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Canterbury Christ Church University Business School Accessibility Research

Accessibility Legislation and Standards

Legislation and standards on accessibility are mainly guided by: W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) Web Accessibility guidelines and by Section 508 of the US Rehabilitation Act which set up very explicit guidelines for interface design.

UK Accessibility Legislation
In the UK accessibility legislation is directed by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) Web Accessibility guidelines and bound by the UN convention in line with the directives of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Key to the provision fo services is the need for 'reasonable adjustment'. A key resource for disabilities is the UK Ofice for Disability Issues (ODI). Key legislation includes:

The Equality Act 2010 (In force from October 2010)
  • Provides a single legal framework with clear, streamlined law to more effectively tackle disadvantage and discrimination replacing the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) in England, Scotland and Wales. 
  • Brought together 116 separate pieces of legislation into one single act.
  • Is "anticipatory", which means you cannot wait until a disabled person wants to use your services/products.  The service provider must think in advance (and on an on-going basis) about what disabled people with a range of impairments (sight loss, hearing loss, mobility and cognitive impairments) might reasonably need.
  • Covers indirect discrimination
  • Includes a new provision which makes it unlawful, with limited exceptions, for employers to ask about a candidate's health before offering them work.
  • Section 20(5) explicitly specifies the need to take reasonable steps to provide the auxiliary aid where a disabled person may be disadvantaged in comparison to others.
  • Schedule 10 "Accessibility for disabled pupils" suggests an accessibility strategy to be in writing that prescribes the extent to which disabled pupils can participate in the school's curriculum, whether it by improving physical environment of the school or by improving the deliver to disabled pupils of information which is readily accessible to pupils who are not disabled.
  • Section 20(6) calls for reasonable adjustment for [an information service provider] to ensure that information is provided in an accessible format
    • Equality Act 2006

    • Came fully in force during 2007
    • Similar to the duties lied under DDA 2005

      The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995

    • Section 21 emphasized that service providers must not provide a lower quality of service to disabled people and to make information about their services accessible for blind and partially sighted people. 
    • The act also defined the 'term Disabled people' with an extensive list of individuals suffering not only from physical disability but also covered mental as well as cognitive aspects of disability.

    The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1999 (amendments to DDA 1995)

    • Superseded by Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 (SENDA)
    • Introduced Section III to specifically cover Code of practice for website accessibility with effect from 1st October 1999

      Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (SENDA) 2001

      (amendment to DDA and Part 4 of the Education Act 1996 to make further provision against discrimination, on grounds of disability, in schools and other educational Institutes).

    • In force on 1 September 2002 with two exceptions: the provision of auxiliary aids and services covered from September 2003 and alternations to physical features covered from September 2005.
    • All providers of higher or further education (institutions) are obliged to make 'reasonable adjustments'.
    • If a disabled person is at a "substantial disadvantage", responsible bodies are required to take reasonable steps to prevent that disadvantage, that might include - changes to policies and practices, change physical features of a building, the provision of materials in other formats, the delivery of courses in alternative ways. 
    • To comply with SENDA 2001 one should ensure the web platforms are built to the very latest W2C HTML and CSS standards (Cascading Style Sheets).
    • Although to comply with DDA 1995, the website needs to pass the least minimum of W3C Priority 1 Standard, however Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) acknowledge and advise to comply with Priority 2 W3C standards.
    • Various amendments:
      • Disability Discrimination Act (Amendment) (Further and Higher Education) Regulations 2006
      • Disability Discrimination Amendment Regulations (bringing in changes to employment] 2003
      • Disability Discrimination Act 2005 (which covers councillors, private clubs etc).

      Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 2005

    • Act revoked in October 2010 and disability equality duty on 6 April 2011.  However the Act can still be relied on where the discriminatory act occurred wholly before 1 October 2010
    • Service providers required to assess obstacles and make reasonable adjustments to physical features to overcome physical barriers to access.
    • The Act introduced Disability Equality Duty (DED) which required public authorities, including government departments, to consider how their policies and practices affect disabled people.
    • From 4 December 2006 also applied to refurbishment of rail vehicles and introduced certification and enforcement provisions.  It requires all vehicles to comply with rail vehicle accessibility regulations by 1 January 2020.

