It is important for everyone producing electronic content to make their content accessible to people with disabilities. Most of the countries are taking accessibility very seriously and have made it mandatory for organizations to make their content accessible through some laws. Below we have listed some of the laws of some key countries which mandate organizations of that country to make their documents in PDF format, websites, and Apps accessible and WCAG compliant.
Accessibility Laws in Canada
- Canada’s Standard on Web Accessibility mandates Government of Canada websites and web applications to meet WCAG 2.0 Level AA criteria.
The Accessible Canada Act (Bill C-81)
- An Act to Ensure a Barrier-free Canada to parliament.
- One of the purposes of the act is to prevent accessibility barriers in information and communication technologies, including digital content and the technologies used to access it. Requirements of this act, including web accessibility, will likely follow WCAG.
- Organizations under federal jurisdiction are required to comply or face a fine of up to $250,000.
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)
- The AODA mandates a set of standards that public, private, and non-profit organizations must comply with. The aim of the act is to create a barrier-free Ontario by 2025.
- Private or non-profit organizations with more than 50 employees and all public sector organizations must make their website and web content compliant with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA by January 1, 2021.
- Failure to comply could result in fines of up to $100,000 for each day of violation.
The Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA)
- The Government of Manitoba is striving to create a more inclusive Manitoba by 2023 with legislation that aims to remove barriers for not just those with disabilities, but all citizens.
- The AMA is made up of five accessibility standards that focus on key areas of daily life. Among these is the Information and Communications accessibility standard, which addresses barriers to accessing information, including information provided on websites. Small print size, low colour contrast between text and background, and the use of language that is not clear or plain are all listed as barriers to accessibility. This standard is currently under development; however, it is expected that requirements will follow internationally accepted WCAG, like the AODA.
Nova Scotia Accessibility Act
- This act contains six accessibility standards, including Information and Communications (websites), which are currently in development.
- The Government of Nova Scotia’s multi-year accessibility plan includes the development of a more inclusive website that meets WCAG 2.0 AA requirements. Since the Government is working to ‘lead by example’, organizations should also prepare to meet similar web accessibility requirements.
- Compliance timelines and requirements differ for each accessibility standard. Failure to comply could result in a fine of up to $250,000.
Quebec’s Act to Secure Handicapped Persons in the Exercise of their Rights with a View to Achieving Social, School and Workplace Integration
- In 2004, the Quebec government amended this law to become the Act to Secure Handicapped Persons in the Exercise of their Rights with a View to Achieving Social, School and Workplace Integration. Among its requirements, ministries and government agencies must adhere to the government web accessibility standards (WCAG 2.0).
- Unlike other provinces, Quebec’s law only applies to the public sector (ministries, government agencies, and municipalities). The law also lacks clear timelines, goals, or penalties for non-compliance. As a result, many in Quebec are advocating for a stronger accessibility law to help remove barriers across the province.
Accessibility Laws in the United States
Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
This act prohibits discrimination “on the basis of disability in the activities of public accommodations.” While the law was enacted primarily to focus on obstacles at physical locations, it’s being applied to websites as well.
Title II of the ADA
This act applies to state and local governments. Federal agencies, government contractors, and programs that receive federal funding are also subject to Section 504 and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, amended to address online resources.
If a website is inaccessible to those with disabilities, the business could be required to redesign the website, incur monetary damages, and pay attorneys’ fees.
Also, many states have adopted their own rules, modeled on these regulations and standards.
Accessibility Laws in the United Kingdom
Disability Discrimination Act 1995
An Act to make it unlawful to discriminate against disabled persons in connection with employment, the provision of goods, facilities and services or the disposal or management of premises.
Equality Act of 2010 (EQA)
The Equality Act formally addressed that websites needed to comply with equal access and web accessibility standards. These consisted, primarily, the Equal Pay Act 1970, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Race Relations Act 1976, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, and three major statutory instruments protecting discrimination in employment on grounds of religion or belief, sexual orientation, and age.
- Section 20 of the EQA required service providers to take reasonable steps to provide an equal experience for people with disabilities both online and offline.
- Section 29 of the Act prohibits discrimination by failing to provide adequate accommodations for use.
- British Standard 8878 (BS 8878) is a Web Accessibility Code of Practice that has been designed to introduce accessibility, usability, and user experience for disabled people to non-technical professionals, some of whom may be completely new to this subject. It gives guidance on the process, rather than on technical and design issues. These standards address websites, apps, email, and cloud-based products.
- The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018 covered public sector websites and mobile apps.
- While the EQA covers people with disabilities in England, Scotland, and Wales, it does not cover those in Ireland. Irish citizens are covered by the country’s Disability Discrimination Act 1995.
- While the specific ways organizations must comply are not listed explicitly, following the web accessibility standards laid out in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) from WC3 will likely satisfy the U.K. and Irish regulations.
Accessibility Laws in Australia
- Under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1992, Australian Government agencies are required to ensure information and services are provided in a non-discriminatory accessible manner. This requirement applies to any individual or organization developing a website or other web resource in Australia or placing or maintaining a web resource on an Australian server.
- As per Section 5 of the law, inaccessible web content discriminates against people with disabilities by treating them “less favorably” than those without a disability. Additionally, refusing to make a “reasonable adjustment” to a website so that its content is accessible to someone with a disability is viewed as discrimination.
- gov.au is currently compliant with Level A of the Web content accessibility guidelines version 2.0 – external site (WCAG 2.0) standard. It is being upgraded to Level AA compliance over time. In some cases, the content will be accessible to Level AAA.
Accessibility Laws in Nordic Countries
- WCAG Version used: WCAG 2.0 Level AA
- Agreement on the use of open standards for software in the public sector law
- WCAG Version used: None
- Act on Electronic Services and Communication in the Public Sector law
- Regulations on universal design of Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
- The purpose of the regulation is to ensure the universal design of information and communication technology solutions, without disproportionately idling to the business. Universal design means that the design or facilitation of the main solution in information and communication technology is such that the general function of the enterprise can be used by as many people as possible.
- Web solutions shall be designed at least in accordance with standard Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0)/NS/ISO/IEC 40500:2012, at levels A and AA except for success criteria 1.2.3, 1.2.4 and 1.2.5, or equivalent to this standard.
- WCAG Version Used: None
- Discrimination Act (2008:567): The purpose of this Act is to combat discrimination and in other ways promote equal rights and opportunities regardless of sex, transgender identity or expression, ethnicity, religion or other belief, disability, sexual orientation, or age.
- The Government Offices of Iceland have resolved to make the Website accessible to the handicapped, and aim for all its content to conform at least to the guidelines of WCAG 2.0, AA. The Government Offices will review their policy annually, so as to fulfill even better the requirements for making the Website accessible to everyone. The role of ensuring that the Central Government Website always fulfills adopted accessibility objectives shall be in the hands of the Website management of Government Offices.