So let's get straight to the point. Is your website legal? Well, in October 2004 we reached the deadline of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), 1995 in which the DDA ordered service providers to make "reasonable adjustments" to the physical features of their premises to ensure the services they provide are accessible to people with disabilities.
The 175 page code of practice for the DDA published in May 2002 specifically mentions websites. The relevant sections are included below.
* 2.13 - 2.17 (p11-13): "What services are affected by the Disability Discrimination Act? An airline company provides a flight reservation and booking service to the public on its website. This is a provision of a service and is subject to the act." * 5.23 (p71): "For people with visual impairments, the range of auxiliary aids or services which it might be reasonable to provide to ensure that services are accessible might include ... accessible websites." * 5.26 (p68): "For people with hearing disabilities, the range of auxiliary aids or services which it might be reasonable to provide to ensure that services are accessible might include ... accessible websites."
To elaborate on this some more.
"The duty not to refuse or deliberately not provide a service could apply in a case where a service provider has deliberately chosen not to integrate accessibility into his Web site. This might include where a Flash movie is used, but there is no option for a user with a screen reader to skip it.
. A service provider must not provide a lower standard of service to a disabled person, compared to that offered to an able-bodied person. Thus, where a retailer offers an e-commerce facility in addition to its high street shop, if the Web site is inaccessible then the disabled person will be unable to enjoy the convenience of home shopping and will thus be subject to a lower standard of service. "
Source: Martin Sloan (www.dmag.org.uk)
With the legal side of things out of the way there are a number of important benefits to building an accessible website. There are 8.6 million registered disabled people in the UK , totaling 14% of the population (Source: Disability Rights Commission). Two million people in the UK have sight problems and 9% have some form of colour blindness (Source: Institution of Electrical Engineers). There are also 12 million people aged 60 or over, some 21% of the UK population (Source: UK Government). This eventually means that 48% of the population of the UK, not to mention those of other countries could potentially face problems using a website that does not comply with accessibility guidelines.Therefore producing an accessible website could gain you important commercial benefits in the shape of many new customers.
Accessibility is closely linked to the other standards covered in this section, so much so that the W3C launched the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) in order to advise web agencies of strategies to achieve compliance.
The WAI offers three standardized levels of access, from the readily achieved (Priority 1), to one that requires slightly more work (Priority 2), to a master level (Priority 3). Creative Eye can achieve all of the above
"I own a B2B company and the DDA doesn't apply to me" I hear you say. Well there are some great reasons for designing with accessibility in mind. Accessibility and web standards are so closely linked that many of the benefits cross over. Some of the many benefits include
* Speed of development and updates * Future compatibility with new browsers, PDA's and mobile devices * Better Search Engine rankings
Read our article "The business benefits of designing with web standards" on www.webdesigngoldmine.com.
About the author: Gary is the founder of webdesigngoldmine.com and has been developing websites since 1999. Visit www.webdesigngoldmine.com for more articles, tutorials and free css templates.