      Human Rights Act 1998

    • Came into full force in October 2000
    • It did not create any new rights but enabled human rights cases to be heard in United Kingdom (UK) courts or tribunals.
    • One of the fourteen fundamental rights covered by HRA 1998 was "prohibition of discrimination".

The Broadcasting Act, 1996

  • A code concerning the disabled was added in Section 20 which require broadcasters to audio describe 10% of their programmes within 10 years. 
  • The Code relating to provision for deaf and visually impaired states that digital programme services and qualifying services should promote the understanding and enjoyment by deaf or hard to hearing and person who are blind and partially-sighted person by offering "assistance" in any of three forms, subtitling for the deaf, audio-description for the blind and presentation in (translation into or sign language)
  • However the term "programme" excludes advertisement and "qualifying service" does not include the teletext service.
    • The Communication Act 2003

    • The Communication Act 2003 replaced all previous legislation about what is expected of broadcasters in relation to alternative formats. 
    • Ofcom (Office of Communications) provides a set of Ofcom's Code on Television Access Services obliging channels to provide access to services by viewers with sensory impairements.
    • UK legislation required least 90% of Channel 3 and Channel 4 programmes and at least 80% of programmes on Channel 5 must be subtitled by the end of 2010.
    • The Communication Act 2003 also requires broadcasters meet the legal requirements either by (a) programmes being translated into sign language (b) programmes being made by or for deaf people and presented in sign language.

EU Accessibility legislation
The EU has two laws or directives that prevent people from being discriminated against on the grounds of race and ethnic origin and on the grounds of ...."disability"...
  • The Employment Framework Directive
  • The Racial Equality Directive

The new Article 13 in EU treaty prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability.

The directive (paralleling the UK Disability Discrimination Act) requires employers and training providers to provide 'reasonable accommodations' to meet the needs of disabled people.

EU Disability Strategy 2010-2020

  • The Strategy also fulfil the commitment to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persona with Disabilities.
  • The first objective (1) is "Accessibility: make goods and services accessible to people with disabilities and promote the market of assistive device.
  • European Accessibility Act

How to comply with EU legislations?

  • The Euro Accessibility consortium, launched in Paris on April 28th 2003 is intended to foster European co-operation toward a harmonised methodology for evaluating the accessibility of web sites.  This initiative is a joint undertaking by 23 organisations from all over Europe and the W3C/WAI
  • An overview of European legislation, not specific to the Internet, is available at Horizontal European Activities in Rehabilitation Technology (HEART)
  • EU online legislative database helps to ensure effective implementation of United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities; It also provides up-to-date information on specific legislation relevant to blind and partially sighted people in Europe.

US Accessibility legislation
In the United States there is strong governmental support that has led to about 11 pieces of disability legislation.  Key to information and information technology are:

The Rehabilitation Act Section 508 (;

  • Section 508 covers standards to set forth provisions that establish a minimum level of accessibility.  It covers a full range of electronic and information technologies in Federal sector including computers, software, networks, peripherals and other types of electronic equipment.
  • The standards arose as a result of the 1998 congress amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities.
  • The law applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. Under Section 508 (29 U.S.C. ‘794 d), agencies must give disabled employees and members of the public access to information that is comparable to access available to others
  • Although initially intended for Federal agencies, Section 508 has become an industry standard and is now a key design tool.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 1990 ; 1995

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA, 1990, as effected in 1992 during the George Bush (Senior) administration applies to all walks of life.

