Weblogs: Web Accessibility

More detail on the RNIB legal action

Sunday, August 31, 2003

Net Imperative have eeked out a little more information surrounding the confirmed rumours of the RNIB taking companies to court over their inaccessible websites.

The RNIB have confirmed that they are taking action against two companies for their inaccessible websites. There are confidentiality clauses in effect that prevent the RNIB from publicly naming both companies concerned.

Sensibly the RNIB have not ruled out further legal action against other inaccessible websites, and their spokesman makes an interesting statement in regard to the perceived "October 2004 deadline":

"Section 21 of the Disability Discrimination Act refers to the web and that came into force on 1 October 1999. Since then it has been a demand for web companies to make reasonable changes to their sites to improve accessibility.

There is a deadline in October 2004 but this refers only to the built environment. Web companies do not have this deadline and can be held accountable.

The issue of the deadline is the surprise for a lot of people in the web industry. I have had my doubts that this deadline exists, and the RNIB have confirmed my suspicions that websites are in breach now, and there is no October 2004 deadline.

I guess the best thing to do at this stage is to find the wording surrounding the October 2004 deadline for Part III. I can't find it in the DDA Act itself, I know the wording isn't obvious. At the moment the best reference I can find - hidden behind a monetary lock - is scope's Ready, Willing and Disabled which is used as the reference by a few articles mentioning the October 2004.

So far the information points to the DDA Code of Practice published on May 2002 ([Word Document])

Precis about the Code of Practice are based around the statement: from 1 October 2004 removing, altering, or avoiding physical features that prevent access to the service (s21(2)(a) - (c)) - and section 21(2)(a) - (c), which covers premises, states (strong emphasis is mine):

s21 (2) Where a physical feature (for example, one arising from the design or construction of a building or the approach or access to premises) makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled persons to make use of such a service, it is the duty of the provider of that service to take such steps as it is reasonable, in all the circumstances of the case, for him to have to take in order to:

  • (a) remove the feature;
  • (b) alter it so that it no longer has that effect;
  • (c) provide a reasonable means of avoiding the feature;

Update: 4 September The Disability Discrimination Act Regulatory Impact Assessment also confirms the above, and goes into detail over the scheduling of the Act:

3. They [Part III of the DDA] will be implemented in two stages:

* from October 1999 all the duties relating to practices, policies and procedures, auxiliary aids and services, and providing the service by a reasonable alternative means (s21(1), s21(2)(d), and s21(4) of the Act);

* from 2004 removing, altering, or avoiding physical features that prevent access to the service (s21(2)(a) - (c)).

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