R&D notes

Accessibility of human rights web pages

Jonathan Robert Pool

Do human rights organizations respect disability rights?


To judge from their websites, international organizations promoting human rights do not uniformly respect the rights of persons with disabilities.

While the foundational documents on universal human rights are generally silent on disability rights, there is now a Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It was adopted in 2006 and came into force in 2008.

Article 9 of the Convention deals with accessibility, namely the identification and elimination of obstacles and barriers to physical and informational access, particularly for people with permanent, age-related, or temporary disabilities. In the digital realm, inventions, standards, and recommendations for accessibility have eliminated many barriers. Digital content and processes can adapt to disabilities of vision, hearing, mobility, memory, and other faculties.

Human rights organizations publish websites. Given their missions, one could expect these organizations to be assiduous in designing and implementing their sites in accord with the latest accessibility norms. They would thereby demonstrate their commitments to the rights of people with disabilities, while facilitating the wide use of their sites.

But, in reality, the websites of human rights organizations are not particularly accessible, according to the results of one battery of tests.


An automated accessibility testing procedure (version 7 of a11y in Autotest) was performed on the home pages of 35 international human rights organizations. In this analysis, only that single page per site was tested.

For each page, the procedure generated a score. A score of 0 would indicate that a page has passed all the tests. Any score greater than 0 indicates test failures.

The tests were conducted in October 2021.

In the table below:

Accessibility scores of web pages
PageScore (lower is better)
International Service for Human Rights486
Civil Rights Defenders553
Human Rights House Foundation559
Freedom House592
Anti-Slavery International610
Equality and Human Rights Commission642
Open Society Foundations662
Center for Economic and Social Rights672
Partners in Health789
Survival International 855
Center for International Environmental Law858
UN Watch943
Amnesty International974
Rehabilitation International1019
Fédération internationale pour les droits humains1068
Center for Justice and Accountability1075
Protection International1110
The Advocates for Human Rights1134
International Society for Human Rights1140
Human Rights First1331
European Centre for Minority Issues1390
Humanity in Action1463
International Justice Resource Center1532
Global Rights 1766
Human Rights Without Frontiers International1869
Minority Rights Group International1953
Human Rights Foundation2133
Oxfam America2153
Front Line Defenders2387
Physicians for Human Rights2391
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative3054
Human Rights Watch3557
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights4457
Genocide Watch4938


This table provides evidence that human rights organizations fail to practice what they preach. The scores are based on 427 tests, mostly developed by leaders in accessibility technology.

It is reasonable, of course, to question the evidence. All tests, including these, are fallible, and different tests would produce different results. There is also not perfect unanimity among experts on exactly what makes a web page accessible.

However, test results such as these merit examination, and can be examined. Each score above links to a report detailing the findings that produced the score.

Human-rights organizations struggle against mighty forces while pursuing their missions. But their websites are territories under their own control, where they can implement their values without opposition. If they don’t, why not?