The UK 1995 Disability Discrimination Act - how does your website measure up?
Many companies know about advertising standards, copyright and potentially libellous or corrupting content when considering the law. But the full implications of the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) which affect everyone are only just becoming apparent.
The DDA makes it unlawful to provide a service that is not accessible to everybody. Whether the service is provided with or without payment, the legislation is clearly applicable to all information and services supplied via the Internet.
The implications for your organisation of having a website accessible to disabled visitors is not just complying with the law. You will be building your reputation as a fair and accessible organisation, and delivering your corporate message to a significantly wider audience.
So, is your website accessible to disabled people?
Many people believe that if they make the text on their website larger, or resizable, including text descriptions of the images on their website then they are fulfilling the needs of disabled visitors. However, this is just scratching the surface, and leaves many disabled users of the Internet looking at websites that are completely inaccessible.
Disability discrimination does not just refer to visual impairment, but all forms of disability. And as soon as you understand this it becomes apparent that very large numbers of people are unable to access poorly considered, constructed and designed websites.
While the Internet is primarily a visual medium, many people overlook the wide range of disabilities that can disrupt the ability of your audience to access your information:
- Cognitive difficulties affect a large proportion of the UK population. The British Dyslexia Association estimates that 4% of the population is severely affected by dyslexia, and 10% of the population show some signs of the condition. This means that if your website contains long, rambling sentences, jargon, or unclear navigational devices then 1 in 10 of your visitors may be unable to use your website.
- Mobility problems. These can range from mild arthritis of the hands and fingers which means that your visitors can not achieve very fine control of their mouse, through to the total inability to use a mouse as a result of RSI and other problems. This means that if your website relies solely on the use of a mouse to navigate then you are excluding a large number of potential visitors.
- Hearing loss can leave visitors unable to interpret the content of your website if it contains sound files or video clips that do not have a text transcript.
- Visual impairments can range from colour blindness that affects 10% of the UK male population and age related visual deterioration, all the way through to complete blindness.
The number of people who you can include in your target audience just by thinking about website accessibility issues is truly enormous. The Disability Rights Commission estimates that the disabled audience in the UK has a total annual spending power in excess of £40bn.
PAS 78 - commissioning accessible websites
The new PAS 78 Guide to good practice in commissioning accessible websites are a set of guidelines that set out how to commission an accessible website. The new guide is designed to ensure that websites that are new or being maintained are user-friendly for people with disabilities. The report was created through consultation with a variety of advocacy groups including the DRC, RNIB, AbilityNet and the W3C.
Crucially, following the guide might demonstrate compliance by the website owner with the UK Disability Discrimination Act which requires websites to be accessible to disabled people.
Revs.org is Matt Williams' personal website - Matt is Managing Director of web design agency Ecru, pioneers in the development of accessible websites
At Revs we are experienced at fulfilling the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act. An appraisal of the requirement for accessibility comes as standard with our websites along with exceptional design, brand impact and robustness.
The W3C is the most highly regarded standards setting group on the Internet. They have published guidelines on how to achieve basic levels of accessibility for your website:
- Priority Level A - basic accessibility, which enables more people to access your website
- Priority Level AA – the majority of disabled users will be able to access your website
- Priority Level AAA - the highest standards of accessibility
Many experts believe that Level AAA compliance is either unachievable, or has a negative impact on other aspects of a corporate web presence such as brand impact and design. It is generally accepted that a Level AA website incorporating a managed additional set of facilities is likely to achieve the best balance.
We agree these additional requirements with you during the specification phase of your website to ensure that the greatest number of your target audience are able to enjoy and utilise your site. This often involves taking into consideration specific user impairments and incorporating targeted level AAA priority enhancements to further improve the quality of accessibility.
Where do we start? We can perform an accessibility audit of your existing website, or we can build you a new one. We can talk to you today about your needs – our initial consultancy is free. Remember, you have a legal obligation to your customers and website visitors, but you can use this to your advantage, differentiating yourselves from your competitors who are unaware of the untapped audience who simply can’t experience their websites.
Phone Revs on 01702 711645