Digital Accessibility Laws Around the Globe
[Originally posted on May 9, 2013 (Global Accessibility Awareness Day) and last updated on March 16, 2015.] Global Accessibility Day is a good day to become aware of laws around the globe that impact digital accessibility. Laws related to digital accessibility support and protect the civil rights of people with disabilities. Core components of life in the 21st century exist in the digital space, and without accessibility, basic human rights are diminished or completely denied. These include the right to education, employment, public services, health care, financial privacy, community, travel and more. Laws protecting the rights of people with disabilities to access digital services and content — whether those services and content is found on the web, in a mobile application, through electronic kiosks or elsewhere — are an important piece of the puzzle that makes digital accessibility a reality.
The list in this post is intended to serve as a resource only. It is not legal advice and it is not exhaustive. While frequently updated, it may not be current as of the date you are visiting this page. Please use the Contact Page on this website to let us know what is missing, what should be changed or included. This list is updated as new information becomes available.
Follow LFLegal on Twitter for updates about digital accessibility legal developments. (The Law Office of Lainey Feingold is counting on its international colleagues and Twitter followers for help in updating this list and keeping it current!)
Laws, Regulations and Treaties Impacting Digital Accessibility (Partial Listing)
United Nations Treaties
- CRPD: The United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) is a comprehensive document ratified by over 140 countries, though not the United States. Article 9 of the CRPD, titled “Accessibility” recognizes the right of people with disabilities to full participation, including access to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems. Read the full CRPD. Read the post on this website about how the United States senate failed to ratify the CRPD in 2012.
- WIPO: In June, 2013, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a United Nations agency, adopted a landmark treaty to advance the right to read for people who are blind or otherwise print-disabled. Read the WIPO press release about adoption of the Treaty. The treaty, officially known as the “Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired, or otherwise Print Disabled” eliminates copyright roadblocks that have created an international “book famine” for those who need alternative formats to standard print information. Read the post on this website about the WIPO Treaty.
In November 2010 the Argentine National Congress approved Law No. 26,653 requiring accessibility of information on web pages. Read the Argentinian web accessibility law (Spanish).
Australia and New Zealand
- Accessibility requirements for Australian government websites
- Australia’s general Disability Discrimination Act has been held to apply to website accessibility by a Ruling in 2000 by the Australian Human Rights Commission.
- New Zealand Government Web Standards (effective July 1, 2013). New Zealand has adopted two standards: the New Zealand Web Accessibility Standard 1.0, and the New Zealand Web Usability Standard 1.0.
- The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees specific human rights and freedom from discrimination to all Canadians (including on the grounds of disability). These rights are protected under law and may not be contravened by any other law or policy. The charter was the basis of the Jodhan Web Accessibility case against the Canadian government
- The Canadian Human Rights Act protects people in Canada from discrimination when they are employed by or receive services from the federal government, First Nations governments or private companies that are regulated by the federal government such as banks, trucking companies, broadcasters and telecommunications companies.
- Web Standards for the Government of Canada
- Provincial human rights legislation, such as the Ontario Human Rights Code cover provincially-regulated activities.
- In the Canadian province of Ontario, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) covers provincially-regulated public and private activities and standards have been enacted for the provision of accessible Information and Communications. Read the July 2012 A Guide to the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation. The law is notable as it carries a $100,000.00 fine for corporations that fail to comply, although there has been recent criticism that the law is not being effectively enforced.
Thank you Jan Richards, Project Manager at the Inclusive Design Research Centre (IDRC) at OCAD University for providing the information posted here and for agreeing to serve as a contact person for those interested in learning more about digital accessibility in Canada.
- In Denmark, the Agency for Digitisation (the “Digitatliseringsstyrelsen” in Danish) under the Danish Ministry of Finance handles certain tasks relating to IT accessibility in the public sector. This is done in “KIA”, their “IT For All Competency Center”. They provide information and counsel to government agencies and suppliers concerning the compliance and implementation of the international guidelines for accessibility on the Web – WCAG – which, in Denmark, acts as a compulsory open standard for public authorities. Other tasks include analysis and focus on IT accessibility in projects under the common eGovernment Strategy 2011-2015. There are three theme areas on the site: Toolbox [templates, guides, tutorials, etc. about web accessibility]; Analyses, studies, and surveys; Standards, requirements and recommendations.More information in Danish on the Agency for Digitisation website. Thank you Karen Mardahl (http://mardahl.dk) for the English synopsis above, based on this site.
[Note: this category is for the European Union itself. Countries within the European Union listed in their appropriate place in alphabetic order elsewhere on this list]
- European Accessibility Requirements for Public Procurement of Products and Services in the ICT Domain. The European Commission Standardization Mandate M 376, Phase 2 is similar to Section 508 in the United States.
- The European Union Web Accessibility Policy covers official websites of the EU institutions (EUROPA)
- The European Commission Digital Agenda for Europe includes various policy commitments to digital accessibility. A detailed proposal was issued in late 2012 for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the accessibility of public sector bodies’ websites.
- Information about which EU members have web accessibility requirements for public and/or private sector.
Information about Holland listed under The Netherlands, below.
