As it stands, there are no legal requirements in the UK to ensure that all digital applications (apps, websites, software, etc.) are accessible to individuals with accessibility issues – i.e. disabilities, infirmity, etc. The Equality Act covers this to some degree, but the onus is placed on the individual to prove that they are being discriminated against where an app is not accessible, making this a grey area.
Run a simple accessibility test exercise against some of the biggest name websites out there and it is easy to see just how inaccessible the vast majority are. However, none of them have been taken to court under The Equality Act 2010, mainly because we just accept it. If we look at the history of inclusivity legislation in the UK, all of this may be about to change.
In 1970, the UK first saw the introduction of many acts which would eventually be merged to become The Equality Act 2010. In particular, the Equal Pay Act 1970 was introduced to “prohibit any less favourable treatment between men and women in terms of pay and conditions of employment.”
What isn’t widely known is that nine years earlier the public sector introduced equal pay to all of its staff. This redress actually begun in 1955 and equal pay was introduced incrementally. finally reaching equal pay in 1961.
In September 2018, regulations were introduced into the public sector with the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No.2) Accessibility Regulations 2018. The objective of this and other regulations was to ensure that all public sector apps and websites are accessible to all users, regardless if they are disabled, aging, etc.
As seen with equal pay, roll out in the public sector is again incremental. All new public sector websites must comply by 23 September 2019, all existing ones by 23 September 2020, and all mobile apps by 23 June 2021.
This incremental roll out is significantly shorter than those seen previously. This may be a sign that digital accessibility is beginning its journey to join the Equality Act as early as 2022.
Given this early indicator, and a track record of the use of the public sector as a proving ground, it is definitely something the private sector should be thinking about now. Doing so will allow better planning for accessibility, and inclusion by design, rather than hastily adding it in at the last minute.
A slap dash, last minute approach to accessibility often makes matters worse rather than better. Isn’t it better for all businesses to be seen to address accessibility voluntarily, rather than it appear as though the approaching legal deadline is forcing the corporate hand?
Between providing accessibility to your current audience and thinking about your future one, delivering on the promise of inclusivity should be a priority now. Talk to us today to find out how we can help you navigate the challenges of accessibility and better service your users’ needs.