Web Accessibility Legislation Overview
Web Accessibility Legislation vs. WCAG
In the past years, web accessibility legislation has increasingly been adopted by different countries and states. Legislation has been aimed at building awareness around- and enforcing the need for greater website accessibility.
However, an important note is that while most legislations impose the risk of penalties, they have not set their own standards for compliance. Rather most legislations refer to the internationally recognized Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) established by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and require compliance with one of their published versions, as well as levels of compliance.
The United States
In the United States, web accessibility legislation is primarily enforced by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title III and the Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The ADA requires websites that operate as a public accommodation to be accessible, whereas Section 508 mandates that federal agencies ensure that their electronic and information technology is accessible. In recent years, many states have passed their own laws and legislation related to web accessibility.
California has enacted the Unruh Act that not only strictly enforces website accessibility, but also entitles plaintiffs to $4,000 compensation per infraction of the legislation.
In New York, the NYS P08-005 law establishes minimum accessibility requirements for web-based Information and applications by state entities.
As part of the Eleventh Circuit, the courts of Florida have historically not viewed websites as a public accommodation as put forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
In Canada, all government websites are mandated to be accessible per the Accessible Canada Act (ACA) and there Common Look and Feel (CLF) standards currently require compliance with WCAG 2.0. In recent years, several provinces have taken notable steps to adopting web accessibility compliance legislation. Most notably, Ontario with its Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). Other provinces also have similar acts and legislation in progress.
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is enforced in Ontario to identify, remove, and prevent barriers for people with disabilities.
The Accessibility for Manitobans Act was passed in December 2013, with a commitment to achieve an inclusive Manitoba for everyone by 2023.
Nova Scotia’s Accessibility Act aims to remove barriers to accessibility, including that of information and communications, to become accessible by 2030.
In Europe, accessibility legislation is primarily governed by the European Union and there are currently two primary pieces of legislation governing accessibility. In the UK, accessibility legislation is similar to the EU as they adopted many of the same principles whilst still a member state.
EU Web Accessibility Directive
The European Union (EU) Web Accessibility Directive requires EU member states to ensure that public sector bodies meet web accessibility standards.
UK Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations 2018
The UK Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations from 2018 is an adaptation of the EU Web Accessibility Directive that mandates the accessibility of websites and mobile applications.
European Accessibility Act
The European Accessibility Act (EAA) is a directive of the EU that legally requires EU member states to enact various accessibility requirements by 2025.
Website accessibility regulations in the Asia-Pacific region are mandated by national laws and legislations. Accessibility legislation is slowly gaining traction, and there is a growing interest and focus on ensuring digital inclusivity and accessibility.
Australian Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1992
Under the DDA legislation, the provision of information and online services through the web is a legal requirement.
New Zealand Web Accessibility Standard 1.1
The standard mandates that all public service and non-public service agencies must ensure that their websites meet WCAG standard 2.1.