Accessibility of Websites to Disabled People

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 – soon to be replaced under the laws of England and Wales by the Equality Act 2010 – deals with various situations whereby individuals with a disability are treated less favourably than able bodied individuals.

Since its inception the Act has had a significant impact in relation to the employment sector, but it is not simply limited to this. Accordingly the Act provides for the situation whereby a website is not accessible to individuals suffering with a disability.

What does the Disability Discrimination Act state?

The Disability Discrimination Act makes it unlawful for a service provider to discriminate against a disabled person by refusing to provide any service which it provides to members of the public.

Furthermore a service provider has to take reasonable steps to change a practice which makes it unreasonably difficult for disabled people to make use of its services.

What online services will be covered by the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act?

Any online services will be covered by the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act. An example of this is when an airline company provides a flight reservation and booking service to members of the public on its company website.

This falls directly within the definition of the provision of a service and is therefore subject to the Disability Discrimination Act.

Accordingly companies that offer online services to members of the public must ensure that they take into consideration people will disabilities and enable them to use the service along with able bodied members of the general public.

What issues should I take into consideration when implementing my website?

When implementing a website individuals’ should take into consideration people will visual impairments and people with hearing impairments.

There is no specific guidance under the Act as to how to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act, however, if websites deal specifically with individuals who are impaired in relation to their hearing or who are visually impaired they are likely to comply with the Act.

Are there any guidelines which I can access which will ensure that I do not fall foul of the Act?

Often when case makes it to court the WSC accessibility guidelines will be used in order to assess the accessibility of a website and make the final decision on the case.

What is the WSC?

The WSC is an Internet governing body.

Where can I obtain it’s guidelines on accessibility?

The guidelines in relation to accessibility can be obtained from the WSC website. If a website adheres to these guidelines it is unlikely that a case will be brought against them under the Disability Discrimination Act.