Creating Accessible Web Sites
Making your web site accessible is now a legal requirement, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) makes it illegal for companies to provide an inferior service to, or discriminate against, a disabled person.
Crisp eBusiness has been creating Accessible web sites well before this legislation came into force. We are proud to have worked with one particular client who offered supported work placements to disabled people, in this project a test group of disabled individuals offered us direct feed back on visual and usability issues.
The part of the DDA that states web sites must be made accessible came into force on 1 October 1999 and the Code of Practice for this section of the Act was published on 27 May 2002. The relevant DDA change that came into effect on October 1 2004 was that the small employer exemption is now removed. All employers are now legally obliged to make all their services accessible including web sites, intranets and extranets.
Click here to see the latest document - Disability Discrimination Act 2005
How does it apply to my web site?
Steps that should be taken to make reasonable adjustments include changing:
- A practice, policy or procedure which makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for a disabled person to use a service
- Any physical features which make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for a disabled person to use a service.
Reasonable steps must also be taken to provide:
- Auxiliary aids and services (an example of which would be an accessible web site) where these would enable or facilitate the use of a service.
These changes have been required since October 1999. Note that "reasonable" is not defined in the Act, but the Code of Practice does give some guidance on this, and indicates that it will depend upon:
- The type of service provided
- The type of organisation you are and resources available
- The impact on the disabled person
What happens if my web site does not comply?
A disabled person can make a claim against you if your web site makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult to access information and services. If you have not made reasonable adjustments and cannot show that this failure is justified, then you may be liable under the Act, and may have to pay compensation and be ordered by a court to change your site.
A useful reference is the case brought against the Sydney Olympics Committee in Australia in 2000. This resulted in a landmark decision against the web site owners, requiring them to pay $20,000 Australian dollars.
What level of compliance should I be achieving?
Web sites should exceed the basic level of compliance that the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) recommend in their Web Site Accessibility Guidelines (WAG) version 1.0 and aim for double AA compliance.