Date of Award

2016

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Computer Science by Research

School

School of Science

First Advisor

Dr Justin Brown

Abstract

The World Wide Web is a digital platform that helps people access and retrieve information in an accessible and equitable manner. However, people with disabilities can face a number of challenges when it comes to using the Web and accessing content on websites. According to Henry, web accessibility means “that people with disabilities can use the Web. More specifically, Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the Web, and that they can contribute to the Web” (2005, para.1). While different countries across the globe tackle issues of equitable access to the web via policy and legal instruments, not all countries and regions have shown progress in terms of meeting the requirements of the internationally recognised Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0).

This research aimed to evaluate web accessibility and practice in e-government websites in three Arabian Gulf countries. The study sought to identify accessibility issues and discover levels of conformance to the WCAG 2.0 web accessibility standards, while also eliciting awareness and knowledge of web accessibility in practice. Exploratory research methods were applied in this study, including case studies of nations. Automated website assessments, manual assessments and document analysis were amongst the instruments used within this research.

In terms of web evaluation, the findings from the evaluation conducted on e-government websites in relation to ten different sites from each of the three selected countries indicated that there was no clear evidence of an even minimal levels of accessibility features for people with disabilities. Furthermore, the webpages that were tested showed accessibility problems across nearly all aspects of the WCAG 2.0 guidelines. In terms of accessibility awareness for the organisations e-government websites examined in this study, document analysis showed that none of the government websites of Kuwait, the UAE and Qatar made specific reference to web accessibility standards, or where they did, they were not implemented. The results showed that laws and policies did exist for people with disabilities, but did not seem applicable in terms of government run e-services or content. In fact, this interpretation revealed a lack of awareness within the websites examined, despite the existence of laws and policies designed to protect and support people with disabilities.

The aim of this study was to understand the role that web accessibility plays in gulf nation egovernment services, and whether citizens of these nations are being supported in relation to access to online digital resources and services. Whilst other nations have seemed to recognise the need to make government services available to all citizens, including those with disabilities, this research finds that whilst Kuwait, the UAE and Qatar enshrine the rights of people with disabilities into law, these rights do not yet seem to have found their way to the digital domain.

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