skip to main content

Jim Byrne Accessible Website Design Glasgow for The Third Sector, Voluntary, Charities and Not for Profits

Accessible design for the Third Sector
Creating inclusive websites since 1996
Jim Byrne Web Designer

How is the term ‘disabled people’ defined and why does it matter?

As a website designer or an organisation commissioning a website you need to know how the term ‘disabled people’ is defined for the following reasons:

It will have an impact on the approach you take to making your website accessible.
As an organisation you will want to stay on the right side of the law when it comes to making your content and service accessible to ’disabled people’.
Ok, how is the term defined in law?

To paraphrase the UK equality legislation, the term, ’disabled people’ is defined not by the cognitive or physical impairment of the individual but by the physical (or virtual) environment they live in.

For example, if a wheelchair user turns up for a job interview to find that they can’t get in the building because there are steps up to the front door, that’s a problem. The legislation states that it is not the individuals mobility problem that makes them disabled it’s actually the lack of a ramp.

The design of the building and a lack of an alternative access route is preventing them from attending the interview. What needs changed here is not the person but the design of the building or the addition of an alternative way in.

In other words the individual is not expected to suddenly regain the power of their legs – their lack of mobility is not the issue. However, in this the lack of access to the building has put the individual at a disadvantage and that is against the law.

I understand how that works for buildings, what about websites?

The issues are exactly the same on the web. You can’t say that your website is not designed to be accessible to people who are blind or have Dyslexia or people with a hearing impairment.

If you said that you would be breaking the law; because you are implying that accessibility is due to a problem with the the person and not a problem with the website.

So in summary. If you are a website designer, this definition of ‘disabled people’ tells you that it’s your job to create a design that is flexible enough to accommodate the needs of individuals with different impairments.

If you are an organisation commissioning a website, you may be surprised to know that the accessibility of your website is not the responsibility of your website designer.

The UK legislation clearly states that the responsibility for ensuing your website is accessible lies with you, the owner of the site.

So for you the definition of the phrase ‘disabled people’ means you need to be absolutely clear when commissioning your website that it must be accessible to all users.

There are exceptions to this rule in that the any costs incurred and efforts you make are considered reasonable in relation to the resources you have as an organisation.

Jim Byrne

Digital Accessibility Consultant

Do you need your website to be accessible to disabled people? Do you need an accessibility audit of your existing website? I can help. Contact me. Tel: 07810 098 119

Public Sector Equality Duty – A summary

What is the public sector equality duty for?

The public sector equality duty is designed to ensure that those carrying out public functions (including public authorities) consider how they can contribute to and help foster a more equal society. They have a duty to promote good relations between different groups and to advocate and advance equality.

In summary:

  • Deliver improved outcomes for everyone.
  • Develop policies, based on evidence.
  • Take action to advance equality.
  • Be transparent, accessible and accountable.
  • With this policy the onus shifts away from the individual’s need to assert their right to equal treatment onto public authorities. Public authorities are now expected to be pro-active in tackling institutional discrimination.

The public sector equality duty covers a list of ‘protected characteristics’:

  • race
  • religion or belief
  • disability
  • age
  • gender
  • gender reassignment,
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • sexual orientation

The duty also covers marriage and civil partnerships, in relation to eliminating unlawful employment discrimination.

How does it relate to disabled people?

Organisations must take into account a disabled person’s impairment and ensure that that impairment is not a barrier to equal treatment. Organisations need to be pro-active i.e. not wait to react if someone complains about an issue or requests equal access or treatment. An example would be a local authority making their website accessible to disabled people and providing alternative formats available by default.

The General Equality Duty

The public sector equality duty is set out in the Equality Act 2010 and referred to as the ‘general equality duty’.

The general equality duty has three elements:

  1. To eliminate unlawful discrimination.
  2. To promote equality of opportunity.
  3. To foster good relations between those with ‘protected characteristics’ and those who do not.

A public authority must take account of these three needs to comply with the general equality duty.

Who is subject to the General Equality Duty?

The list includes health boards, education authorities, further and higher education authorities, local authorities, the police, fire and rescue authorities and Scottish Ministers. There is a full list of those subject to the act online.

The duty covers public authorities when carrying out their public functions as service providers, as policy makers and as employers and also covers services and functions which are contracted out.

When private and voluntary sector organisations are carrying out a ‘public function’ they are also covered by the duty. A public function’ is one defined as such by the Human Rights Act 1998.