Telecommunication Act 1996

  • The Act requires manufacturers of telecommunications equipment and providers of telecommunications services to ensure that such equipment and services are accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities, if readily achievable.
  • Subpart C on Accessibility and usability states manufacturers to provide employee training considering various key factors, some relevant points being "Accessibility requirements of individuals with disabilities" and "Means of communicating with individuals with disabilities"
  • Section 255 and Section 251 (a) (2) of the Communication Act of 1934, amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
  • Title IV on ADA addresses telephone and television access for people with hearing and speech disabilities.  It requires common carriers (telephone companies) to establish interstate and intrastate telecommunications relay services (TRS) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  TRS enables callers with hearing and speech disabilities who use TTY's (also known as TDD's).  The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has set minimum standards for TRS services.

The Assistive Technology Act 1998 (USA) - Public Law 105-394 [29 USC 2201]

Also known as the “Tech Act”, this is an extension of Section 508. It provides funds to each state to support three types of programs:
  • creation of assistive technology (AT) demonstration centers, information centers, equipment loan facilities, referral services, and other consumer-oriented programs;
  • protection and advocacy services to help people with disabilities and their families, as they attempt to access the services for which they are eligible;
  • Federal/state programs to provide low interest loans and other alternative fi nancing options to help people with disabilities purchase needed assistive technology.
The Act is a repurposed version of the Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act (P.L. 100-407) first passed in 1988, reauthorized in 1994 (P.L. 103-218) and again in 1998 (P.L. 105-394).
The Act was amended in 2004 (P.L. 108-364) during the Bush administration. One of the major changes brought about by the Assistive Technology Act of 2004 was a change in purpose. Previous Acts focused on helping states build "systems for improving access to assistive technology devices for individuals with disabilities." The 2004 amendment now required States to provide direct aid to individuals with disabilities to ensure they have access to the technology they need

Other US legislation worth looking at includes:

  • The Workforce Investment Act 1998 (WIA)
  • Section 188 of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA) prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in any WIA Title 1 - financially assisted program or activity.  The law is enforced by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP)
  • The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act  (IDEA) or (Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004)
    • Formerly called P.L 94-142 or the Education for all Handicapped Children Act of 1975)
    • IDEA mandates public school systems to develop appropriate Individualized Education Programs (IEP's) for each child.
    • Page 118 STAT. 2650 (G) & (H) focuses in supporting the development and use of technology, including assistive technology devices and assistive technology services, to maximize accessibility for children with disability.

The Information Technology Technical Assistance and Training center lists initiatives from different states.

UN Convention on the rights of Disabled People

  • Key resources for UN conventions for disability issues are available on the UN Enable website -
  • Article 9 of the UN convention on disabilities deals with accessibility stating that "To enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life, parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure access to persons with disabilities, on an equal basis with others: to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas.  These measures, which shall include the identification and elimination of obstacles and barriers to accessibility.."

    • Ratification of UN convention by UK government

    • The UK government ratified the Convention in July 2009, agreeing to be bound by the convention's terms.
    • A UK report to the United Nations about how the Convention is being implemented and what progress has been made will be a public document to judge UK performance by both an international and domestic audience.

World Accessibility Legislation - other countries

Australia and New South Wales (NWS)

Disability Discrimination Act 1992

  • The DDA 1992 makes disability discrimination unlawful and aims to promote equal rights, opportunity and access for people with disabilities.
  • The DDA 1992 of Australia adheres to UN Convention on the rights of Disabled People
  • Section 31 2(a)(i) introduces "disability standards" which deals with providing "reasonable adjustments". Disability standards are to specify rights and responsibilities about equal access and opportunity for people with a disability. 
  • The DDA ensures that organisations do not indirectly discriminate an individual.  Example; not providing a student with a visual impairment with materials in a useable format is classed as "indirect discrimination".

Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986

  • Schedule 5 of Section 3 on Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons explicitly states "Disabled persons are entitled to the measures designed to enable them to become a self-reliant as possible"
  • The Human Rights Commission administers the Disability Discrimination Act 1992
  • Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and Anti Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW)  both pieces of legislation are complaints based, Part 4a in Anti Discrimination Act 1977 deals with the issue of accommodation. The Acts provide for the provision of reasonable adjustments or assistance to access mainstream services.  They also offer the respondent the opportunity to present a case of 'unjustifiable hardship' in the circumstances when the respondent considers meeting the particular needs of a person with a disability a significant burden.

