Understanding the Impact of Accessibility Regulations
- 3 July, 2023
- Reading Time: 3 mins
Did you know that accessibility regulations affect the way many websites, digital products, and platforms are designed? These regulations provide a basic framework that businesses and organizations need to follow in order to be accessible. They lean on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which include guidelines for font size and contrast, sizing of interactive elements, captioning of audio/video, response time requirements for certain interactions, and more.
From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, many countries across the globe have laws that protect the rights of individuals with disabilities. You can find a complete list of these international laws from the US-based organization Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF). These countries implement accessibility regulations to ensure that all individuals can access information and products without barriers. Let’s look at some of the legislation in the United States, Canada, and Europe. (Disclaimer: None of the information in this blog should be accepted as legal advice. Please consult an attorney for any questions regarding legal obligations for the accessibility of your products or website.)
Why are these regulations important?
Accessibility regulations have a profound impact on individuals with disabilities. Without accessible digital environments, they face barriers that prevent them from fully participating in society. Compliance with accessibility regulations ensures that individuals with disabilities can navigate websites, use applications, and access online services independently. It empowers them to engage, communicate, and contribute on an equal footing with others.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal civil rights law enacted in the United States in 1990. The law prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life, including public and private employment, housing, transportation, education, business, and government services. The ADA gives people with disabilities the same rights, opportunities, and protections as everyone else.
The European Accessibility Act (EAA) is a similar law in the European Union, though it is not as comprehensive as the ADA. The EAA was introduced in 2016 and it outlines the rights of people with disabilities in the European Union. It specifies that all services and products must be designed and produced in a way that is accessible to people with disabilities. It also requires companies to make their websites and other digital products accessible. The deadline for implementing these accessible products is June 2025.
In Canada, accessibility regulations are governed by the Accessible Canada Act (ACA). This act began in 2019 with the aim of creating an inclusive society with “barrier-free access” for people with disabilities. Under this act, the Government of Canada is mandated to set standards and guidelines for removing, preventing, and reducing accessibility barriers for people with disabilities. Under the ACA, businesses, and organizations must create an accessible customer service plan and must make reasonable adjustments to their premises and communications to ensure that they are accessible for people with disabilities. The act also sets out a 10-year timeline in which the government will set “national accessibility targets”, and carry out research and develop new accessibility standards.
There are many similarities between these specific regulations, and some of the other international laws have similar language. The goal is to continue to make strides to remove barriers for people with disabilities while protecting their civil liberties. Accessibility regulations serve as catalysts for creating an inclusive digital environment that caters to the diverse needs of individuals with disabilities. By complying with these regulations, businesses, and organizations not only meet legal obligations but also actively contribute to a more equitable society. Let’s embrace accessibility as a fundamental value, prioritizing equal access for everyone and ensuring that no one is left behind in the digital age.