In order to meet the general duty, a public authority must:

  • Be educated about the the act and the requirements implied so that they can be applied to policies and practices. Duties under the act should be considered at the time when new policies are being created.
  • The decision making process must take heed of the three needs of the general equality duty in a way that influences the outcomes of those decisions.
  • The general equality duty is a ‘continuing duty’ – so it has to be considered during the implementation of policy and must be continually reviewed.
  • The public equality duty also applies to anyone exercising public functions on behalf of a public body; the duty rests with the public authority even when delegated to a third-part organisation.

Specific Duties

Secondary legislation outlining specific duties came into force on 27 May 2012.

Each listed authority is required to:

  • Publish progress on mainstreaming of the equality duty, equality outcomes, gender pay gap and equal pay.
  • Review policies and practices and asses them.
  • Gather employee information.
  • Consider award criteria in relation to public procurement
  • Publish information in a manner that is accessible.

How Jim Byrne Accessible Website Design Can help organisations comply with the Public Sector Equality Duty

Many of the organisations subject to the act have websites and documents that are not accessible to disabled people. If a disabled person cannot access information on a website managed by a public authority and no alternatives are offered that would be considered as unequal treatment under the Equality Act 2010 .

The services I provide can help in the following ways. I can:

  • Carry out a website access audit to check if there are any barriers to disabled people accessing content.
  • Help make the updates necessary to ensure your website is accessible
  • Develop a new usable accessible website for your in so that you are being pro-active in meeting the needs of disabled people
  • Update your existing website to make it more accessible.
  • Identify and fix accessibility problems with PDF’s or Word documents you publish so that your publications are accessible to your target groups.

Contact me to discuss any of the above. Telephone: 07810 098 119

Or fill in the contact form below:




Bruce Maguire versus Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG)

A summary of the seminal case relating to Inaccessible Websites and Disability Discrimination Legislation

In June 1999 Bruce Maguire lodged a complaint with the Human Rights & Equal Opportunities Commission under the Australian Disability Discrimination Act. His complaint was that he was being discriminated against because he could not access the contents of the Olympic Games website.

As a highly skilled user of a refreshable Braille display he was used to being able to access the content of web pages, however, he was unable to access important content on the Olympic Games website.

He won the case, but the Olympic Committee did not make the required changes, and subsequently he was awarded $20,000 dollars in compensation.

The Olympic Games website contained the following accessibility issues:

  • There were no labels on images or imagemaps.
  • There was no access to the index of sport pages from the schedule page
  • The contents of the results table were inaccessible.

The Olympic Committee defence

SOCOG said that:

  • The issues with the alt attributes had been solved – and that labels had been added to all images.
  • The sports pages could be accessed via an alternative route, i.e., by typing in URLs to the pages.
  • The site was not subject to the act because it was ‘promotional’.
  • The site was too big and to make the website accessible would entail ‘unjustifiable hardship’.
  • It would require additional infrastructure, time and resources costing $2.2 million.
  • 1, 295 templates would need to be altered.
  • One person working 8 hours per day would take over a year to fix the problems.

SOCAG reasons were not accepted

All of the above reasons where conclusively repudiated by Australian Authorities and expert witnesses.

The Human Rights Committee did not agree that the site was only promotional and said that it was a service provided during the Sydney Olympic Games.

The Commission found that having to access pages by typing in a long URL did not constitute equal treatment,

“The proposed alternative is both unorthodox and cumbersome and need not be resorted to by a sighted person.’

Expert witnesses dismissed the arguments related to the site being too big to change; i.e., they refuted the claim that the cost, complexity and time involved would mean unjustifiable hardship for SOCOG.

Expert witnesses concluded that,

  • Changes would take a developer with 4-10 helpers four weeks.
  • Only 394 templates would be required.
  • No new infrastructure would be required.
  • The cost of making the site accessible would be modest.
  • Accessibility tags are not different from other tags, therefore, would not take any longer to add.

Expert witness Tom Worthington, expressed the view that the corrections would take less time than the time which was consumed talking about it.

SOCOG lost the case and were ordered to make changes by adding alt attributes, providing access to the Sports pages and making the results tables accessible. They refused to comply and were fined $20,000 (Australian dollars).

The Commission found that Bruce Maguire had been discriminated against and that the attitude of SOCOG – who had not taken the complaint seriously – had caused ‘considerable feelings of hurt, humiliation and rejection’.

