BBC raps Amex over web accessibility

The 5 April 2008 edition of Radio 4's "Money Box" program had a segment about the problems a blind user has been having when he tries to access his American Express credit card statements online. Apparently, the problem started in December 2007 when Amex switched statement format from HTML to PDF.

The new PDF statements weren't being read properly by screen reader software - instead of reading across the rows of the statement, it was reading down the columns. It is possible to tweak PDFs to ensure that they are properly accessible to screen readers, but this requires a level of skill and attention to detail that most companies do not dedicate resources for.

Hopefully, coverage in the mainstream national press will help their customers' cause, and Amex have said they will fix the problem as soon as possible. Representatives from both Adobe and the Royal National Institute of Blind People were interviewed.

It is good to see web accessibility issues being covered by the mainstream press. Apparently, there are over 400,000 people registered blind or partially-sighted in the UK alone - a hefty proportion of any web site's audience. The article did mention the Disability Discrimination Act and legal action, but it is worth noting that in the majority of cases where the RNIB acts as arbiter, website owners successfully make changes to their site without recourse to the courts.

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