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.
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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
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.
The public sector equality duty covers a list of ‘protected characteristics’:
The duty also covers marriage and civil partnerships, in relation to eliminating unlawful employment discrimination.
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 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:
A public authority must take account of these three needs to comply with 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:
Secondary legislation outlining specific duties came into force on 27 May 2012.
Each listed authority is required to:
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:
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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:
SOCOG said that:
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
You should check the accessibility of your website regularly to ensure that you are providing an accessible service to your customers.
Links and resources related to the questions.
As 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.
Tags: Document Compliance
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
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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.
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