By: Guest Blogger
The Internet is emerging as a vital space for people to communicate, shop and consume content. However, the same websites that most of us take for granted are not easily accessible to those with disabilities. Tasks as basic as buying a plane ticket or checking a bank statement can be outright impossible on a website that has not being designed with all users – including those with limited ability – in mind. Accessing goods and services online has become an essential part of participating in today’s society. Governments, including the UK and EU, have begun to ensure access through regulation.
Complying with accessibility regulations can be difficult. Legislation is often vaguely worded and is not accompanied by technical guidelines, leading to website design that can be unintentionally discriminatory to people with disabilities. Nonetheless, under the UK’s 2010 Equality Act, any organization whose website is not accessible may be held liable for their discrimination, whether it is unintentional or not. In the UK, the consequences for noncompliance are often decided in court.
In 2012, RNIB, or the Royal National Institute of Blind People, sued travel website BMIbaby.com for failing to heed their repeated requests for compliance with the Equality Act. This follows several other suits aimed at websites over the past decade. Although most disputes on record ended in settlements after the companies made the requested changes, the all-encompassing nature of the UK’s Equality Act opens the door for broader legal action with meaningful implications.
The UK does not currently have a penalties system for enforcement of web accessibility, meaning that cases must often be settled via lawsuit. Today, a new framework that might strengthen the reach of UK accessibility laws is in the works. In December 2015, the European Commission unveiled the European Accessibility Act, which specifies that all transportation, banking, and e-commerce websites must be accessible within as little as two years after the act is passed. The Accessibility Act’s regulatory measures will also make the framework for penalties more clear and effective, in order to hold companies appropriately responsible for cases of infringement.
Web accessibility is a growing imperative worldwide, and will become the industry standard. The best way to ensure that your company is not liable is to conform to WCAG 2.0 AA—the worldwide accessibility standard generally used by the US, EU, and UK – and to test your online experience with disabled users. Current and upcoming UK and EU legislation ensures that it is in the best interest of brands across industries to comply with accessibility guidelines to avoid unwanted legal action, public attention, or financial penalty.
For information on how Usablenet Assistive can mitigate your risk with a tested, accessible version of your site, visit our website.