Is there a legal requirement for public sector bodies’ websites and websites of publicly available services in your country to be accessible to all persons with disabilities?

Explanation

“Public sector bodies” means the State, regional or local authorities, bodies or associations governed by public law. “Websites of publicly available services” means a website used to deliver a service made available to the public. For instance, educational establishments, leisure services employment services, health care, mutual services, etc. ‘Web-accessible’ means a website or web-based service (including those designed for mobile devices and/or use) which is easy to browse, navigate, understand, operate, interact with and use safely, securely, independently, and with dignity by a person with a disability under all circumstances (including emergency cases).If “Yes” or “Yes, with qualifications” please describe any significant differences between the legal situation and the reality of everyday life.

In detail

Summary

A drastic 50% of respondents reported that there is no local legal enforcement and/or sanctions on inaccessibility of public sector websites, the main impediment being the absence of national legal requirements, regulations and mechanisms in place for public sector body’s websites and publicly available service websites to be accessible to all persons with disabilities. The main issues spotted were:

  • Partial arrangements on websites: not all information on public websites are accessible to all, for example, they may be limited to large print options, and commonly exclude adaptions to cognitive disability
  • The lack of implementation mechanisms for regulations relies on the absence of coherent procedures and standards to make national websites accessible.
  • In some countries the underlying issues of non-implementations rely on the high IT illiteracy rate among persons with disabilities

In some countries however, monitoring systems are in place. In Austria for instance, penalties are given in case of non-compliance with the legal requirements of the ECG and the Federal Disability Discrimination Act.

Comments

“There are reviews every 4 years about the public websites. In 2013 5,8% of the public websites corresponded to requirements of WGA2c. All ministries have new websites since June 2014 which are better accommodated for people with disabilities” (Luule Sakkeus, Senior researcher, Estonian Institute for Population Studies, Tallinn University, Estonia)

‘’Because the ADA was passed in 1990, there are no requirements related to accessibility on websites. Some lawsuits have been filed against large public companies, and there are some recommendations, but there are no requirements yet.”(Jessica Murray, City University of New York Graduate Center, United States)

“Many government websites are reasonably well designed to be accessible. Although other web sites are also required to be accessible (e.g., websites for public businesses, for purchase of plane tickets or other services, education, etc.), actual implementation is uneven.  People with disabilities can file complaints with the Department of Justice or pursue complaints by other means, but this can be a difficult process and, even if successful, may take a long time to see results.  Because of this, in practice people with disabilities do not always formally file complaints. (Andrea Shettle, Program Manager, U.S. International Council on Disabilities, United States)

CRPD Article

Article 9: Accessibility

“1. To enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life, States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas. These measures, which shall include the identification and elimination of obstacles and barriers to accessibility, shall apply to, inter alia:

a) Buildings, roads, transportation and other indoor and outdoor facilities, including schools, housing, medical facilities and workplaces;

b) Information, communications and other services, including electronic services and emergency services.

2. States Parties shall also take appropriate measures:

a) To develop, promulgate and monitor the implementation of minimum standards and guidelines for the accessibility of facilities and services open or provided to the public;

b) To ensure that private entities that offer facilities and services which are open or provided to the public take into account all aspects of accessibility for persons with disabilities;

c) To provide training for stakeholders on accessibility issues facing persons with disabilities;

d) To provide in buildings and other facilities open to the public signage in Braille and in easy to read and understand forms;

e) To provide forms of live assistance and intermediaries, including guides, readers and professional sign language interpreters, to facilitate accessibility to buildings and other facilities open to the public;

f) To promote other appropriate forms of assistance and support to persons with disabilities to ensure their access to information;

g) To promote access for persons with disabilities to new information and communications technologies and systems, including the Internet;

h) To promote the design, development, production and distribution of accessible information and communications technologies and systems at an early stage, so that these technologies and systems become accessible at minimum cost.”

(UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities)

Article 21: Freedom of expression and opinion, and access to information

“States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities can exercise the right to freedom of expression and opinion, including the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas on an equal basis with others and through all forms of communication of their choice, as defined in article 2 of the present Convention, including by:

a) Providing information intended for the general public to persons with disabilities in accessible formats and technologies appropriate to different kinds of disabilities in a timely manner and without additional cost;

b) Accepting and facilitating the use of sign languages, Braille, augmentative and alternative communication, and all other accessible means, modes and formats of communication of their choice by persons with disabilities in official interactions;

c) Urging private entities that provide services to the general public, including through the Internet, to provide information and services in accessible and usable formats for persons with disabilities;

d) Encouraging the mass media, including providers of information through the Internet, to make their services accessible to persons with disabilities;

e) Recognizing and promoting the use of sign languages.”

(UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities)