Is web accessibility a legal requirement?
In many countries the regulations impose that all the websites and mobile applications must guarantee their compliance to the accessibility standards provided for the different legislations: Europe (EN 301 549), America (ADA and Section 508), Canada (AODA) following the international guidelines WCAG 2.1
The European legislation
According to the (EU) directive 2016/2102 of the European Parliament and council, of 26th October 2016, related to the accessibility of websites and mobile applications, it is necessary for the public institutions belonging to the members of the European Union to adapt to the accessibility standard WCAG 2.0 level AA.
For the websites published after the 23rd September 2018 the directive requires the compliance within the 23rd September 2019.
For the websites published before the 23rd September 2018 the date of compliance is fixed for the 23rd September 2020.
Moreover the public organisations will have to provide a declaration certifying the level of accessibility of their websites and mobile applications. A central national corporation will take care of verifying their level of compliance and it will be responsible for showing the results to the European Commission. The latter is also working on the European Accessibility Act, which provides for the websites and the mobile applications of some private sectors, for example the banking one, transportation, e-commerce and media, to be in line with the accessibility standards WCAG 2.1.
Also in Italy the Directive of the European Union (Directive 2016/2102) related to the accessibility of websites and mobile applications of public institutions has been recognised. With the becoming law of the legislative decree n. 106 of the 10th August 2018, the disposition updates and modifies the Law 9th January 2004, n. 4 (Known as Tired Law) “Dispositions in order to facilitate the access of disabled individuals to technological tools”, until then one of the main references in the accessibility setting.
The american legislation (ADA)
The law “American with Disability Act” (ADA), signed by the American Justice Department in 1990, has laid the groundwork for the protection and inclusion of disabled american citizens in any field of social life. In the law a disabled person is described as an individual who has an impediment that limits the development of one or more activities of life (work, study, etc.) or who is perceived by other people as limited by an obstacle, without a specific allusion to any category of disabilities.
The law prohibits the discrimination of disabled people in areas where public services such as employment, transportation, architecture, education, ect. are offered.
In particular the Title III of ADA affirms:
“No individual must be discriminated for his disability in the full and equal delightment of goods, services, structures, privileges, advantages or lodging of any public place by any person who owns, rents or manages that place”.
By public place is usually meant a physical place (for example a shop), but after many court cases of high profile, to some american tribunals this definition has been extended to include non physical places, like websites. These tribunals have established that it is illegal to deny the opportunity of taking place into programs, goods or services offered through websites to people with disabilities and make them guarantee their full and equal delightment.