Facebook, MySpace and other social networking sites are “locking out” disabled people through their access requirements, breaching disability discrimination legislation.
That was the key finding from a study by AbilityNet, a charity that helps disabled people use computers and the internet through adaptive technology.
Kath Moonan, AbilityNet’s senior accessibility and usability consultant, said: “With a disabled population of some 10 million potential users, these sites are inadvertently imposing a ‘technological lock-out’ on those who have most to gain from social networking – arguably the most socially excluded members of the community.”
It found that people accessing Bebo, Facebook, MySpace, Yahoo and YouTube had to first identify a “captcha image” – a display of distorted letters or words which can only be deciphered by human beings, not software.
However, this barred people with dyslexia, other learning disabilities or visual impairment from using the sites.
Yahoo and Facebook offered disabled people an alternative but these were unusable in practice, AbilityNet found.
After registration, disabled users faced further barriers. AbilityNet found that disabled visitors could not use many of the functions on the sites, including watching videos, because these were not compatible with assistive technologies, such as screen reading software used by blind people.