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Visually impaired users complain after rail websites go greyscale for Prince Philip


A leading sight charity has stressed the need for inclusive web design after rail websites switched to black and white to mark Prince Philip’s death, leaving partially sighted people struggling.

Network Rail and National Rail websites turned from colour to greyscale on Monday morning in a tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh. The gesture backfired after customers highlighted accessibility issues and complained they could no longer use the website.

Other train operators, including CrossCountry and Northern rail, had also removed colour from their websites.

One Twitter user said: “National Rail have coloured their entire website grey to ‘mourn Prince Philip’, rendering the whole website completely useless to people with visual impairments. The UK has completely lost the plot.”

Robin Spinks, the innovation lead for the Royal National Institute of Blind People, said: “As someone who is registered severely sight impaired, good colour contrast on a website is incredibly important. A lack of this makes it difficult for me to read the content and causes headaches and eye strain. It leaves me feeling unwelcome as a customer.

“Although I can understand why an organisation might make a change to its website in circumstances such as this, any change should be inclusive and accessible so that all customers can continue to use the site as normal.

”Adherence to inclusive design standards should remain the most important aspect for all digital design, regardless of any changes made.”

Mikey Stillwell, a designer at the research, design and user experience agency Verj, who is colour-blind, said familiarity rather than accessibility was the issue.

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He said: “In terms of [an] accessibility standpoint, I can’t really see too much of an issue because there’s loads of contrast on the website. But from a UX [user experience] there is. When you have grey call to actions, for example, they’re normally seen as disabled or inactive. There is a total loss of hierarchy for what is important on a website as well if everything’s the same colour.”

Buckingham Palace announced that Prince Philip died on Friday morning aged 99. Many institutions across Britain marked their own tributes in respect. BBC broadcasters changed their ties to black, while there were also scheduling changes made to radio and television programming across the network for special coverage of the Prince’s death.

A spokesperson for National Rail said: “The National Rail Enquiries website has been temporarily greyscaled as a mark of respect following the death of HRH Duke of Edinburgh on Friday. We are listening to feedback about how people are using the website and are making further changes today to make it more accessible to all our customers.”

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “We temporarily made our website greyscale as a mark of respect following the death of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh. We’ve been made aware this has caused problems for people accessing the content so it’s now back to its usual look. We’re sorry it’s caused issues and we thank everyone for their feedback.”



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