Website Accessibility and Your Legal Obligations in the UK
Published: June 15, 2023
The accessibility of websites plays a crucial role in ensuring equal access to information and services for all individuals, including disabled people. It is not just about ‘doing the right thing’, it is a legal requirement.
Website Accessibility and the Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act 2010 is the legal foundation in the UK designed to ensure equal access to goods, services, and information. Websites are included within the legislation. Organisations must make reasonable adjustments to accommodate disabled people. Non-compliance can lead to severe penalties, reaching up to 4% of worldwide turnover.
Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018
The Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations (PSBAR) came into effect on September 23, 2018. It applies to public sector organisations. These regulations require public sector websites, including government agencies, educational institutions, and local authorities, to meet certain accessibility standards. Public sector websites should aim for at least Level AA conformance with WCAG guidelines and provide an accessibility statement to communicate their compliance level.
To ensure compliance with accessibility standards, organisations should conduct regular accessibility checks, engage in user testing with disabled people, and make necessary improvements to address any identified barriers. It is advisable to maintain an accessibility statement on the website, which outlines the organisation’s commitment to accessibility, known limitations, and contact information for reporting issues.
How to ensure compliance with your legal requirements
ISO 30071-1 international information technology standard
The ISO 30071-1 is international information technology standard was published in 2019. It contains good practice guidelines and advice that will be useful to all organisations seeking to make their content accessible. Part 1 is about embedding good accessibility practice into the values of a company – to ensure the ICT products and services they design are accessible.
The development of the ISO 30071-1 standard was lead by Johnathan Hassell who wrote the following:
“It provides a framework around standards like WCAG 2.0 and 2.1 to help integrate accessibility within organisations and into software development lifecycles.”
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1
To achieve accessibility standards, organisations can adhere to the internationally recognised Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). They provide a framework for web developers and designers to create websites accessible to all, including disabled people.
In conclusion: Website Accessibility and Your Legal Obligations in the UK
Website accessibility is not just a matter of social responsibility, it is a legal obligation. By adhering to the Equality Act 2010, and relevant legislation such as the Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations organisations you can ensure equal access to your websites and services for disabled people. Taking accessibility seriously means you not only to avoid potential penalties but also make your content more accessible and enhance the user experience for all visitors to your websites.
Photo by DPP Law.
WCAG 2.1 Guidelines Explained
Published: April 12, 2022
A history lesson: where did the website accessibility guidelines come from and what’s in them?
- 1995: The first web accessibility guidelines were compiled by Gregg Vanderheiden shortly after the 1995 Chicago WWW II Conference.
- 1998: University of Wisconsin–Madison compiled the Unified Web Site Accessibility Guidelines.
- 1999: they formed the basis for WCAG 1.0.
WCAG 1.0. were focused on HTML and web pages.
- 14 guidelines.
- 65 checkpoints.
- Each with a priority level: A, AA. AAA.
A Compliance: the guidelines must be satisfied otherwise it will be impossible for one or more groups to access the Web content.
AA Compliance: should be satisfied, otherwise some groups will find it difficult to access the Web content.
AAA Compliance: may be satisfied: to make it easier for some groups to access the Web content.
14 WCAG 1 Guidelines
- Guideline 1: Provide equivalent alternatives to auditory and visual content.
- Guideline 2: Don’t rely on colour alone.
- Guideline 3: Use markup and style sheets, and do so properly.
- Guideline 4: Clarify natural language usage.
- Guideline 5: Create tables that transform gracefully.
- Guideline 6: Ensure that pages featuring new technologies transform gracefully.
- Guideline 7: Ensure user control of time-sensitive content changes.
- Guideline 8: Ensure direct accessibility of embedded user interfaces.
- Guideline 9: Design for device independence.
- Guideline 10: Use interim solutions.
- Guideline 11: Use W3C technologies and guidelines.
- Guideline 12: Provide context and orientation information.
- Guideline 13: Provide clear navigation mechanisms.
- Guideline 14: Ensure that documents are clear and simple.
WCAG 2 – Published 2008
Not just websites, but also PDF, Google Docs, Spreadsheets, e-Books… and other ‘digital assets’.
WCAG 2.1 – Published 2018
- WCAG 2.1 does not deprecate or supersede WCAG 2.0.
- The differences between WCAG 2.0 and 2.1 are mostly related to the use of tablets and mobile devices.
- They are designed to make content more accessible to a wider range of people, including accommodations for blindness and low vision.
WCAG 2.1 Based on 4 Principles
What do the principles mean?
WCAG speak: information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.
Jim speak: the site visitor must be able to recognise that the content exists. For example, by being able to see it, hear it or touch it.
- WCAG speak: user interface components and navigation must be operable.
- Jim speak: the site visitor must be able to navigate around the site and use the features and functions presented.
- WCAG speak: information and the operation of user interfaces must be understandable.
- Jim speak: not only should visitors be able to recognise the existence of the content and be able to interact with it, but they must also be able to understand it.
- WCAG speak: content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.
- Jim speak: it must be possible to access the content using everything from a text-only web browser to the latest Firefox browser. And everything in between, including screen readers and all the different brands and versions of browsers now available.
Each Principle Has A Set Of Guidelines
1. Perceivable: the guidelines relate to:
- Text alternatives for non-text content.
- Captions and other alternatives for multimedia.
- Content can be presented in different ways, including by assistive technologies, without losing meaning.
Operable: the guideline Relate To:
- Ensuring functionality is available for keyboard users.
- Giving users enough time to read and use content.
- Avoiding content that causes seizures or physical reactions.