On October 5th, 2012, the Icelandic government officially declared that it intends to enact legislation requiring public sector websites to be WCAG 2.0 AA compliant by January 1, 2015. The details of the legislation are being worked on, and the over-all state of accessibility in Iceland will be assessed in the Fall of 2013 as part of the government plans for the Icelandic Information Society 2013 – 2016. Read the English translation of the Icelandic announcement regarding the policy and legislation. You can also read the announcement in Icelandic.
Thank you Birkir Gunnarsson for providing the information posted here and for agreeing to serve as a contact person for those interested in learning more about digital accessibility in Iceland.
- Guidelines for Indian Government Websites state that many of the guidelines contained in the document are adopted from WCAG 2.0.
- Japanese Industrial Standards (JIS) Number 8341-3 incorporates the Web Content Accessibilty Guidelines 2.0. The current version is JIS X 8341-3:2010. JIS standards can be updated every five years and JIS X 8341-3 is scheduled for update in 2015. WAIC (Web Accessibility Infrastructure Committee in Japan) is in charge of the update of JIS X 8341-3, and Makoto Ueki is chairman of WAIC and of the JIS update working group. After the update JIS X 8341-3:2015 will be exactly the same guidelines as WCAG 2.0.
- Japan will have a new disability rights law effective April 1, 2016. The basic policy of the law was endorsed by the Japanese Cabinet in February, 2015. The policy refers to “information accessibility” and the term is expected to include web content. The details, and the law’s implementation schedule have not yet been worked out but the basic policy of the law strongly encourages organizations to make their information (including web content) accessible.
- The Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications has been encouraging public sectors websites to conform to Level AA of JIS X 8341-3:2010, which is equal to Level AA of WCAG 2.0, by the end of March 2015. Public sectors include ministries, local governments and independent administrative agencies.
Thank you Makoto Ueki for providing updated information about accessibility policy in Japan.
The Netherlands (Holland)
These sites, maintained by the Dutch government, have guidelines on designing, building, and maintaining websites. The initiative was originally aimed at all federal websites and uses open standards. Note that the English version is not updated as often as the Dutch site.
- Information about digital accessibility initiatives in the Philippines can be found on the website of the The National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA) the agency mandated to formulate policies and coordinate the activities of all agencies, whether public or private, concerning disability issues and concerns in the Philippines. The Manila Declaration on Accessible Information and Communications Technology was issued in 2003.
- The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has significant resources on its website about the Equality Act in England, Scotland and Wales including a page on the Equality Act’s web site accessibility requirements.
The digital accessibility legal landscape is flourishing in the United States. Significant strides towards full inclusion of people with disabilities in the digital world have been made as a result of grassroots advocacy, Structured Negotiations, litigation by both private parties and the federal government, and successful administrative complaints involving the United States Department of Justice, United States Department of Education.
All of these legal advocacy efforts are grounded in a robust and diverse amalgam of state and federal laws and regulations recognizing the civil rights of people with disabilities to participate in the digital world. Here is a sampling of those laws:
- Resources on Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, governing federal procurement of digital technology.
- United States Department of Justice Americans with Disabilities Act Home Page. Here you can find information about Title II (law and regulations governing state and local government entities); Title III (law and regulations governing public accommodations (private entities)). ADA provisions prohibiting discrimination, requiring access to services and facilities, and requiring effective communication already cover significant swaths of digital accessibility, including but not limited to websites and ATMs. Courts, advocates, site owners and web developers in the U.S. are not (and should not be) waiting for specific regulations on website accessibility that are currently pending. Read the post about the delay in federal web regulations. Read about ADA Talking ATM regulations.
- Digital accessibility is increasingly a core component of ensuring that people with disabilities have access to employment opportunities. Information about the right to be free from discrimination in the workplace in the U.S. can be found on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) website disability discrimination portal.
- 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (2010 law addressing captioning, audio description, mobile browsers and more)
- Many states in the U.S. have laws preventing disability discrimination that have been used to ensure digital accessibility. The Disabled Persons Act in California is an example of such a law. The lawsuit against Target regarding the inaccessibility of Target’s website was in part based on this California statute. Read about the Target web accessibility settlement.
Other Resources About United States Legal Advocacy
- An overview of the U.S. digital accessibility legal landscape can be found in the presentation (posted on SlideShare) that Lainey Feingold and Linda Dardarian gave at the 2013 CSUN Conference entitled “Digital Accessibility: 2013 CSUN Legal Update (Web, Mobile, More!).
- Using the collaborative process of Structured Negotiations, many of the largest entities in the United States have committed to various aspects of digital accessibility. Visit the Web Accessibility Press Release Category on this website for a summary of all press releases announcing web accessibility settlements, with links to the full releases and settlements.
- The most recent significant court ruling in the United States about web accessibility came in June, 2012 when a federal court in Massachusetts ruled that the ADA covered Netflix’ streaming video service. Read the post about the Netflix decision.
- Pending litigation on the accessibility of digital books involving copyright issues could change the landscape for readers with print disabilities around the world. Read about the Google Book litigation, currently on appeal in the federal court system.
- The Talking ATM Category on this website has extensive information about the accessibility of ATMs, including press releases, settlement agreements, history and international installations of this type of accessible digital technology.