RNIB takes legal action on accessibility

We have all been great advocates for accessible web design for a number of reasons – from the ethical, moral and inclusive, to the commercial and legal. However the latter has always been seen as more of a grey area.

Whilst it is a legal requirement under the DDA / Equality Act (as clarified by the code of practice), and the minimum most companies should strive for would be level A of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WAG 2.0 currently), there is no direct link between the UK law and the WCAG guidelines.

The lack of a test case has further weakened the legal imperative. There has been a growing feeling in business that no one would actually be taken to task over not making ‘reasonable adjustments’ required – the crux of the matter being seen as some that there is no clear guidance on what ‘reasonable adjustments’ are, or should be.

This has led to the perception in some quarters that the legal argument was largely toothless, and perhaps the impetus was slowing down.

With this in mind, the very recent announcement that the RNIB are to sue BMI baby over failure to deal with the poor accessibility of its website is a very welcome shot across the bows. In this blog on eConsultancy.

Chris Rourke takes a further look at the background to accessibility on the web, and the implications of this action.

It should be remembered that the RNIB is not in the business of suing companies. They are not the “accessibility police” looking for the their next victim to meet in court.

Rather their goal is to help companies recognise and improve their web accessibility, and they provide a wealth of helpful information . RNIB has previously taken legal action, however they then did so without naming the companies in question.

So this “name and shame” approach does seem different, and probably will be more effective. After all, the public loss of face and reputational damage is at least as large a threat as the legal case per se.

What does BMI Baby (or any company that want to address its web accessibility) do now? No doubt they will be cooperating with the RNIB and seeking to improve the site access, and will make reference to the technical guidance, especially WCAG 2.0.

However web accessibility is more than a technical matter, and there is great guidance on the management of web accessibility from BS 8878, and as this article by its lead author Jonathan Hassell explains they should work through the steps to bring about the appropriate changes.

Definitely it’s a matter worth watching and in the end it will be for the benefit of the disabled web users looking to book a flight online.

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