Disability Services Act 1993 (NSW)

  • The Act provides for the development of delivery of services to people with a disability. 
  • In June 1992, a number of amendments were made to the Disability Services Act 1986 as part of the Government's strategy to assist funded organisations to improve the standard of service they provide for people with a disability.  The Department of Attorney General & Justice conforms to the Disability Services Act by developing and implementing fifth Disability Strategic Plan.  The plan provides strategies for making services accessible to people with disabilities. 

How to comply with Australian legislations?

The Australian Human Rights Commission issued an advisory note of accessibility of World Wide Web in 2010 that takes in account of version 2.0 of the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Content Advisory Guidelines

New South Wales Diversity Services

New South Wales have a Diversity Services unit located within the Department of Attorney General & Justice. It advises the Department of its obligations under the Commonwealth and State legislation on:

  • equitable services to clients;
  • awareness of rights and responsibilities;
  • law, justice and legal reform;
  • and access and equity issues for staff with disabilities
Some relevant pieces of legislation but with no specific references to information or computing accessibility include:

The key accessibility legislation in Canada includes:

Canadian Human Rights Act

Amendments made in 1998 to the Canadian Human Rights Act R.S.C., 1985. c. H-6 require employers and service providers to accommodate special needs short of undue hardship, including those of people with disabilities.  While the duty to accommodate has long been recognized by the courts, specific reference to accommodation in the Act clarifies both the rights of employees and the obligation of employers.

Access to Information Act (R.S.C., 1985, c.A-1)

The act requires that "where access to a record or a part thereof is to be given under this Act and the person to whom access is to be given has a sensory disability and requests that access be given in an alternative format, a copy of the record or part thereof shall be given to the person in an alternative format."

Employment Equity Act S.C. 1995, c.44

The Act explicitly mentions in its purpose of act to achieve equality in the workplace and "to take special measures and accommodation of differences for persons with disabilities"

How to comply with Canadian legislations?

  • Many of the accessibility directions are driven by the Common Look and Feel Working Group created by the Canadian Human Rights Commission Treasury board in 1998.
  • The Equality and Diversity Directorate of the Public Service Commission of Canada (PSC) provide an outlet for news on Canadian government standards and guidelines. 
  • Starling ACCESS Services offer not only guidelines but total web accessibility revamp services.  They are also a direct contributor to WAI.
  • The Equity and diversity Directorate of the Public Service Commission of Canada is perhaps the first government institution to create accessibility guidelines.  Their initiatives include the Employment Equity Positive Measures Program (EEPMP) which addresses diversity and issues of disability.  Long before the existence of accessibility evaluation tools such as BOBBY , PSC created simple guidelines along with a self-evaluation tool that served a useful tools in designing and testing accessibility.  The self-evaluation tool includes a self-evaluation test for JavaScript scripting language.
  • Treasury board of Canada Secretariat provides direction and leadership for information management and information technology in the government.
  • Since 1991, Environment Canada's AAACT Program has been a driving force in the fields of accessibility, accommodations and adaptive computer technology.  The AAACT Program currently provides to Environment Canada and Other Government Departments a wide range of services.


Legislation on accessible audio-visual media in France or "11 February 2005 Law"

  • This law covers different aspects of the rights of handicapped people including accessibility.
  • Regarding accessibility to communication, the law stipulates that all the programs of audiovisual channels whose average yearly audience is higher than 2.5% of the total TV audience should provide subtitles within 5 years. 

Law 5 March 2009 No. 2009-258

Article 54 provides that "Prior to December 31, 2011, the CSA delivers to Parliament a report on the efforts made by the publishers of audiovisual communication services in the field of audio description (.)  As well as appropriate measures to improve accessibility of programs for the blind or visually impaired (.)"

