Relevant Accessibility Laws
In addition to being the right thing to do, accessibility is the law. Detail about your rights under International Law can be found on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities website. Detail on the European Union's involvement can be found in European Disability Strategy 2010-2020.
Additionally, International Law is often reinforced by the laws governing nations around the world.
Australia passed the Disability Discrimination Act of 1992 with specific provisions to accommodate people with disabilities. Under Web & IT Accessibility, Australia has established policy initiatives for accessibility of electronic commerce and new service and information technologies for older Australians and people with a disability. As a part of this, the Cabinet on 21 March 2000 adopted specific accessibility requirements for Commonwealth sites as part of its policy for use of the internet, including requirements for:
- All Commonwealth departments and agencies to evaluate their sites for compliance with the W3C accessibility standards from 1 June 2000
- All new contracted site work to include accessibility benchmarks from 1 June 2000
- All Commonwealth sites to pass accessibility testing by reference to W3C standards by 1 December 2000.
Policy on the Provision of Accommodation for Employees with Disabilities. This policy became effective July 1, 1999 and outlines the responsibilities regarding the employment accommodation of employees with disabilities. In discharging this policy, the Government of Canada recognizes that the work environment of employees with disabilities must be adapted to meet their employment-related needs of employees with disabilities in the federal Public Service are met within reason - IT accommodation is an important part of this.
Freedom to Choose Action Plan for IT Use by People with Disabilities. It essentially says the Danish info-society must be open to everyone - including people with disabilities. "Freedom to Choose - Action Plan for IT use by People with Disabilities" follows up the Government's IT Policy Action Plan 1995. In particular it says: "States should ensure that new computerized information and service systems offered to the general public are either initially accessible or are adapted to be made accessible to persons with disabilities." European Union
2003 has been declared the European Year of People with Disabilities. The European Commission launched the eEurope initiative on 8th December 1999 with the adoption of the Communication eEurope - An Information Society for all. The eEurope Action Plan associated with this initiative has set the following goals.
- By the end of 2000: Review Information Society legislation and standards on accessibility. Recommendation to take account of people with disabilities in the public procurement of information and communications products and services.
- By the end of 2001: Commitment to make all public Web sites and their content accessible to people with disabilities.
- By the end of 2002: Create centers of excellence in each Member State to develop an EU curriculum in Design-for-All.
The "Behindertengleichstellungsgesetz" - BGG (law for equal treatment of people with disabilities) became effective in 2002. §11 of this law says that the German government promotes accessible user interfaces and web-sites for commercial products. An appendix to this law ("Barrierefreie Informationstechnik-Verordnung" - BITV, RVO §11 BGG) requires government agencies to provide accessible graphical user interfaces and websites for publically available IT services they offer. More information can be found on the official web-page of the responsible government agency (German only).
The Irish government has The Employment Equality Act and the Equal Status Act, which are modern anti-discrimination measures, and the Equality Authority Act, which is chartered to address violations of the first two Acts. The law also created the National Disability Authority Act led to a group who is responsible for, among other things, advising the Government on the coordination and development of policy disability issues.
The Portuguese Accessibility Special Interest Group successfully petitioned and obtained a commitment on web site accessibility from the government of Portugal. Accessibility is now mandatory in Portugal for public and Administrative web sites.
The Spanish Law 51/2003 (LIONDAU) establishes the basic conditions of accessibility and non-discrimination for access and use of technologies, products and services related to the information society and social communication media. It extends the reach of the Law 34/2002 (LSSICE), and includes design for all as a consideration into all technologies, products and services from their conception to roll out on the market. However, it is the Royal Decree 1494/2007 that translates the principles from these laws into specific regulations. In practical terms this means:
- Computer equipment and computer programs used by the public administration, whose intended purpose is use by the public in general, must be accessible to the elderly and disabled in accordance with the guiding principle of "Design for all" and the specific accessibility requirements demanded, with preference given to the national technical standards that incorporate European standards, international standards, other systems of technical references prepared by the European standardization bodies or, failing that, national standards (Standards UNE 139801:2003 and UNE 139802:2003)
- The information available on the public administration websites shall be accessible to the elderly and disabled, with a minimum level of accessibility that shall meet priorities 1 and 2 of Standard UNE 139803:2004.
- The public administration shall promote measures for raising awareness, informing, educating and, especially, training in the area of accessibility.
In August 1996 the Government commissioned the Swedish Handicap Institute to develop a programme of IT-based measures aimed at disabled and elderly people. The aim of the program is to provide the basis for a more concerted effort within the area of IT for disabled and elderly people. The work has been carried out in close conjunction with the organisations and authorities concerned.
The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 originally primarily covered employment issues and the provision of goods, facilities and services. Another act, the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001, extends this act to require schools to put in place plans to provide equal access to educational materials and their delivery. Public authorities (and contractors who work on their behalf) have additional duties to promote equality of opportunity as well as tackling unlawful discrimination.
In 2010, the Equality Act was passed which made it unlawful for Service or Education Providers to discriminate , victimize or harass a person with 'protected characteristics' either directly or indirectly.
The Equality Act defines disabled person as someone who has "a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities".
Service Providers unlawfully discriminate under UK law if they do any of the following:
- refusing to provide a service
- providing a lower standard of service
- offering a service on different terms than you would to other people.
In the exceptional case that Service Providers would be otherwise unable to provide the service or if the service is provided in the interests of national security, those actions can be considered lawful.
Download the Equality and Human Rights Commission guidance for detailed information about the Equality Act.
There are three key pieces of legislation relating to accessibility in the United States:
- Section 508 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act requires that electronic and information technology developed, procured, maintained, or used by the Federal government be accessible to people with disabilities. The onus is on the U.S. Federal agency to only purchase accessible information technology. Section 508 went into effect June 21, 2001, and was refreshed in April 2008.
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (see overview) recognizes and protects the civil rights of people with disabilities and is modeled after earlier landmark laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race and gender. The ADA covers a wide range of disability, from physical conditions affecting mobility, stamina, sight, hearing, and speech to conditions such as emotional illness and learning disorders.
- Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act provides that a manufacturer of telecommunications equipment or customer premises equipment shall ensure that the equipment is designed, developed, and fabricated to be accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, if readily achievable. Further, a provider of telecommunications services shall ensure that the service is accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, if readily achievable. Along with Section 508, Section 255 was was refreshed in April 2008.