The Maguire v the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games set a worldwide precedent relating to the requirement for websites to be accessible in countries with similar disability discrimination legislation.

Links

  • Nublog Reader’s guide to Sydney Olympics accessibility complaint: http://www.contenu.nu/socog.html
  • Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission: http://www.hreoc.gov.au/
  • Australian Disability Discrimination Act: http://www.hreoc.gov.au/disability_rights/dda_guide/dda_guide.htm

This article was written by Jim Byrne, a Web site accessibility specialist since 1996. He is the founder of the Worldwide Guild of Accessible Web Designers and author of the QnECMS – the accessible CMS.

If my site is accessible will it still look good?

Absolutely. It is a myth that accessible websites are text only or cater for the lowest common denominator. There is no reason why an accessible website should be any worse or better looking than a site that is not accessible.


Whether your website is well designed or not is down to the talents of the Web designer employed to the do the job, not whether it is accessible or not.

How will I know if my site is accessible or not?

It is generally accepted that if your site conforms to the good practice outlined in the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), you have demonstrated your commitment to making your site accessible.

Evidence from court cases in other countries with similar legislation suggest that the W3C Guidelines are likely to be used as the main way to measure accessibility of an organisations’ website.

What accessibility level is required?

To be safe, you should aim to ensure your website meets at least Priority 2 of the World Wide Web Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

  • The European Union recommend that member states’ websites conform to at least Priority 2 of the W3C/WCAG.
  • UK Government recommend that government websites should achieve Level AA compliance.

What are accessibility levels?

The W3C WCAG are a series of checkpoints designed to ensure your site will be more accessible to disabled people. The checkpoints are grouped into different levels of compliance.

  • Priority 1: If your website does not meet this standard, ‘one or more groups will find it impossible to access information in the document’
  • Priority 2: If your website does not meet this standard, ‘one or more groups will find it difficult to access information in the document’.
  • Priority 3: If your website does not meet this standard, ‘one or more groups will find it somewhat difficult to access information in the document’.

How can I test my site?

There are many organisations who will carry out an accessibility audit of your website (search the GAWDS website for examples). If you have in-house website design expertise seeking appropriate training may be the best way to help ensure your website will be accessible.

Is there an ongoing process to maintain an accessible site?

You should check the accessibility of your website regularly to ensure that you are providing an accessible service to your customers.

Appendix A

Links and resources related to the questions.

Tags:

Robert Hall – Document accessibility compliance (PDF, Doc)

Bob HallAs a subject matter expert in document compliance, Bob specializes in creating and converting PDF and Microsoft Office documents to accessible formats.

Having worked with many private, government and educational institutes for the past 8 years, Bob is proud to have dedicated his professional career to help ensure inclusion for all.

Contact us today for,

  • Help with your policy and approach to accessible PDF publishing.
  • Training guides to help create accessible PDFs.
  • Help making existing PDF documents accessible.

Contact us today. We are hugely experienced award winning web designers and developers. Please read what our clients are saying about how we helped them meet their aims.

Or phone to talk over your ideas: 0141 576 9446.

Website Accessibility Auditing

Richard Morton is a member of our website website accessibility audit team

Richard Morton Accessibility Specialist“A large proportion of my work over the last six years has been web accessibility auditing, using the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

I do manual testing, using the standard browsers, and light tools like the AIS Accessibility toolbar, and my use of assistive technology includes the built in Windows and browser accessibility features, and JAWS screenreader. I have also provided consultancy and training services to complement the auditing. “

Client Feedback

The report was extremely detailed. It explained what the WCAG guidelines mean, how compliance was assessed, what problems were identified and how these could be fixed. We are confident that implementing the recommendations will greatly improve the accessibility of our site. The report was, as far as possible, free from technical jargon, and Jim was always more than happy to have a chat about things we did not understand. This evaluation has been extremely useful.

Brigitte Cosford – Project Support Officer – Health Rights Information Scotland

Who can benefit from these audits?

These packages are suitable for all businesses, voluntary, education and public sector.

Contact us today if you are,

  • Concerned with website accessibility compliance.
  • Interested in practical suggestions to improve the accessibility of your site.
  • Interested in training to help keep your website accessible.

Read more about out website accessibility auditing service.

Other posts in this category

Give me a phone if you would like me to test the accessibility of your website:

I provided feedback on the WCAG 2 (as representative of Guild of Accessible Website Designers) have two decades of experience and worked with hundreds of organisations.

07810 098 119