In France, the work of BrailleNet provided the necessary push for legislative moves following increased popularity of the Internet and the Web since about 1996.  Until very recently, there was no regulation concerning the Web and awareness concerning accessibility issues was very limited among the Web community. Therefore, there was a strong need for disseminating information in France about the way to improve the accessibility of Web services for all citizens. The right opportunity was given by the European Community who decided to support participation of European organisations to the WAI project. This lead in January 1998 to the commitment of BrailleNet in the WAI project (represented by its co-ordinating organisation, the INSERM) and the creation of a partnership between French public web sites and BrailleNet association which lead to revision of the 1975 law relating to disability in July 11 2003.

  • Like the UK, Germany also signed for UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and mandates that all federal government web pages and websites must conform to the Priority Standards based on the WCAG 2.0 Guidelines
  • Additional guidelines are also offered by the German Federation of Blind and Visually Impaired People on 
  • The new legislation Sozialgestzbuch (SGB IX) and the law of the equalization of opportunities for people for disabilities (Bundesbehindertengleichstellungsgesetz - BGG) highlighted the issue of free access at workplace and for the first time access to information technology was explicitly taken up in the BCG.
  • In 2004 Germany launched the programme "Jobs without barriers" as an initiative for training and employing persons with disabilities as well as workplace prevention. 


The Strategy for Equality 1996

Section 9 "Access" highlights detailed list of strategies suggested to be introduced by the Department of Equality and Law Reform, one of which is concerning access to goods, facilities and services"

Law n.4, January 9, 2004 - Provisions to support the access to information technologies for the disabled (also known as "The Stanca Act")
  • "Article 2" defines accessibility as the capability of computer systems, in accordance with the attained technological knowledge and its limits, to supply services and to provide information which can be availed of, without discrimination, also by those who need supporting technologies or special configurations because of some disability"
  • "Article 4" Accessibility obligations (4) mandates that Public and private employers must provide disabled employees with hardware equipment, software tools and assistive technologies which are suitable for their needs and enable to carry out their duties; this also applies in the event of teleworking.
  • "Article 5"  Accessibility of educational and instructive instruments dictates "the agreements drawn up between the Ministry of Education, Universities and Research Institutes and by the publishers' associations concerning the supply of books to school libraries always provide for the supply of digital copies of the essential didactic material which should be accessible to disabled students and to assistant teachers, in the case that funds are available in the budget"

New Zealand
The key accessibility legislation in New Zealand includes:

New Zealand Disability Strategy

  • The Strategy was launched on 30 April 2001
  • "Objective 3: Provide the best education for disabled people" states in Action (3.1)" child is denied access to their local, regular school because of their impairment" (3.2) "Support the development of effective communication by providing access to education in New Zealand Sign Language, communication technologies and human aids" Action (3.6) "Improve school's responsiveness to and accountability for the needs of disabled students"
  • Objective 6 explicitly mentions to "improve the quality of information...the services available and how to access them" and suggests to take action in "making all information and communication methods offered to the general public in formats appropriate to the different needs of disabled people".

The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (BoRA)

Ensures compliance of offering "reasonable accommodation" where special services are required for a disabled person to carry out a task at a normal level.

Health and Disability commissioner Act 1994

  • Provides a mechanism for resolving complaints about service delivery.
  • Health and Disability commissioner Act aligns established the position of Health and Disability Commissioner to develop a Code of Health and Disability Service Consumers' Rights and a mechanism for resolving complaints about service delivery.  The Code identifies ten rights and does not include a right to access services.

