What is the UK Law for Websites?
By Neil Harrison LL.B. (Hons)
Does the Law Want a Website Owner to Make Their Website Accessible?
In a word, yes. If someone with a disability, such as a visual impairment, cannot access the information on your website then it could be seen as discrimination.
The Equality Act came into force in October 2010, replacing the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) in England, Scotland and Wales.
Like the DDA, the Equality Act was introduced with the intention of tackling the discrimination which many disabled people face on a day to day basis.
An anticipatory Act!
The Equality Act is ‘anticipatory’, which means that as a website owner, you cannot wait until a disabled person wants to use your services. You must think in advance about what disabled people with a range of impairments might reasonably need. The impairments are not limited to visual ones either, they include hearing loss, mobility and cognitive impairments also.For example, it may be unlawful for a website to:
- have links on that are not accessible to a screen reader
- have application forms for bank accounts or job application forms in a PDF format that cannot be read by a screen reader
- have core service information such as timetables on a bus or train website that is not in a format accessible to screen readers.
- use text, colour contrasting and formatting that make the website inaccessible to a partially sighted service user
- change security procedures without considering the impact of blind and partially sighted customers that use screen readers.
What Level of Compliance Should the Website Owner Be Aiming For?
Although there is no case law guidance currently in the United Kingdom, the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) are currently suing BMI Baby over its failure to deal with the poor accessibility of its website.
Like any law, case law can only provide broad guidance about what websites have to to comply and this may vary from website to website.
The RNIB recommend that websites exceed the basic level of compliance that the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) recommend in their Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 1.0 and aim for Double AA compliance. If you are a UK government website you should be aiming to achieve Double AA.
This content is not an authoritative statement of the law and the information is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice. Whilst AFM have made every effort to ensure that the information we have provided is correct, we cannot accept any responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions.