A digital inclusion charity has challenged the UK government to enforce web accessibility laws and to take action against organisations that overlook the needs of disabled users when designing websites and applications.
In an open letter, Robin Christopherson, head of digital inclusion at disability assistance charity AbilityNet, said the government is “falling down on the job” by neglecting to take enforcement action against organisations for web accessibility failings.
Christopherson said: “You can barely leave your car one minute over time without getting a parking ticket, but where are the government’s wardens of the internet? Why can’t every law be enforced equally?”
The Equality Act states that those supplying goods and services, as well as employers and schools, should make reasonable adjustments to ensure that what they offer is accessible to people with disabilities.
Christopherson went on to say that because authorities don’t appear to feel that checking for compliance is their job, it’s left to individuals, or those representing them, such as the RNIB bringing a case against bmibaby, and it’s unclear how many other cases in the UK go under the radar as they are more often than not settled outside of court.
“While it can take considerable time and expertise to ensure your site is compliant, it’s simple to check AA-level compliance (the legal minimum) with an auto checker,” he added. “There are a number out there. It would only take a small department to work on and if they had powers like traffic wardens or those issuing speeding fines, it would also generate a lot of money.
“If you’re reading this and you have a website or app, do it anyway. There are 12 million disabled people in the UK who would benefit, and that means more traffic and business for you. Let’s make this GAAD the time that businesses start doing this in earnest. I’m not hopeful, but who knows.
“I’m not asking for every single hardware device or first-person shoot ‘em up game to be made 100% accessible, but please do basic checks where possible.”
From next year, all public sites will be extra scrutinised under new European accessibility guidelines. We hope these have an effect, and we hope European accessibility guidelines also step up to include all business and charity websites.
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