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The Web Index 2013 accessibility audits



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We were hired by Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web Foundation to audit Web site accessibility aspects of the 2013 Web Index, which benchmarks government, media, and private sector sites in over 81 countries. This exercise is likely the most thorough global Web accessibility audit ever undertaken.

Studying Web site audits, Web sites (including government, media, and private sector), and regulations from the majority of the countries in the study, we benchmarked and rated the degree to which each nation has declared its intentions as well as acted regarding making Web sits accessible to all. The benchmarking was both against other countries and against WCAG 2.0 and PDF/UA standards.

Global press release announcing 2013 Web Index or download the report PDF icon(3.14MB)

{Caption for that thing: Auditor view of Web Index questions on accessibility}

How Canada fared

Here are the four questions that were asked about accessibility, and how Canada did for each:

Q11c: Web use by those with visual disability  (Switzerland 1st; Canada: 2nd (tie))

Survey Question: To what extent do elderly with visual disability people have effective and useful access to the web? [1 = effectively no access to the web; 10 = full access to the web]
Q11d: Web use by those with learning disabilities (Switzerland 1st; Canada 2nd (tie))

Survey Question: To what extent do people with learning disabilities have effective and useful access to the web? [1 = effectively no access to the web; 10 = full access to the web]
Q11e: Web use by people susceptible to seizures (Iceland 1st; Canada 14th)

Survey Question: To what extent do people susceptible to seizures have effective and useful access to the web? [1 = effectively no access to the web; 10 = full access to the web]
Q11f: Web use by those with hearing disability (Iceland1st; Canada 3rd (tie))

Survey Question: To what extent do people with hearing disability have effective and useful access to the web? [1 = effectively no access to the web; 10 = full access to the web]

The Web Index

Designed and produced by the World Wide Web Foundation, the Web Index is the first multi-dimensional measure of the World Wide Web’s contribution to development and human rights globally. It covers 81 countries, incorporating indicators that assess the areas of universal access; freedom and openness; relevant content; and empowerment.

First released in 2012, the 2013 Index has been expanded and refined to include 20 new countries and features an enhanced data set, particularly in the areas of gender, Open Data, privacy rights and censorship. The Index combines existing secondary data with new primary data derived from an evidence-based expert assessment survey.

This is the second edition of the Web Index, which will be published annually. It will eventually allow for comparisons of trends over time and the benchmarking of performance across countries, continuously improving our understanding of the Web’s value for humanity.

Much of the Web research that exists measures quantifiable metrics, such as the number of Web users, speed of access to the Web, the number of broadband subscribers, or covers particular single-dimensions such as economic impact or censorship. Tim Berners-Lee recognized that in order to better measure progress to developing a more open and meaningful Web, and for the Web to attain its full potential as a transformative tool that can improve living standards, reduce conflict and improve governance and well-being, it is important to understand how the Web impacts social, developmental, economic and political dimensions as well.

By compiling data across many different dimensions of Web health and making it freely available, the Web Index will help deepen and broaden our understanding of how countries can maximise the impact of this powerful tool. The results can be utilized by decision makers across the public and private sectors, as well as academia, NGOs, and the technology industry itself.


The Web Index is a composite measure that summarizes in a single (average) number the impact and value derived from the Web in various countries. There are serious challenges when attempting to measure and quantify some of the dimensions the Index covers (e.g. the social and political), and suitable proxies are used instead.

Also, as the Web Index covers a large number of countries, some of which have serious data deficiencies or were not covered by the data providers, we needed to impute the missing data. We worked with eminent experts in the relevant fields to overcome these challenges and produce a robust and rigorous Index.

Two types of data were used in the construction of the Index: existing data from other data providers (“secondary data”), and new data gathered via a multi-country questionnaire (“primary data”) that was specifically designed by the Web Foundation and its advisers. These primary data will begin to fill in some of the gaps in measurement of the utility and impact of the Web in various countries. Indeed, the data gaps in this field are significant, and we aim to expand those questionnaires in future editions of the Index, both in terms of the questions/indicators gathered and the number of countries covered by the Index.


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