To date, I’ve been answering questions like “What is accessibility?” and “What does ADA compliance mean for websites?” by providing information in my blog series on ADA website compliance. Blogs have covered how to evaluate whether or not your website is compliant with current accessibility standards, what the risks to your business are if your website fails to meet ADA website compliance requirements and a framework for considering the assessment of your site using in house staff or taking advantage of expert assistance. The information I’ve shared has been based on the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 508. But this is an issue that concerns everyone in this digital age. EVG does business with companies around the world, and website accessibility must be considered in every country. Although WACG2.0 is the general standard upheld throughout the world, legislation varies country by country. Here’s a glimpse into what’s happening in the EU, Australia, Canada and the UK as it relates to website compliance.

EU

The EU has a strong history (beginning in 1999) of creating documentation relating to website accessibility. In 2011, EU member representatives signed the United Nations’ (UN) “Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.” This document has a set of basic requirements for accessibility, and those signing agreed to promoting the creation of websites supporting the requirements. The European Commission’s 2012 proposal for a directive on the accessibility of the public sector bodies’ websites seeks to ensure the accessibility of public (i.e. government) websites.

In May of 2016, the EU commission agreed to a set of guidelines to bring public websites and apps to the same level of accessibility for all citizens. The EU directive on making public websites and apps accessible was approved in October 2016, and became effective on December 22, 2016.

The EU has worked through a complex process in an honest attempt to achieve a harmonious practice that can be enforced. However, nations within the EU also have their own governing guidelines. Although they vary by country, all agree WCAG 2.0 is the gold standard they use to measure accessibility.

France

The French updated their “Référentiel Général d’Accessibilité pour les Administrations” (RGAA3) guidelines, based on WCAG 2.0, in 2015. The update included a focus on newer technologies, including HTML5. RGAA2 was mandated for all French central government websites in 2011 and in 2012 for all other public websites such as services, towns, research, etc.

Germany

Barrier-Free Information Technology (BITV) seeks to provide accessibility online for those accessing federal government URLs as of December 2005. In 2006, BITV was aligned with WCAG 2.0. Germany does encourage state and local government website stakeholders, as well as private companies, to follow the guidelines of BITV.

Italy and Spain

They each have documentation reflecting WCAG 2.0; each country’s guidelines apply to government websites only.

Australia

On a federal level, Australia, via its “Disability Discrimination Act of 1992,” has put forth a robust set of regulations regarding the accessibility of digital information. In addition, the various state governments have individual guiding principles. Australia enacted a National Transition Strategy (NTS) in 2010. This plan provided a framework for the rollout of WCAG 2.0 over four years, for internal and external government sites.

Canada

Canada has continued to create and revise its regulations for accommodations for those with disabilities in both the brick-and-mortar and digital worlds. In 2011, Canadian government officials revised web regulations focused on providing accessible online and mobile experiences for all users of government sites. These regulations replaced the existing “Common Look and Feel 2.0 (CLF 2.0)” principals. The “Standard on Web Accessibility,” issued in July 2013, was the first update. These are guidelines for ensuring government websites meet acceptable standards for those with disabilities. The Canadian government also offers website builders an open source Web Experience Toolkit to help them build accessible sites.

In 2011, Ontario passed the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, which establishes electronic accessibility standards. The regulation calls for all new sites to comply and all existing sites to comply with WCAG 2.0 standards by 2021. Government organizations and larger companies, defined as having more than 50 employees, are expected to comply. The penalty for non compliance? Fines and/or compliance within a certain time frame.

UK

The United Kingdom’s “Disability Act of 2010” establishes standards of equal treatment for those with disabilities, and it provides a valid ground for lawsuits against organizations with inaccessible websites.

Across the globe, governments and users alike realize the need for accessible websites and applications. Documentation is lengthy, goals are lofty and penalties for non compliance are murky. Beyond consistently recognizing WCAG 2.0 guidelines, there are few clear-cut pronouncements mandating sites must be accessible by a specific date or else. But that is on the horizon as government agencies and private businesses can no longer ignore the question of website accessibility.

It’s time to get ahead of legislation and penalties by ensuring your website is accessible. If you’ve been asking “What is website accessibility and how does it affect my business?” let’s talk!  Contact me at [email protected] to speak with me about how we can help you.

Note: We at EnVeritas Group are not attorneys. This information should not be considered legal advice. We encourage everyone to read accessibility standards applicable to their country. The Americans with Disabilities Act can be reviewed by visiting the ADA website and Section 508.