- Help users navigate and find content.
- Making it easier to use inputs other than by keyboard.
Understandable: the guideline Relate To:
- Make text readable and understandable.
- Make content appear and operate in predictable ways.
- Help users avoid and correct mistakes.
Robust: the guideline Relate To:
- Maximising compatibility with current and future user tools.
- For example, by using valid code.
For Each Principle
There are guidelines – these are the basic goals that authors should work toward in order to make content more accessible.
And For Each Guideline
Ther are ‘testable success criteria’.
- Three levels of conformance are defined as: A (lowest), AA, and AAA (highest).
- Techniques and examples are provided for meeting those criteria.
- All ‘success criteria’ apply to mobile platforms as well as desktop platforms.
- However, the techniques sections does not yet fully cover mobile techniques.
Tags: accessibility, accessible, criteria, Gregg Vanderheiden, legislation, operable, percievable, robust, standards, understandable, validation, WCAG 1, WCAG 2, web development
5 ideas to improve your online presence and make your site more secure in 2018
Published: January 9, 2018
Happy New Year. I hope you had a restful break. 🙂
This is the time of year to make plans; freshen up your website; reach more people or try to do things more efficiently.
Here are five things to consider as we move in to 2018. Click the appropriate link for information about those activities you are interested in:
1. Make sure your website has been upgraded or re-designed to work well on mobiles and tablet computers. 2017 was the year that mobile usage finally overtook desktop browsing. Every website now needs to be a ‘responsive’ website and able to operate on all devices. Is yours?
The importance of having a mobile friendly website is, of course, not new. In 2016 Google made changes to the way they rank sites, to the extent that more mobile friendly sites are moved up the rankings. It is no longer simply about usability, it’s also about whether you can be found at all, ‘on any platform’. Gianluca Fiorelli wrote in the Moz* newsletter (Moz are an SEO consulting company) that, ‘Google is steadily moving to a mobile-only world’. Get in touch if you would like to discuss upgrading yours site to work well on mobiles.
2. Consider commissioning an accessibility audit of your site. You may be breaking the law without knowing it. If you web content is not accessible to disabled people that is considered a form of discrimination under the Equalities Act 2010.
If you ensure your website is accessible you are likely to increase the audience for your content. Accessible websites also tend to be easier to use for all visitors. This is an area I have over two decades of experience in so if you have any questions or if you would like to commission an audit get in touch. Get back to me within two days of receiving this newsletter and I promise to provide an unprecedented good deal on a website accessibility audit of your site. I will check your site against WCAG 2 level 2, or whatever level you require.
3. Ensure your website is protected against being hacked and that if you are hacked you have your content backed up. I am currently providing a discount on my standard website backup service.
I also provide a 24/7 monitoring (and cleanup) service to ensure that if your website gets hacked you will know right away. Immediate action is required if you website is hacked:
- If you are hacked and Google detects that your site has been hacked then your site will be blacklisted. This means that Google will start to tell visitors that your site is dangerous. Clearly that is not good for your credibility and, of course, you will lose much of your traffic as not many people will override a Google warning to visit your content. Once Google has blacklisted your site you need to clear your site of malicious content and then you need to try to get Google to remove the blacklisting.
- Hackers can add malicious code and content to your site and serve adverts to your visitors without you noticing. If you visit your site directly it looks fine. However when people are finding your site via Google it appears to be serving drugs or porn or some other malicious content.
In other words you need your site to be monitored and you need to be alerted right away if malicious code or content has been added to your site. You might think it won’t ever happen to you. Not true, it is almost guaranteed that you will be hacked at some point. 43,000 sites get hacked every day and 10,000 sites get blacklisted by Google every day. Get in touch if you have a WordPress website and you are not already using a monitoring and cleanup service. Not only can I give you a great deal, I’ll also install the monitoring software for free.
4. Make sure you are ready for the new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). The GDPR is the EU data protection regulation which replaces the current Data Protection Act. It aims to simplify regulation and give individuals more control over their personal data. I recently wrote a short summary about the GDPR I think you will find useful.
5. Get a brand new accessible, mobile friendly, feature rich website; one that is designed from the ground up to help you meet your goals, whether that be to get more members, sell more products or get more people registered for your newsletter. If it’s been on your mind for a while now’s the perfect time to take action.
Get in touch if you want to chat about any of the above. Tel: 07810 098119 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
All the best,
Public Sector Equality Duty – A summary
Published: January 31, 2017
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.
- 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’:
- religion or belief
- 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:
- To eliminate unlawful discrimination.
- To promote equality of opportunity.
- 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.
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:
European Commission welcomes agreement to make public sector websites and apps more accessible
Published: May 11, 2016
On the 3rd of May the European Parliament, the European Council and the European Commission agreed that in future all public sector websites and mobile apps should be made accessible.
The text still requires approval by the Council and the Parliament before coming into force. Assuming approval, members states will have 21 months to include the directive in their national legislation.
In summary the Directive requires:
- New public sector websites and apps will have to be accessible. Current websites will have to be updated.
- Older content will need to be made available, in accessible format, on demand.
- Closed captioning or another accessible alternative will need to be provided on government videos. In the case of live streaming the videos need to be made accessible within 14 days of broadcast.
- Online payment services will have to be accessible, for example payment of fines or taxes.
- There will need to be a clear statement outlining the parts of pubic sector websites that are not accessible.
Further information can be found a on the European Commission website.
Bruce Maguire versus Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG)
Published: August 8, 2014
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 Bruce 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.
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.
Links and resources related to the questions.