We have recently seen has been a flurry of requests for accessibility audits. In the UK this seems to be driven by new regulations for public sector websites and in the US due to a rise in accessibility litigation. So what are the legal requirements to make your website accessible?
Conducting an accessibility audit is usually viewed as a techy activity and is best done by a coding pro. While a knowledge of HTML is important, this is only part of the skill set required.
The online world can be an unfriendly place for users with disabilities. While access technology has come on leaps and bounds, with a range of options available to users with visual or motor impairments, many websites still do not make it easy for users of assistive technologies.
All websites should be accessible to disabled users, not only for ethical and commercial considerations, but also for legal. The Equality Act 2010 (EQA) prohibits discrimination from providers of services, good and facilities (EQA Section 21(1)). In 2011 the Human Rights Commission published a Statutory Code of Practice for "Services, public functions and associations" under the EQA explicitly stating that commercial websites are included in the scope of the EQA for the provision of services.
Your website should be usable and accessible for everyone. Testing with disabled users is essential to achieve a comprehensive accessibility evaluation of your website.
Website accessibility introduction
Website accessibility is an essential part of website development. It is also a complex beast to get your head around. There is a mass of guidance and legislation – some of it seemingly contradictory.
Trenton Moss has posted an article Accessibility audit vs. accessibility testing on the e-consultancy site. This is a very interesting article and I agree with much of what Trenton has said. I would however, like to take issue with one or two points he makes. Trenton says "The Disability Rights Commission have consistently said that testing a website with real disabled users is the only [my italics] way to ensure it offers optimum accessibility - the PAS 78 document very strongly state that accessibility testing is the way to uncover all [my italics] accessibility issues..."
There was an interesting piece on the BBC's In Touch programme this week talking about Local Authority web sites getting worse, not better, for blind people to use. Julie Howell, who is on a British Standards Institute working party developing standards for accessible site development, commented:
To make a webpage accessible to all, it is necessary that users can 'tab' through the different elements of the page. We have recently added a couple of flash videos to our new website. As part of our aim, we wanted to make this flash video accessible. Once the flash element is active, you can use the keyboard to control everything - volume bar, seek bar, turn on/off subtitles, make it full screen etc. We had no problem accessing the video on IE browsers. But we got stuck when using other browsers like Firefox, Safari and Chrome and trying to access the flash video by tabbing on the page.