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Digital Accessibility: Laws & Standards Around the World

Laws, Regulations & Guidelines around the world

Disability Discrimination Act -UK
It is the law according to the Disability Discrimination Act 2006 that websites must be compliant to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, which means that the website must be usable for the individuals with disabilities. References include:

  • Point 2.2 (page 7) of the Code of conduct which states: “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.”
  • Point 4.7 (page 43) of the Code  of Conduct states that “From 1st January 2018  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.”
  • Point 4.8 (page 43-44) of the Code of Conduct states: “From 1st January 2020 where a physical feature makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to make use of its services, a service provider will have to take reasonable steps to: remove the feature, alter the feature, provide a reasonable means for avoiding it or provide a reasonable alternative method of making the services available

European Union

The European Accessibility Act aims to improve the functioning of the internal market for accessible products and services by removing barriers created by divergent legislation. This will facilitate the work of companies and will bring benefits for disabled and older people in the EU.

Disability Discrimination Act 1992 – Australia

The Federal Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (D.D.A.) provides protection for everyone in Australia against discrimination based on disability. It encourages everyone to be involved in implementing the Act and to share in the overall benefits to the community and the economy that flow from participation by the widest range of people.

Disability discrimination happens when people with a disability are treated less fairly than people without a disability. Disability discrimination also occurs when people are treated less fairly because they are relatives, friends, care givers, co-workers or associates of a person with a disability.

United States of America

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), passed in 1990, is civil rights legislation governed by the Department of Justice. The goal of this law is to make sure that people with disabilities can have an equal opportunity to participate in programs, services, and activities. It is important to note that the ADA does not deal directly with the accessibility of the Internet. This may be due to the fact that the Internet was just emerging as a widespread tool around the same time as the passage of the ADA. There are, however, two major sections in the ADA that may apply to web accessibility. These are:

  • Title II, which states that communications with persons with disabilities must be “as effective as communications with others” [28 C.F.R. ss 35.160 (a)] and
  • Title III, which deals with public accommodation of people with disabilities.

The Reauthorized Rehabilitation Act of 1998 included amendments to Section 508 of the Act. This section bars the Federal government from procuring electronic and information technology (E&IT) goods and services that are not fully accessible to those with disabilities. This would include the services of web design since the Internet was specifically mentioned.

Canada

Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2001
The province of Ontario adopted the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2001 on December 14, 2001. Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

  • Article 5 of this act states: In deciding to purchase goods or services through the procurement process for the use of itself, its employees or the public, the Government of Ontario shall have regard to the accessibility for persons with disabilities to the goods or services.
  • Article 6 states: The Government of Ontario shall provide its internet sites in a format that is accessible to persons with disabilities, unless it is not technically feasible to do so.

The Ontario government is also currently proposing a new Act that would extend the obligation to provide accessible services and facilities to the private sector Bill 118 2004.

Japan

On June 21, 2004, the Japanese Industrial Standard for Web accessibility, commonly referred to as the Web Content JIS was released. Although the Web Content JIS is not legally binding like the provisions of the Rehabilitation Act in the United States, it has attracted attention as Japan’s first public web accessibility guidelines.

New Zealand

New Zealand consists of a number of different standards, strategies, guidelines, and resources related to electronic information. The web accessibility policy states that all public sector web sites “must deliver services in a way that is accessible to the people it serves”. In general terms, the guidelines state that web content must be adaptable to different user circumstances and preferences, and be accessible to people with disabilities.

Bangladesh

The Disability Rights & Protection Act 2013 of Bangladesh which follows the WCAG 2.0, urges all government, non-government and private organizations to ensure web accessibility.

United Nations

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities entered into force in May 2008. Its purpose is to ensure that the estimated 650 million people with disabilities worldwide can enjoy the same rights and opportunities as everyone else, and lead their lives as full citizens who can make valuable contributions to society.

The Sustainable Developmental Goals of the United Nations of which Bangladesh is also a part, includes disabilities in 5 of its 17 goals. “Persons with disabilities” or “disability” are specifically mentioned in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Standards for Web Accessibility

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) is of International Standard ISO/IEC 40500. A lot of governments are adopting the guidelines and countries which follow ISO technical standards can easily adopt the guidelines by referencing to ISO/IEC 40500.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines WCAG 2.0 Guidelines

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 is now International Standard and covers a wide range of recommendations for making Web content more accessible. Following these guidelines will make content accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities, photo-sensitivity and combinations of these. Following these guidelines will also often make your Web content more usable to users in general.
Mentioned below are some of the guidelines that need to be followed:

  • Perceivable: Provide text alternatives for non-text content. Provide captions and other alternatives for multimedia. Create content that can be presented in different ways, including by assistive technologies, without losing meaning. Make it easier for users to see and hear content.
  • Operable: Make all functionality available from a keyboard. Give users enough time to read and use content. Do not use content that causes seizures. Help users navigate and find content.
  • Understandable: Make text readable and understandable. Make content appear and operate in predictable ways. Help users avoid and correct mistakes.
  • Robust: Maximize compatibility with current and future user tools.

Conclusion

Governments around the world are encouraging both public and private sectors to ensure accessibility in their services. It is high time we made all digital products and services accessible.