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Accessibility laws are changing, are you ready?

INSIGHTS | 26th February 2024

Article by Laura Pinkstone

In an increasingly digital world, the importance of website accessibility cannot be overstated. As new laws and regulations emerge, understanding and complying with them is not just a legal necessity but also a moral imperative. This blog post will guide you through the essentials of website accessibility, the existing UK laws, the new European Accessibility Act (EEA), and why adopting accessibility practices is crucial for your business. 


What is Website Accessibility? 

Website accessibility refers to the practice of designing websites and digital content that can be used by everyone, including individuals with disabilities. This encompasses a wide range of disabilities, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning, and neurological disabilities. The aim is to ensure that all users have equal access to information and functionality on the web. 


Overview of the Equality Act 

The Equality Act 2010 is a critical piece of legislation in the UK that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. Under this Act, service providers, including website operators, are required to make reasonable adjustments to avoid discriminating against disabled users. This means ensuring that websites are accessible and usable by people with various disabilities, which is a legal obligation for UK-based businesses. 


The Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018 

Building on the Equality Act, the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018 mandate that all public sector websites and mobile apps meet specific accessibility standards. This regulation required new public sector websites to be accessible from September 2019 and all existing sites by September 2020. It is a step towards ensuring that people with disabilities have the same access to digital information and services as everyone else. 


What Are the Risks for Not Complying with the Law? 

Non-compliance with accessibility laws can lead to legal challenges, financial penalties, and reputational damage. Beyond the legal implications, inaccessible websites can result in a loss of potential customers and negatively impact the user experience for a significant portion of the population. It's not just about avoiding penalties; it's about inclusivity and reaching a wider audience. 


The European Accessibility Act (EEA) 

The European Accessibility Act (EEA) is a significant step forward in ensuring digital inclusivity across Europe. Set to come into force on June 28, 2025, it will require most digital products and services to embrace accessibility, conforming to WCAG 2.1 level AA standards. This Act covers a broad spectrum of digital content and emphasises the need for accessible online experiences for everyone, including those with disabilities.  

For businesses operating within Europe, it's essential to understand and prepare for the EEA, as it will introduce significant alterations to the digital environment. Even if your operations are not based in Europe, it's prudent to consider the potential global influence of the EEA. Don't dismiss these developments as irrelevant; they may well be adopted in other regions. Staying ahead of the curve is essential. Remember, achieving accessibility is not just about ticking a box; it's about fostering inclusivity and ensuring that your digital spaces are usable by all. 


What next?  

Navigating the complex landscape of accessibility laws can be challenging, but it is essential for your business. If you're unsure about the accessibility of your website, it's time to take action. Contact us to help make your website accessible, ensuring compliance with the latest laws and regulations. 


As a first step, we recommend reading our blog on 'Conducting an Accessibility Audit' to understand where your website stands in terms of accessibility and what improvements are needed. 


Embracing website accessibility is not just about complying with laws; it's about creating an inclusive digital space that welcomes everyone. By understanding and implementing accessibility standards, your business can reach a wider audience, enhance user experience, and foster a more inclusive society. Don't let your website be a barrier—make it a gateway to inclusivity and compliance. 

About the author

Laura Pinkstone

UX Designer

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