Understanding UK web accessibility laws

 

Web accessibility is one of the main reasons for making use of transcriptions, captions and subtitles on your website and online content. It’s also fast becoming the law. In this article we’ll discover how.

Which laws relate to web accessibility?

Web accessibility legislation in the UK dates to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. The rather vague requirements at the time were simply provision of “reasonable adjustments”. 

The Equality Act 2010 went further in granting protection to people with disabilities. It was the first formal acknowledgement that websites needed to comply with web accessibility standards. 

Section 20 of the Equality Act requires all service providers to offer an equal service for all consumers both off and online. Failure to make such provisions and therefore discriminating against some customers is prohibited by section 29.

Finally, since 2018 all public sector websites have been covered by the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018 (Yes quite a mouthful!).  It essentially meant that public sector websites had a duty to be “perceivable, operable, understandable and robust”. For example, if a customer needed to see a website in large print, that would count as a “reasonable adjustment” that the site would have to make. In addition, public sector sites need to publish an accessibility statement. 

Why is accessibility important?

Although web accessibility is now fortified by legal obligations, it’s also something that companies should want to do. This is because people with special accessibility needs will make a significant slice of their target audience. There are around 14.6 million disabled people in the UK today, around 5% of the total population. People with disabilities include those with motor difficulties, cognitive impairments and impaired vision and hearing.

Who does the law apply to?

As mentioned above, the new 2018 regulations apply only to public sector websites, e.g. government and local government sites, While non-public sector bodies are exempt, there are still standards accepted worldwide as best practice, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Exempt non-public sectors need to keep in mind that they are still bound to make adjustments if required to accommodate customers under the Equality Act 2010.

How is it enforced?

Accessibility guidelines are monitored in the UK by the Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO) who carry out a random sample of websites and apps every year. The Equality and Human Rights commission is responsible for enforcement in Great Britain. It has the power to issue legal notices and start court action in the case of non compliance. 

So, how can websites comply with both laws and guidance?

Making your website compatible essentially means ensuring that it is adapted to all needs, and if not, that it can be adapted on request. As mentioned above, the 2018 act referred to the same four concepts specified in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines:

  • Perceivable – Making sure all web users can see and read your website. This may mean large print or contrasting colours to make things clearer.
  • Operable – User friendly websites that are responsive on multiple platforms and devices, for example via use of mobile sites.
  • Understandable – Websites should make use of simple language and clearly set out and organised.
  • Robust – Making use of tools used by disabled users, such as Assistive Technology.

How is it enforced?

It’s also worth mentioning that all these guidelines extend to video and audio content. This may mean providing live closed captions or transcripts of dialogue. This might sound daunting, but it can be made whole lot easier and stress free by enlisting the help of a professional service such as JUST. To get started, just hop on to our website, sign into the platform and upload your file.

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