Laws and ways of acting in the world. What is happening in the United States, England and Europe? What is a “standard character” and other details.
Digital web accessibility in the last few years has become a new market niche for marketers to strengthen their brand and to bring more audience. Developers and companies that build the Code, for Lowers and firms that defence or “attacking” those who have or luck accessibility in their website, other factors in the chain that can benefit this way or another and last – the people that really needs the accessibility services.
Digital accessibility is now a priority for many businesses. For many, this prevents a genuine desire to offer a comprehensive service. But for some, while the moral intent may be there, the real driving force is a legal one.
According to the gov.il website, people with disabilities have the right to full and equal participation in all areas of life. The law of equal rights for people with disabilities and the accessibility regulations are designed to ensure that they can exercise this right.
Many service providers use the Internet as a channel to provide service to the public (for example, for the purpose of selling products), as well as to provide information about the services they provide. In order for the public of people with disabilities to be able to receive service via the Internet like the rest of the public, adjustments must be made to the websites and applications that provide the service or information about it according to Sign C of the Regulations on Equal Rights for People with Disabilities (Service Accessibility Adjustments), 2013-2013
A site accessible according to the service accessibility regulations is a site where adjustments have been made according to Israeli standard 5568.
In the UK, stricter regulations have meant that public sector organisations, in particular, have had to step up their game. While in the US, an increase in litigation has caused more people to focus on the importance of accessibility compliance.
So what are the legal requirements to make your website accessible?
UK commercial sites
Website accessibility in the UK is covered by the Equality Act 2010. This protects all individuals from unfair treatment and promotes a fairer and more equal society. Website owners are required to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to make their websites accessible to people with disabilities. The law requires service providers to anticipate the needs of potential disabled customers for reasonable adjustments.
As far as we know, the act has not been examined by law in regards to website accessibility. Several companies faced legal action brought by the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB), but these cases were settled before being heard in court. So there is no legal precedent as to what constitutes a ‘reasonable match’. However, given that the government has adopted WCAG 2.1 Level AA as the appropriate standard for public sector websites (see below) and is more widely recognized as a ‘good’ approach, any website that complies with these guidelines will have a very strong defense against any legal action.
UK public sector websites
On September 23, 2019, the accessibility regulations came into effect. These days, public sector websites will have to meet certain accessibility standards and publish a statement saying they have been met. Existing sites had to comply from September 23, 2020, while the deadline for applications was June 23, 2021.
These regulations do not cover 100%, but according to Gov.uk public sector bodies include:
The central government and local government organizations
Some charities and other NGOs
But the following organizations are exempt:
Non-governmental organizations such as charities – unless they are mostly funded by public funding, provide essential services to the public or are intended for people with disabilities
Schools or kindergartens – apart from the content that people need to use their services, for example a form that allows you to outline school meal preferences
Public sector broadcasters and their subsidiaries
The standard they have to meet is WCAG 2.1 level AA. However there are some exemptions. For example if it will cause a ‘disproportionate burden’. This means that if you are a small, poor organization (e.g. the community council) with few or no disabled users you can claim that compliance with the regulations is a ‘disproportionate burden’. But you need a formal assessment to make this case.
More information is available on the government website.
Commercial websites in the USA
In the US there are no specific laws that refer to the accessibility of websites but they are covered under Title 3 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Like the UK Equality Act, this covers all types of disability discrimination in businesses open to the public (eg restaurants, schools, leisure facilities) as well as commercial facilities (eg factories, warehouses or office buildings).
Following a successful case in 2017 (Gil v. Winn-Dixie), a cottage industry emerged in the US filing ADA Title III lawsuits against companies. It’s a really easy gig, just run an accessibility tool on a website and most of them will fail at something! Since then, the industry is booming with the number of ADA Title III lawsuits relating to website accessibility increasing 255% from 814 in 2017 to 2,895 in 2021, according to the Seyfarth law firm. The total number of ADA Title III claims (not just accessibility) also continues to rise, 320% in just 8 years.
Although compliance with the WCAG guidelines is not written into US law, as it is in the UK, it will provide good protection against ADA Title III lawsuits for Internet accessibility.
US government websites
US government websites (federal, state, and local) must comply with Section 508 regulations. This states that all electronic and information technologies developed, purchased, maintained, or used by the federal government must be accessible to people with disabilities.
These regulations were updated in 2017 to include the WCAG 2.0 Level AA guidelines. So compliance with the WCAG 2.0 AA guidelines will meet Section 508 requirements for website accessibility.
The European Union (EU) Directive on accessibility of websites and mobile applications requires EU member states to ensure that their websites and mobile applications meet common accessibility standards. The directive uses the four principles of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, which require public sector organizations across the EU to take steps to ensure that their websites are “conceivable, operable, understandable and robust. Then again, by complying with WCAG 2.1 AA will also comply with the EU directive.
The bottom line is that wherever you are in the world, WCAG is the gold standard for accessibility and ensuring your digital service is compliant (by performing an accessibility audit) will ensure you can tick that legal box.
But don’t stop there. The only way to know if your website or app offers a truly accessible experience is to test with users who have experienced a disability. As we well know, accessibility compliance does not necessarily equate to true usability.
pay attention! DGFORCEX does not act under the authority of lawyers and the user bears full responsibility. The information presented is our understanding of the current state of website accessibility. However, we do not accept responsibility for the accuracy of this information and recommend that you seek legal advice if you wish to be sure of the legal validity of any issue related to the accessibility of the website.