Discrimination and the Web

There is a UK law that has been around for a while now, since 1995 in fact – here is an excerpt from the Royal Institute for the Blinds’ web site:

When must a site be accessible by?

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 – Word (the DDA), was introduced with the intention of comprehensively tackling the discrimination which many disabled people face. The part of the DDA that states websites must be made accessible came into force on 1 October 1999 and the Code of Practice for this section of the Act was published on 27 May 2002.

What are the October 2004 changes to the DDA?

The DDA changes that came into effect on October 1 2004 are as follows:

  • small employer exemption removed. All employers are now legally obliged to make all their services accessible including websites, intranets and extranets accessible
  • police and fire services are now also legally obliged to make their websites, intranets and extranets accessible. Previously they were exempt. The only area of employment still specifically excluded is the armed forces.
  • service providers will have to make physical adjustments to their premises where these features make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to use the service they provide.
  • Note that since 1999 websites have had a legal obligation to be accessible.
What are the obligations in the DDA?

Broadly speaking, the DDA makes it unlawful to discriminate against disabled people in the way in which you recruit and employ people; provide services; or provide education. Discrimination can take place in two ways – by treating a disabled person less favourably; and/or by failing to make “reasonable adjustments” so that disabled people can participate in employment and education or make use of a service.

How does it apply to websites?

Websites may be covered under the employment provisions, as they may be a means of advertising jobs; or there may be an intranet which staff need to use. Websites will most commonly be covered when they constitute the provision of a service, or they are related to education.

The Code of Practice cites an airline website as an example to define a service online. Taken from the Code of Practice 2.13 – 2.17 (p11-13):

“What services are affected by the Act? An airline company provides a flight reservation and booking service to the public on its website. This is a provision of a service and is subject to the act.”

What is meant by “reasonable adjustments”? (more…)
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