Disability Discrimination and your Website
The following newsletter is reproduced by kind permission of
Swinburn Chandler-Smith, Solicitors
34 High Street, Welwyn, Herts AL6 9EQ
Hill House, 1 St Albans Road, Codicote, Herts SG4 8UT
Associated Practice in Vilamoura, Portugal
Under the Disability Discrimination Act your duty to avoid discrimination includes your website. You must take reasonable steps to make sure that your website does not discriminate against disabled visitors.
The DDA requires service providers to avoid discriminating against the disabled. The examples of services set out in the DDA include access to information services. This means that the design of your website is covered by the DDA. You are discriminating if you:
- treat the disabled less favourably than you treats others, or
- make it unreasonably difficult for the disabled to use the service.
You must take reasonable steps to remove any discriminatory practices. The Disability Rights Commission have offered some guidance as to what are reasonable steps in any particular case. The relevant factors are:
- the type of service that you provide.
- the nature of your business, such as size and resources.
- the way that the disability affects the disabled person.
The Commission also suggest some of the factors to take into account in deciding what is reasonable, including:
- whether any particular steps would overcome the difficulty facing disabled people who try to access your website.
- the extent to which it is practicable for you to take those steps.
- the cost of taking the steps in question.
- the amount of disruption that would result from taking those steps.
- your financial and other resources.
- the amount that you have already spent on making relevant provisions.
- the availability of any financial assistance.
As you update your website with new material, you will have no excuse for ignoring the guidelines in the DDA. So here are some guidelines:
- Your text should be easily legible. A plain background is best because it will contrast with the text.
- Avoid patterned backgrounds. They make the text harder to read.
- Any images should have attributed text to allow for speech synthesizers. These read out the text for the visually impaired.
- If your website includes audio and video clips, provide a transcript.
- Scripts, applets and plug-ins impede the software that helps disabled users access web sites and are best avoided.
- Offer descriptive hyperlinks.
- Keep your website text-based and frame-free because a lot of speech synthesisers cannot read frames.
- If you have a hi-tech website, consider having a second website in a simple text format with a link between the two. For example, the BBC News page is available in a text only version at bbc.co.uk/text_only.stm.
Making your website more accessible sends out a good message about your business and means that more visitors can benefit from the facilities on your website.
You can read about our web accessibility audits here or visit the dedicated site we have set up - www.web-accessibility.co.uk to learn more about accessibility issues associated with web sites