessibility can have on users that have visual impairments.

There are almost 9 million people in the UK with accessibility needs, making it essential for public sector websites to accommodate for this; both to improve the daily experience of users and ensure as many people as possible can access critical information. 2018 regulation requires public sector organisations to meet certain accessibility standards and publish a statement saying they have been met. However, the study indicates there is still room for improvement.

Findings reveal a significant gap in the accessibility of some of these websites, with many having a number of errors and alerts that could make them difficult to use for individuals with access requirements. Against this backdrop, NEC Digital calls for greater government focus on enhancing web accessibility across the public sector, including increased investment in this area or tighter regulations.

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