MicroAngelo presents to Councillors and Businesses on Web Accessibility and the Disability Discrimination Act

From December 2006 local councils will have a new duty to actively promote disability equality. As part of these new duties Restormel Borough Council, MicroAngelo's local council, organised an event, at Kingsley Village on 9th March 2006, to help local businesses understand the implications of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), and assist them in finding positive ways to respond to the needs of the disabled (read the council's short news report on the event).

Restormel Borough Council

MicroAngelo Web Accessibility Specialist, Matthew Eaton, gave a short presentation introducing the idea of web accessibility, the legal obligation on website owners to make their website accessible, and the business case behind owning an accessible website.

Web Accessibility is seemingly still totally unknown amongst the vast majority of website owners, whether they be private or public sector. Matthew was surprised by his reception at the Disability Discrimination Act event:

"Aside from the other speakers, I think this was the first time anyone had heard of web accessibility. As I was giving my presentation I looked out at the audience and on every face was amazement. After the event, I was gratified that so many people thanked me for giving such an interesting presentation, and several people told me that they had never even considered websites when looking at their responsibilities under the DDA"

Speakers at the conference

Perhaps because of the general public's lack of understanding of both the Internet and the problems disabled people face using computers, many otherwise highly socially responsible companies, organisations and public sector bodies have yet to tackle the problem. This is further compounded by the lack of legal precedent in the UK courts, and the vagueness of legislation regarding website owners legal obligations.

So far all UK cases of website inaccessibility have settled out of court. This is probably because of the contrasting costs and outcomes from the two options website owners find themselves in when someone takes legal action against them: either they make their website accessible, or they engage their lawyer to defend them. Making an accessible website is typically a lot less expensive than the cost of a court case, and the result is an easier to use website with greater market reach; a website that has just opened it's doors to a further 8.5 million people in the UK alone, and their estimated £50 billion annual spending; a website that mobile phone, PDA and other reduced screen size users can access. So it is easy to see why no one has decided to let the courts decide whether they have made 'reasonable adjustments' for disabled people - the case for choosing an accessible website is so strong.

The first step towards an accessible website is the knowledge that a website can be accessible, or not, and that the Disability Discrimination Act gives website owners an obligation to make 'reasonable adjustments' for disabled people. The second step is to get an evaluation (an Accessibility Audit) of the accessibility of your website. The third step is to actually take action in implementing an accessible website. This is largely down to the choice of web development company you commission to produce your website. Unfortunately the vast majority of web development companies have not got the expertise or experience to produce a genuinely accessible website. The British Standards Institute and Disability Rights Commission have produced a set of guidelines on commissioning an accessible website, launched 8th March 2006, and MicroAngelo was at the launch.

To see the MicroAngelo presentation from the event, and learn about MicroAngelo's accessibility services, please see our Accessibility Audits and Consultancy page.

To learn more about the Disability Discrimination Act and the concept of Web Accessibility, see our Web Accessibility page.

26th April 2006

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