WAS Notes: Accessibility Laws
I'm studying for the WAS certification. These are some of the notes I've taken recently.
Quick note: I am not a lawyer. I don’t even know any lawyers.
These categories cover most web accessibility laws:
- Civil rights laws: equal rights and making discrimination against people with disabilities illegal under defined conditions, e.g. the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- Procurement laws: requiring accessibility to be taken into consideration when purchasing or contracting for services, e.g. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act in the US, or EN 301 549 in the EU
- Industry-specific laws: some industries require extra regulation around accessibility, e.g. the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), or the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA)
Here is a summary of accessibility laws for various regions throughout the world.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The ADA is a civil rights law that broadly prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. While it doesn’t explicitly mention web accessibility, it is often used as the basis for legal complaints because of how it applies to “public accommodation.”
The ADA applies to private entities that are open to the public, except for religious organizations and private clubs, as well as federal and state entities, and it is enforced by people filing formal complaints.
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act
Section 508 is a procurement law that requires the federal government to consider accessibility when purchasing information technologies (hardware and software). After an update in 2017, it now references WCAG and requires AA conformance.
Section 508 applies to government entities only, but since so many organizations work with the government, these requirements have a wide reach. Like the ADA, Section 508 is enforced by people filing formal complaints.
21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA)
The CVAA requires a broad spectrum of telecommunications products to be accessible to people with disabilities. As written, any videos broadcast on television with captions must have closed captions on the internet, but web-only videos aren’t specified. Weird! But WCAG very much applies all videos on the internet.
The CVAA applies to all entities already covered by FCC regulations, and it is enforced, again, by people filing formal complaints.
Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA)
The ACAA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability for air travel and requires carriers to accommodate people with disabilities. How this relates to web accessibility is kiosks (and carrier websites, of course).
The ACAA applies to air carriers (both US and foreign but operating in the US), who are required to conform to WCAG Level AA for all public-facing web content. This probably sounds familiar, but the ACAA is enforced by formal complaints.
The Accessible Canada Act
The Accessible Canada Act is a law aimed at making Canada barrier-free by 2040 by focusing on employment, the build environment, information and communication technologies, and transportation, among others. It applies to the Canadian federal government and private entities regulated by the government. The law created Accessibility Standards Canada and established a Chief Accessibility Officer.
Web Standards for the Government of Canada
The Canadian government published web standards for accessibility, usability, interoperability, and mobile devices. These apply to the government, but not explicitly the private sector.
Ontario: The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)
The AODA applies to basically anyone who does anything in Ontario.
Quebec: Standards sur l’accessibilitié du Web
This standard is a modified version of WCAG 2.0 that government websites must comply with.
The Equality Act of 2010
The Equality Act is a civil rights law that broadly prohibits discrimination in general, which includes the basis of disability. It applies to public authorities and organizations that carry out public functions, and it is enforced by complaints and legal action.
The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018
The gist of this regulation is that websites and mobile apps of public sector entities must be accessible.
EN 301 549: “Accessibility requirements for ICT products and services”
This standard relates to one of two directives (notably 2016/2102) that must be adopted by all EU member states. It is similar to Section 508 in the US, as it relates to procurement.
European Accessibility Act (EAA)
The EAA is similar to the ADA in the US. The goal is to create a commons set of guidelines for EU member states (many have their own accessibility legislation already).
All Flemish websites and mobile apps must be accessible according to directive 2016/2102.
Countries with Standards based on WCAG
- France: Référentiel général d'amélioration de l'accessibilité (RGAA), part of French Law 2005-102
- Germany: Barrierefreie-Informationstechnik-Verordnung (BITV 2)
- Ireland: Code of Practice on Accessibility of Public Services and Information provided by Public Bodies
- Italy: Law 4/2004 (”Stanca” Law)
- Netherlands: Web Accessibility Laws and Policies
- Spain: Law 34/2002, Law 51/2003
- Australia: Disability Discrimination Act, WCAG, Level AA
- Brazil: the Brazilian Consitution and the Brazilian Law for Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities
- Hong Kong: WCAG, Level AA
- India: WCAG, Level AA
- Japan: Japanese Industrial Standard (JIS) X 8341, The Act on the Elimination of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities
- New Zealand: Human Rights Amendment Act 2001, Web Accessibility Standard 1.1, Web Usability Standard 1.3