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Home > Accessible Web Services > Why Be Accessible : Legal Reasons

Legal reasons for accessibility

In the UK people or organisations who provide goods or services and / or information through a website have a legal duty to ensure that this is done in a way that is accessible to disabled people.

The framework for this is set out within the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995.

The DDA covers a wide range of areas and is not specific to websites or technology. It is designed to end the discrimination that disabled people encounter and to protect disabled peoples rights. An organisation has to take “reasonable steps” to ensure that they do not discriminate against disabled people. If it fails to do this an individual can take them to court.

The DDA has a general relevance to websites as information providers but is likely to place specific obligations if a website provides a service that is not available, or costs more, off line. Something as simple as only providing an annual review free in a .pdf format through a website may constitute a failure to take reasonable steps.

Although no case law has been established in this area a general consensus has been formed that reasonable steps should normally be meeting WCAG standards. The level of compliance that is appropriate will most likely depend on the situation and cost.

“Websites must by law be accessible, and should meet the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) standards on accessibility. The Disability Discrimination Act requires that services on all websites should be made accessible. Failure to do so could lead to prosecution for a breach of the Act. An EC Resolution growing out of the European Commission’s E-Europe 2002 initiative urges member states to adopt and implement WAI guidelines at all levels of government in all regions. UK government policy is that conformance with these guidelines is to level A, following Priority 1 recommendations. This is likely to be raised by European legislation to level AA.

To ensure conformance to the WAI accessibility standards we recommend local authorities make this a contractual condition in any contracts with third-party suppliers of web-enabled software or web content.”

Taken from the UK governments Office of the e-Envoys Top 10 Guidelines for UK local government websites.