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Legal Requirements - Accessibility (part 3)

In the UK the DRC (Disability Rights Commission) [] is the advisory body responsible for upholding the rights of people with disabilities and for evaluating the effectiveness and compliance with the 1995 Disabilities Discrimination Act (DDA) and its ongoing amendments. Part 3 of the Act applies to companies (and individuals) offering web services, i.e. websites, and states that “reasonable adjustments” should be made to accommodate people with disabilities.

The United States has similar recommendations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and all federal government websites must comply with section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act – although not binding in law it represents a negative sanction for those businesses not complying with the (effective) subset of the WAI since they are unable to tender without a demonstrable working knowledge of the Act.

Other countries and states such as Canada, Australia and the European Union have in place or are developing legislation to safeguard the rights of people with disabilities who wish to use the Web [].

While legislation has been difficult to enforce due to the often woolly nature of various acts, the effect of negative sanctions through inability to tender for lucrative government web contracts has encouraged development houses to embrace accessibility.

Accessibility Groups

Today such groups as GAWDS (Guild of Accessible Web Designers) actively promote the development of accessible websites. Its members are expected to produce and promote accessible web presences. This is as much to do with good business practice as it is with developers recognising their own responsibilities.

A number of websites have sprung up showcasing the works of standards-compliant, accessible websites. Most forums devoted to web development have an accessibility section and some, such as Accessify [], are indeed devoted to the practice.

Benefits of Accessible Websites

From a commercial perspective accessible development makes for good business sense. It is estimated that some 10% of the world’s population suffers some form of disability, especially that associated with the gradual impairment of the visual sense normally accompanied by the aging process. Ensuring a commercial site is accessible to the widest community can bring in considerable extra revenue and garner visitor loyalty.

Besides accommodating users with impairments, an accessible site will fair better on diverse devices and will likely be more compact, more easily navigable, better structured – and therefore more easily read – and go some good way to being technologically future-proofed.

Another feature of accessible design is the ease with which pages can be identified, assimilated and interpreted by search engines – a huge plus in an incredibly competitive web marketplace.

The momentum is increasing. Accessibility – whether morally inspired, commercially incentivised or legislatively enforced – is now a serious business agenda.

Article by Sonet Digital a New Media Company that provides interactive web development and contributor to Search and Go special features portal and directory that provides up to the minute information on every subject imaginable. If you need info… Search and Go!

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