Is your website or mobile app accessible?
What is it?
Web accessibility means making sure people of all abilities and disabilities get the most out of their online experience. This could be browsing websites, using digital products and services or interacting with mobile apps.
Government statistics estimate that there are 11 million people in the UK with a long-term illness, impairment or disability, one third of which have experienced issues in accessing goods and services as a result. That’s a significant share of the marketplace you may be missing out on, if your website isn’t up to scratch.
What’s the law?
The Equality Act 2010 places a legal duty on organisations to ensure that people with disabilities, whether mental or physical, are not “substantially disadvantaged” in relation to any matter in comparison with people who do not have disabilities. Website owners must “take such steps as are reasonable to avoid the disadvantage” by ensuring that information is provided in an “accessible format”.
Failure to comply with the Equality Act can leave you at risk of a discrimination claim being brought, resulting in an award of damages for injury to the user’s feelings.
It is also arguable that, in the case of subscription-based websites and websites which allow users to download paid-for digital content, failure to sell digital content in an accessible format could be a breach of the implied term that digital content should be of “satisfactory quality” under the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
How do you comply?
Achieving accessibility compliance often requires technical input, to ensure that a website or mobile app is optimised for all users. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) v.2.0 is an internationally approved technical standard which aims to make web content more accessible for users. Ensuring your website meets the criteria for at least the minimum “level A” standard will reduce the legal risk to your business.
Improving the readability of content on your website can also help and there are also tools that you can implement on your website to improve accessibility and even translate your content into different languages.
Beyond the business case
Ensuring your website meets technical standards for accessibility certainly ticks the compliance box, but improving the experience for all your users can help set your business apart. By keeping one eye on accessibility compliance when developing new content or a building a new website, you can help break down barriers faced by users with disabilities and maximise your chances of reaching a wider audience.
How can we help?
If you are unsure whether you website complies with the law in relation to accessibility and other compliance areas, you should take a look at our iAudit® product. For a fixed fee, we will undertake a rigorous assessment of your website or mobile app and provide you with a colour-coded risk report and advice on how to get compliant.
With thanks to Kayleigh Davies for her contribution to this article.