1. Website accessibility and legislation
Author: Nigel Williams
What is accessibility and why use it?
Accessibility: Accessibility is about ensuring that on line content can be read and navigated by everyone regardless of experience, circumstance or the type of technology used to access content.
Accessibility is not the same as Usability although they often support each other by putting the end user at the heart of the design process.
Why implement Accessibility?
- There is a huge potential market that would be reliant on accessible websites.
- This number is set to increase.
- Accessible websites are more usable.
- Accessible websites frequently index more highly on Search Engines.
- There is a clear legal requirement.
- For a full list of reasons - www.w3.org/wai/bcase/benefits.html
What are the Accessibility Standards?
Many different words are used to describe more or less the same thing: Section 508, See it Right, Bobby Approved.
These are all based around the WAI guidelines (Web Accessibility Initiative).
WAI has three Levels (Level A, AA, AAA or Priority 1,2,3).
The potential audience
- 9 million deaf and hard of hearing people
- 7 million adults who have only basic literacy skills
- 6 million dyslexic people
- 2 million blind and partially sighted people
- 1.8 million people experiencing colour blindness
- 1.2 million people with learning disabilities
- 450,000 people with epilepsy
- 350,000 people affected by strokes
- 85,000 people with multiple sclerosis
- Other people who have conditions such as cerebral palsy, head injuries, injuries caused by accidents, etc. (Source: DRC)
- By 2010, 40% of the UK population will be 45+, the age at which the incidence of disability begins to increase significantly (source: EFD).
The Legal Requirement - SENDA
SENDA (Special Education Needs and Disability Act 2001)
Makes no direct reference to website accessibility.
However it does state that education providers should not discriminate against the needs of disabled students.
Legal Requirement - DDA
The Disability Discrimination Act 1995
This directly references accessible websites, and will apply to everyone in the room.
The relevant section is in Section 3: Goods and Services
The text of the DDA
2.2 (p7): The Disability Discrimination Act makes it unlawful for a service provider to discriminate against a disabled person by refusing to provide any service which it provides to members of the public.
2.2 (p7): From 1st October 1999 a service provider has to take reasonable steps to change a practice which makes it unreasonably difficult for disabled people to make use of its services.
2.13 - 2.17 (p11-13): What services are affected by the Disability Discrimination Act? An airline company provides a flight reservation and booking service to the public on its website. This is a provision of a service and is subject to the act.
5.23 (p71): For people with visual impairments, the range of auxiliary aids or services which it might be reasonable to provide to ensure that services are accessible might include ... accessible websites.
5.26 (p68): For people with hearing disabilities, the range of auxiliary aids or services which it might be reasonable to provide to ensure that services are accessible might include ... accessible websites.
How do I ensure compliance with this legislation?
No cases have gone through the courts in this country yet!
There have been in other countries - in the USA most recently and in Australia
To ensure that your site is compliant with this legislation ensure that it meets WAI Guidelines - but to what Level (A, AA, AAA)?
What Level of WAI is required?
It is unclear what level of WAI compliance is required to ensure a site is legal.
The Disability Rights Commission commissioned an examination into this issue (100 sites had detailed checks with disabled user testing).
The DRC report highlighted 8 WAI guidelines that caused particular problems for these users - 5 of these were Level AA.
Certainly if a site does not achieve level A then it is unlikely to be compliant, and should ideally achieve Level AA.
Many companies are now aiming to achieve a Level A + level to ensure compliance e.g. the BBC.
The NGfL standards are also Level A + (all requirements for Level A + Keyboard Navigation + Clean HTML).
There is a clear requirement to ensure that your site is accessible.
If your site does not achieve Level A WAI compliance - you are unlikely to be compliant.
For many companies implementing the NGfL technical standards will be sufficient to ensure legal safety.