The W3C Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG 2.0) has become broadly accepted as the definitive source for web accessibility rules around the world, with many jurisdictions adopting it verbatim, or with minor adjustments, as the basis for accessibility laws that remove discrimination against people with disabilities on the web. The following is a listing of some of the countries that have adopted WCAG 2.0.
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)
This course has been created in the context of the AODA, which came into effect in 2005 with the goal of making Ontario the most inclusive jurisdiction in the world by 2025. Part of this 20 year rollout involved educating businesses in Ontario, many of which are now obligated by the Act to make their websites accessible, first at Level A between 2012 and 2014, and at Level AA between 2016 and 2021.
The AODA adopts WCAG 2.0 for its web accessibility requirements, with the exception of two guidelines:
- Ontario businesses and organizations are not required to provide captioning for live web-based broadcasts (WCAG 2.0 Guideline 1.2.4, Level A)
- Ontario businesses and organizations are not required to provide audio description for pre-recorded web-based video (WCAG 2.0 Guideline 1.2.5, Level AA)
Otherwise, AODA adopts WCAG 2.0 verbatim.
Canadian Government Standard on Web Accessibility
In 2011, the Government of Canada (GOC) introduced its most recent set of web accessibility standards, made up of four sub-standards that replace the previous Common Look and Feel 2.0 standards. The Standard on Web Accessibility adopts WCAG 2.0 as its web accessibility requirements, with the exception of Guideline 1.4.5 Images of Text (Level AA) in cases where “essential images of text” are used, in cases where “demonstrably justified” exclusions are required, and for any archived web content. The standard applies only to Government of Canada websites.
In 2014 the British Columbia government released Accessibility 2024, a 10-year action plan designed around 12 building blocks intended to make the province the most progressive in Canada for people with disabilities. Accessible Internet is one of those building blocks. The aim is to have all B.C. government websites meet WCAG 2.0 AA requirements by the end of 2016.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The ADA does not have any specific technical requirements upon which it requires websites to be accessible; however, there have been a number of cases where organizations that are considered to be “places of public accommodation” have been sued due to the inaccessibility of their websites (e.g., Southwest Airlines, AOL), where the defendant organization was required to conform with WCAG 2.0 Level A and Level AA guidelines.
There is a proposed revision to Title III of the ADA (Federal Register Volume 75, Issue 142, July 26, 2010) that would, if passed, require WCAG 2.0 Level A and AA conformance to make web content accessible under ADA.
Section 508 (of The Rehabilitation Act, U.S.)
Section 508 is part of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act and its purpose is to eliminate barriers in information technology, applying to all Federal Agencies that develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. Any company that sells to the U.S. Government must also provide products and services that comply with the accessibility guidelines Section 508 describes in the Act.
These guidelines were originally based on a subset of the WCAG 1.0 guidelines, which was recently updated to adopt WCAG 2.0 Level A and AA guidelines as new requirements for those obligated through Section 508.
Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act in the UK does not specifically address how web accessibility should be implemented, but does, through Section 29(1), require that those who sell or provide services to the public must not discriminate against any person requiring the service. Effectively, preventing a person with a disability from accessing a service on the web constitutes discrimination.
Sections 20 and 29(7) of the Act make it an ongoing duty of service providers to make “reasonable adjustments” to accommodate people with disabilities. To this end the British Standard Institution (BSI) provides a code of practice (BS 8878) on web accessibility, based on WCAG 1.0.
For more about BSI efforts, watch the following video:
© BSI Group. Released under the terms of a Standard YouTube License. All rights reserved.
Throughout Europe a number of countries have their own accessibility laws, each based on WCAG 2.0. In 2010 the European Union itself introduced web accessibility guidelines based on WCAG 2.0 Level AA requirements. The EU Parliament passed a law in 2014 that requires all public sector websites, and private sector websites that provide key public services, to conform with WCAG 2.0 Level AA requirements, with new content conforming within one year, existing content conforming within three years, and multimedia content conforming within five years.
This does not mean, however, that all countries in the EU must now conform. The law now goes before the EU Council, where heads of state will debate it, which promises to draw out adoption for many years into the future, if it gets adopted at all.
In Italy the Stanca Act 2004 (Disposizioni per favorire l’accesso dei soggetti disabili agli strumenti informatici) governs web accessibility requirements for all levels of government, private firms that are licensees of public services, public assistance and rehabilitation agencies, transport and telecommunications companies, as well as ICT service contractors.
The Stanca Act has 22 technical accessibility requirements originally based on WCAG 1.0 Level A guidelines, updated in 2013 to reflect changes in WCAG 2.0.
In Germany, BITV 2.0 (Barrierefreie Informationstechnik-Verordnung), which adopts WCAG 2.0 with a few modifications, requires accessibility for all government websites at Level AA (i.e., BITV Priority 1).
Accessibility requirements in France are specified in Law No 2005-102, Article 47, and its associated technical requirements are defined in RGAA 3 (based on WCAG 2.0). It is mandatory for all public online communication services, public institutions, and the State, to conform with RGAA (WCAG 2.0).
The web accessibility laws in Spain are Law 34/2002 and Law 51/2003, which require all government websites to conform with WCAG 1.0 Priority 2 guidelines. More recently UNE 139803:2012 adopts WCAG 2.0 requirements, and mandates government and government funded organizations, as well as organizations larger than 100 employees, or with a trading column greater than 6 million Euros, or those providing financial, utility, travel/passenger, or retail services online to comply with WCAG Level AA requirements.
(see: Legislation in Spain )
Though not specifically referencing the Web, the Disability Discrimination Act of 1992 section 24 makes it unlawful for a person who provides goods, facilities or services to discriminate on the grounds of disability. This law was tested in 2000, when a blind man successfully sued the Sydney Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG) when its website prevented him from purchasing event tickets.
The Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) shortly after released World Wide Web Access: Disability Discrimination Act Advisory Notes. These were last updated in 2014 and though they do not have direct legal force, they do provide web accessibility guidance for Australians on how to avoid discriminatory practices when developing web content, based on WCAG 2.0.
For more about international web accessibility laws, see the following resources: