There is an increasing trend around the world to implement an accessible design in web development. Governments are mandating that both the public and private sectors comply with accessibility guidelines and standards. This trend is a positive development for individuals who suffer from disabilities, and want to enjoy equal rights and privileges in the workforce and in day to day life.
What are some specific laws that have been enacted? And why are these legal developments important not only for disabled persons, but also for all businesses and organizations with an online presence?
The Trend Towards Compliance
Around the world, many developed countries have instituted or accepted standards of online accessibility that can promote the welfare and advancement of their disabled citizens. For example, in the United States, Title I of the American Disabilities Act made it a federally mandated requirement to provide reasonable accommodations for employees or job seekers with disabilities. Furthermore, the Rehabilitation Act, which was originally passed in 1973, was updated in 1998 to include Section 508 in its policies. Under this amendment, the US federal government is required to develop, procure, maintain, and use technology that is accessible to people with disabilities.
Why is accessibility so important? In terms of Section 508, accessibility basically means the presentation of information through multiple means, so that those with disabilities are still able to receive and understand what is presented. It is easy to see the importance of accessibility when we think of a deaf or hard of hearing person trying to use a website that only presents information through audio tracks; or a blind person trying to understand a web page that only utilizes videos. Obviously, then, it is vital that web developers use standards of accessibility as an integral part of their design process, from start to finish. The list of governments that have accepted this notion is long, and has grown longer over the years.
For example, in Canada the Policy on Communications and Federal Identity took effect on May 11, 2016. This policy requires that governmental departments comply with the previously promulgated Standard on Web Accessibility, first enacted in 2011. Many countries have enacted laws or policies that require compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) from the W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative. These laws include:
-The United Kingdom’s Equality Act of 2010
-New Zealand’s Online Practice Guidelines of 2013
-The European Union’s Web and Mobile Accessibility Directive of 2016
Globally, since 2010 there have been 8 laws or policies enacted that require strict compliance to the standards set forth in WCAG 2.0. No doubt this number will grow in the years to come.
What You Can Do
If your website is not currently compliant with WCAG standards, then don’t hesitate to make the needed adjustments. Regulations will only become stricter, and penalties for non-compliance heavier. On the other hand, the process of compliance doesn’t have to be painful or expensive. Oftentimes it is a matter of identifying specific design elements in your website that are inaccessible for people with various disabilities, and making a concerted effort to change those elements as needed.
The W3C provides a quick reference guide that can be a good starting point for implementing adjustments. Even more valuable is the assistance of a knowledgeable company that can provide ongoing services that include both the installation and implementation of accessible features, as well as continued monitoring of the site.
At MAB Accessibility, our accessibility toolbar and services are designed to enhance user experience and enable equal access for all. We provide fast and easy solutions to meet your web accessibility needs. Contact us today for a free quote.