Third sector organisations work hard to serve their communities. However, many overlook the need to ensure their website content is accessible to all visitors, including disabled people. Websites that are not designed with accessibility in mind can exclude disabled people from accessing information and services.
In this short post, I explore why accessibility is crucial for third sector oranisations, and some steps they can take to ensure their websites are accessible.
What is Web Accessibility?
Web accessibility refers to the practice of designing websites that are accessible to disabled people. For example, people with visual, auditory, motor, or cognitive impairments. Everyone, regardless of their abilities, should be able to access information and services online.
There are laws and guidelines that require websites to be accessible, including The Equality Act 2010, British Standard 8878 Web Accessibility Code of Practice and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
Why Accessibility Matters for Third Sector Organisations
Third-sector oranisations have a unique responsibility to ensure their websites are accessible to all users. These organisations often work with marginalised communities, including disabled people so, it’s important that their websites reflect their commitment to equality and inclusivity.
In addition to ethical considerations by ensuring that their content is available to all users, these organisations can expand their impact and connect with people who may not have been able to access their services otherwise.
If their websites are not accessible third sector oranisations leave themselves open to potential legal challenges – if they are percieved to be discrimination against disabled people – under the Equality Act 2010. Lawsuits and negative publicity can harm the reputation and effectiveness of third sector organisations.
Designing an Accessible Website for Third Sector Organisations
Creating an accessible website involves following best practices for website design and using tools and resources that can help ensure accessibility. Some best practices include:
There are also several tools and resources available to help third-sector organisations create accessible websites. Accessibility checkers can scan websites for potential accessibility issues, and WCAG guidelines provide detailed information about best practices for accessibility.
Website accessibility is a crucial aspect of web design for third-sector organisations. By ensuring that their websites are accessible to all users, they can increase their reach, align with their missions, and avoid legal risk.
Equality Act 2010 was designed to simplify UK anti-discrimination laws by aggregating several related laws into one. It replaces, among other acts, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, (DDA, Race Relations Act 1976 and the Sex Discrimination Act 1975.
In summary, the Act makes it illegal to discriminate on the grounds of a person’s race, religion or impairment. The goal is to promote equal opportunities in the workplace and in wider society.
The Equality Act 2010 and disabled people
As mentioned above, the Act replaces the old Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). It not only outlaws discrimination against disabled people but also states that organisations must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to ensure equal treatment. The ‘Public Sector Equality Duty’ part of the act outlines the obligations placed on public authorities (including NHS boards) to eliminate discrimination and positively enhance equality and relations between different groups.
The act also covers what it calls, ‘indirect discrimination’. For example, if an employer has a rule that applies to every employee but it is found that that the rule puts disabled people at a disadvantage – that is regarded as discrimination. An example of indirect discrimination would be telling a person with photosensitive epilepsy that they had to apply for in-house training ‘online’ – just like everyone else. The computer skills of someone with photosensitive epilepsy are likely to be poor – as using a computer could cause them to have a seizure – so this would not be considered a reasonable request. If no alternative application process is provided this would be regarded as discrimination.
The act also protects people who have an association with a disabled person, such as a carer.
What organisations does the act apply to?
The act applies to Government departments, Employers, service providers, education bodies and education providers (Schools, FE colleges and Universities), those who provide public functions, landlords and transport providers.
What do these organisations have to do?
Employers and public bodies have a duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to ensure disabled people are not put at a ‘substantial disadvantage’. One example of a reasonable adjustment would be to ensure that information provided on an organisation’s website is accessible to someone who is blind or has a visual impairment. Another example of reasonable adjustment would be to install a ramp to allow wheelchair users to access a building.
Employers have to make changes to the way things are done, if the current situation disadvantages disabled people ‘reasonable adjustment’ is required. For example, providing information in an accessible format; including on websites and documents (e.g. PDF’s and Word documents) provided as part of a public service.
Positive Actions in favour of disabled people
The law allows employers to treat disabled people more favourably that non-disabled people. For example, providing employment opportunities specifically for people with a learning difficulty.
What is The public sector Equality Duty
The public sector Equality Duty requires public bodies – such as the ‘listed’ authorities, the NHS and others with public functions – to take into account the impairments of disabled people when making decisions on policies or services. Public bodies have a duty to think about the need to eliminate discrimination in their work place. They now need to be pro-active rather than re-active in relation to ensuring equality
Specific duties (Scotland) Regulation 2012
The Specific duties (Scotland) Regulation 2012 came in to force in 2012 and places duties on public authorities in Scotland. They are designed to help them develop better policies and practices and improve transparency and accountability – as well as to advance equality of opportunity between different groups.
How Jim Byrne Accessible Website Design Can help organisations comply with the Equality Act 2010
Many organisations have websites and documents that are not accessible to disabled people and therefore they are discriminating against disabled people.
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 the content.
- Give guidances on how to update the accessibility issues outlined in the report.
- Develop a new usable accessible website for you – so that you are being pro-active in meeting the needs of disabled people
- 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
When is unequal treatment not considered discrimination under the Act?
If actions that put disabled people at a disadvantage can be justified – for example, because it would incur unreasonably high costs – that is not counted as discrimination by the act.