  • Article 25 in The Portuguese Constitution (CRP) focuses on Equal Access to Education with provisions set of accessible text books and other educational material.
  • The Decree-Law No. 319/91, 23rd of August, regulated by Implementing Order No 173/01, 23rd of November, authorises the adjustment of conditions of the teaching/learning process of student with special educational needs, who attend state ensino basico and upper secondary schools, operational via the following measures: "Special compensation equipment - special teaching aids: books in Braille, audio-visual materials" "Special materials for reading, writing and arithmetic" "Compensation devices" and Material Adaptations.
  • Article 27, The Decree Law 29/2001, of February 2 (Employment Quota System) defines positive measures to promote the employment of people with disabilities in central and local public administration.
  • The legislative instruments (Decree-Law No. 247/89 of 5 August 1989) offers "compensation subsidy" - a public financial payment awarded to employers who hire people with disabilities and compensating them for the lower work productivity during the period of their adaptation or re-adaptation to work.
  • Initiatives in Portugal are lead by the Portuguese Accessibility Special Interest Group (PASIG), a non-profit NGO that established an international accessibility board consisting of well-known accessibility experts and industries.  Together with PASIG, this board compiled Internet accessibility guidelines that were submitted to the Portuguese parliament on February 17, 1999.

South Africa
South Africa has made some inroads in accessibility legislation with their: They also has a National Disability Strategy. The vision of the Integrated National Disability Strategy proposed by the White Paper is a society for all. This means that there must be an integration of disability issues in all government development strategies, planning and programs. There must be an integrated and coordinated management system for planning, implementation and monitoring in all spheres of government. To complement the process, there must be capacity building and wide public education. Their Towards a barrier - free society initiative provides detailed information on legislations and policy on disability accessibility in South Africa.

Employment Equity Act (EEA).

This legislation is fairly similar to the one in Canada, although some of the EE groups are different. It also contains requirements related to the elimination of discrimination.

The purpose of the Act is to achieve equity in the workplace by:

  • Promoting equal opportunity and fair treatment in employment through the elimination of unfair discrimination; and
  • Implementing affirmative action measures to redress the disadvantages in employment experienced by designated groups, to ensure their equitable representation in all occupational categories and levels in the workforce.

The Promotion of Equality and the Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act 2000

  • Chapter 1, Section 9(c) mentions no person may unfairly discriminate against any person on the ground of disability, including - "failing to eliminate obstacles that unfairly limit or restrict persons with disabilities from enjoying equal opportunities or failing to take steps to reasonably accommodate the needs of such persons.
  • Section 29, 2(c) on Education explicitly states to reasonably and practicably accommodate diversity in education.

Accessibility and Usability Standards

Canadian Common Look and Feel

The Treasury Booard of Canada Secretariat have developed a series of Common Look and Feel (CLF) standards which apply to departments listed in Schedules I, I.1 and II of their Financial Administration Act,

US Usability Standards

The American National Standard Institute (NSSN, ) provides a national resource for national and international standards.
  • ANSI/HFES-200 ( is focused on design requirements and recommendations to increase effective usability of software interfaces. 
  • Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES) -
  • Section 508 standards as listed on the access board web site

International Accessibility and Usability Standards

The International Standards Organisation's ( 16071:2003, Ergonomics of human-system interaction covers issues associated with designing accessible software for people with the widest range of visual, hearing, motor and cognitive abilities, including those who are elderly and temporarily disabled. 

It includes the accessibility of interactive systems including a wide range of solutions, including office applications, web pages and multimedia. The guidelines were designed to complement general design for usability covered by ISO 9241-10 to ISO 9241-17 and ISO 13407 they however do not provide recommendations for the design of hardware. Also, although ISO/TS 16071:2002 promotes usability of systems in combination with assistive technologies, when they are required, it does not cover the behaviour or requirements of assistive technologies themselves (including assistive software).

Instead, the Software Ergonomics Workgroup (TC159/SC4/WG5) is commissioned to work on issues relating to multimedia. The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) is also working on a multimedia standard (IECTC100). In addition, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineering's (IEEE) computer society also sponsors the Internet Best Practices Working Group (IPWG) chartered to create IEEE std.20001-1999 best practices draft.

Websites to explore

Australia and New South Wales


European Union



New Zealand