The Royal National Institute of Blind People has entered legal proceedings against airline bmibaby for failing to make its website accessible to blind and partially-sighted people.
RNIB was made aware of accessibility failings on the bmibaby website in 2010 when a number of customers contacted the charity. A spokeswoman for RNIB told civilsociety.co.uk that it contacted the airline "repeatedly" after receiving the complaints asking for changes to be made. bmibaby subsequently commissioned RNIB's services to resolve the situation, but RNIB does not believe the action is being carried out fast enough:
"In 2011 RNIB was commissioned by bmibaby to carry out a full audit of the website and an initial report was sent to bmibaby. Legal proceedings were commenced as no changes had been made and no dates of when the changes could take place confirmed," said the spokeswoman.
Customers complained that they had to phone the airline rather than use its website, the cost of which "can mount up", said Alexandra, a customer from Loughborough who is registered blind. Hugh Huddy, RNIB campaings officer for inclusive society, said that blind and partially-sighted customers may also miss out on the best online prices and flight information. "Why should those with sight loss risk missing out on a web-only deal or be forced to ring a call centre simply because companies are failing to take accessibility standards seriously," he said.
In a statement advising of the action being taken, RNIB said: "Despite receiving expert advice, recommendations and a full audit report from RNIB, bmibaby is still to make any significant progress. RNIB has now served bmibaby with legal proceedings as the website remains inaccessible to those using screen readers or those who cannot use a mouse."
However responding to the action, bmibaby repeated a message on its website that advises the actions necessary to make the site accessible will take time to implement: "We have a project team in place to action the recommendations which requires the bespoke development of bmibaby’s website technology," says the airline.
"This inevitably takes a period of time to develop but in the meantime we have a new local rate telephone number for people to call to speak to our call centre to obtain our discounted website fares. We have also added an accessibility page to bmibaby.com in order to keep customers up to date with our progress."