Web accessibility is more than just a best practice for businesses, organizations, and governmental institutions. Rather, it is a requirement that is anchored in law to ensure that there is equity in the ease of access to online resources. Therefore, there are specific laws which have been put in place to enforce web accessibility.
This is to ensure that people living with disabilities have equal and fair access to web resources. One such law is the UK Equality Act of 2010.
What is the UK Equality Act?
The UK Equality Act was enacted in 2010 as a modern legal solution for ensuring that there is more equitability and less discrimination in access to opportunities, information, and services by disadvantaged people. This includes “extending protection against indirect discrimination to disability.”
Part of this “indirect discrimination” is in relation to the ease of access to web resources by people living with disabilities. The UK Equality Act of 2010 has a provision for protecting the rights of people living with disabilities as it stipulates “reasonable adjustments” must be made to enable people of all abilities to access and use resources equitably.
Compliance with the EQA of 2010
The UK Equality Act of 2010 is an extensive law that covers several aspects of preventing discrimination against people with disabilities. As such, it does not explicitly outline the regulations that organizations must abide by when it comes to digital accessibility by people living with disabilities.
However, the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations of 2018 provide a more substantive and specific reference to web accessibility. According to these regulations, all organizations must ensure that people with disabilities have easy access to both their intranet and extranet websites.
This particular regulation strongly recommends that organizations act in accordance with the Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1 AA) to ensure that their websites follow POUR:
Put quite simply, this means the content must be detectable to a user’s senses. Therefore, it’s key to present information that can be perceived in a variety of ways where a visitor can make changes to enlarge the size of font, changes to colour contrasts and caption videos.
This is all about making sure your users can comfortably navigate your site, navigation must be operable to users in ways they can operate. Therefore, required interactions can be performed using keyboard or voice commands and don’t restrict how long it takes someone to read a piece of content.
Users must be able to process the information in front of them and this covers for example, information and instructions are clear and navigation methods are easy to understand and use.
This covers the importance of thinking about the likely ways that technology could evolve. Therefore, content needs to be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of users and different assistive technologies. As a rule, if technology and the user change and develop the code and content should remain accessible.
The only provision for exemptions is in cases where full compliance will have serious adverse consequences on a business or where the number of people with disabilities who wish to utilize a resource is very limited as it is designed for a specifically defined group of people.
The Business Implications of the UK Equality Act of 2010
The UK EQA of 2010 is primarily concerned with ensuring that people with disabilities have equitable and easy access to resources without discrimination. As such, businesses that fulfill the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 AA are considered to be in compliance with the EQA.
These compliant businesses are not liable to fines, penalties, or lawsuits arising from violation of the EQA. Compliance by ensuring that all web resources are presented in an accessible format by people of all abilities also maximizes the earning potential of organizations thus making it possible for them to have positive business outcomes as far as profitability is concerned.
For instance, compliant businesses are likely to rank higher on search engine results thus able to generate more traffic which can be converted to actual sales. The dominant online visibility can also spread brand awareness and accelerate recognition hence positive business outcomes.