Why Learn About Web Accessibility
Equality Act, 2010
While the Equality Act (UK) does not specifically address how web accessibility should be implemented, Section 29(1) of the Equality Act places a requirement on service providers. Specifically, those who sell or provide services to the public must not discriminate against any person requiring the service. In effect, preventing a person with a disability from accessing a service on the Web constitutes discrimination.
Based on Sections 20 and 29(7) of the Act, it is an ongoing duty of service providers to make “reasonable adjustments” to accommodate people with disabilities. To this end, the British Standards Institution (BSI) provides a code of practice (BS 8878) on web accessibility, based on WCAG 1.0.
For more about BSI efforts, watch the following video:
Video: BSI Documentary – Web accessibility – World Standards Day 14 Oct 2010 by BSI Group
Throughout Europe, a number of countries have their own accessibility laws, each based on WCAG 2.0. In 2010, the European Union (EU) introduced web accessibility guidelines based on WCAG 2.0 Level AA requirements. Next, in 2014, the EU Parliament passed a law requiring all public sector websites and private sector websites that provide key public services to conform with WCAG 2.0 Level AA requirements. In addition, new content must conform to those requirements within one year; existing content, within three years; and multimedia content, within five years.
However, this does not mean that all countries in the EU must now conform. The law now goes before the EU Council, where heads of state will debate. Seemingly, this promises to draw out adoption for many years into the future, if it gets adopted at all.
In Italy, the Stanca Act 2004 (Disposizioni per favorire l’accesso dei soggetti disabili agli strumenti informatici) governs web accessibility requirements for all levels of government; private firms that are licensees of public services, public assistance, and rehabilitation agencies; and transport and telecommunications companies, including ICT (information communications technology) service contractors.
The Stanca Act has 22 technical accessibility requirements originally based on WCAG 1.0 Level A guidelines, updated in 2013 to reflect changes in WCAG 2.0.
In Germany, BITV 2.0 (Barrierefreie Informationstechnik-Verordnung), which adopts WCAG 2.0 with a few modifications, requires accessibility for all government websites at Level AA (i.e., BITV Priority 1).
Accessibility requirements in France are specified in Law No 2005-102, Article 47, and its associated technical requirements are defined in RGAA 3 (based on WCAG 2.0). It is mandatory for all public online communication services, public institutions, and the state to conform with RGAA (WCAG 2.0).
The web accessibility laws in Spain are Law 34/2002 and Law 51/2003, which require all government websites to conform with WCAG 1.0 Priority 2 guidelines. More recently, UNE 139803:2012 adopts WCAG 2.0 requirements and mandates the following organizations to comply with WCAG Level AA requirements: government and government-funded organizations; or organizations larger than 100 employees; or with trading column greater than six million euros; or those providing financial, utility, travel/passenger, or retail services online (See: Legislation in Spain).
Though not specifically referencing the Web, Section 24 of the Disability Discrimination Act of 1992 makes it unlawful for a person who provides goods, facilities, or services to discriminate on the grounds of disability. This law was tested in 2000 when a blind man successfully sued the Sydney Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG) when its website prevented him from purchasing event tickets.
The Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) shortly after released the Worldwide Web Access: Disability Discrimination Act Advisory Notes. These were last updated in 2014, and though they do not have direct legal force, they do provide web accessibility guidance (based on WCAG 2.0) for Australians on how to avoid discriminatory practices when developing web content.