Were you aware that for over 10 years there has been a legal requirement for UK websites to be accessible to disabled users?

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) was passed in 1995 and states that services have to be accessible to people with disabilities. That part of the DDA applicable to websites came into force in 1999 and expects website providers to make “reasonable adjustments” to ensure their websites accommodate all users regardless of ability or disability.

The DDA and over 116 other pieces of legislation have been merged into the Equality Act 2010, which came into force on 1 October 2010. The Act’s Code of Practice explains the duty “to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people in relation to services to the public, public functions and associations” and clarifies “reasonable adjustments” as requiring “service providers to take positive steps to ensure that disabled people can access services. This goes beyond simply avoiding discrimination. It requires service providers to anticipate the needs of potential disabled customers for reasonable adjustments”

In December 2010 the British Standard 8878 Web Accessibility Code of Practice was launched and is the first British Standard to address the growing challenge of digital inclusion. It applies to all web products, including websites, web-services and web-based workplace applications (such as web-based email) that are delivered to users via Internet protocol, through a web browser.

BS 8878 is consistent with the Equality Act 2010 and is referenced in the UK government’s e-Accessibility Action Plan as the basis of updated advice on developing accessible online services. It includes recommendations for:

  • Involving disabled people in the development process and using automated tools to assist with accessibility testing
  • The management of the guidance and process for upholding existing accessibility guidelines and specifications.

The Equality Act 2010 Code of Practice on Services, Public Functions and Associations can be downloaded from www.equalityhumanrights.com.