Digital accessibility ensures that digital resources, such as websites, mobile apps, and electronic documents, are usable by all people, regardless of their physical or cognitive abilities. As the digital world becomes more intertwined with daily life, ensuring accessibility for everyone, including people with disabilities, becomes paramount.
Laws Promoting Digital Accessibility and Inclusivity:
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (U.S.): While not explicitly written for the digital age, Title III of the ADA, which covers public accommodations, has been interpreted by U.S. courts and the Department of Justice to apply to websites, especially those of public entities or businesses with physical locations.
- Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (U.S.): Amended in 1998, it requires federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities.
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG): Developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), these are a set of guidelines to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities. Though not a law, they are often referenced in legislation and policies worldwide as the standard for digital accessibility.
- European Accessibility Act (EU): This act aims to improve the functioning of the internal market for accessible products and services by removing barriers created by divergent legislation.
- EN 301 549 (EU): This is a European standard for digital accessibility, applying to a range of digital products and services.
- Accessible Canada Act (Canada): This aims to make all federal jurisdictions in Canada barrier-free.
Case Studies on Digital Accessibility Compliance:
- Target Corporation (U.S.): In a landmark case, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) sued Target because its website was not accessible to blind users. The parties settled, with Target agreeing to pay damages and ensure its website’s accessibility.
- Dominos Pizza (U.S.): In a case that reached the U.S. Supreme Court, a blind user argued that he couldn’t order a customized pizza through the Dominos website and app, even with screen-reading software. While the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal, the case underscored the implications of the ADA for online businesses.
- Sydney Olympics (Australia): In 2000, a blind user sued the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games because their official website was not accessible. The court ruled in favor of the user, marking a significant decision for digital accessibility in Australia.
- Gareth Ford Williams vs. British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC): In the UK, Gareth Ford Williams, who is visually impaired, highlighted the inaccessibility of the BBC’s digital content. This led to a greater focus on accessibility at the BBC, with Williams eventually leading the broadcaster’s User Experience & Design team in ensuring digital accessibility.
These case studies emphasize the importance of proactive digital accessibility measures, not only for legal compliance but also for ethical considerations and reaching a broader audience. As technology evolves, the principles of inclusivity and accessibility must remain central.