United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCPRD)
UNCPRD addressed the international requirements for digital accessibility for disability. The general obligations under the UNCRPD stated that States Parties undertake to ensure and promote full realisation of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all persons with disability without discrimination on the basis of their disability. To do this, States Parties must adopt all appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures for the implementation of the rights recognized in the present Convention, including modifying or abolishing existing laws, regulations, customs and practices that constitute discrimination against persons with disability by any person, organisation or private enterprise; undertake or promote research and development of universally designed goods, services, equipment and facilities, as defined in article 2 of the present Convention. The above should require the minimum possible adaptation and the least cost to meet the specific needs of a person with disability, promote their availability and use, promote universal design in the development of standards and guidelines; undertake or promote research and development of new assistive technologies. These can include information and communications technologies, devices and assistive technologies, prioritising technologies at an affordable cost, providing accessible information to persons with disability about new or existing assistive technologies, facilities and devices, and promote the training of those working with people with disability. This is to be in accordance with the rights recognized in this Convention. In terms of global responsibility, Australia is a signatory to UNCPRD, in regard to article 9.
Article 9 of the UNCPRD
Article 9 of the UNCPRD specifically regards Accessibility, and states obligations for providing accessible information. These obligations include: enabling people with disability to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life, States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure people requiring disability access are on an equal basis with others, to the accessibility of information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas. These measures includes identification and elimination of obstacles to accessibility to information, communications and other services, including electronic services and emergency services.
In regard to digital accessibility, Article 9 states that States Parties should take appropriate measures to promote access for persons with disability to new information and communications technologies and systems. This includes utilising the Internet to promote design, development, production and distribution of accessible information and communications technologies and systems at an early stage. This is so that these technologies and systems become accessible at minimum cost.
Ofcom and the Disability Equality Scheme
United Kingdom (UK)
UK regulations of Ofcom addresses accessibility for people with disability as well. Ofcom is the regulator of the UK’s communications industries, and thus created the Disability Equality Scheme (DES).
Under the Communications Act 2003, Ofcom upholds legal specific obligations for the promotion of equality, explicitly for the disabled. Under Section 3 (4i) of the Act, it states that they must take into consideration the needs of those with disabilities when carrying out any of their duties. In addition, within the act, Sections 303, 308 and 309 specifically target the need for fair access to services for people with a disability. It states Ofcom has the responsibility to provide a code giving guidance to promote enjoyment of television by people who are vision impaired, deaf or both, thus ensuring the inclusion of assistance for the vision impaired with the teletext service and create a code of practice for electronic programme guides. Section 310 regards the code of practice for electronic programming and guides in particular. Ofcom has a duty to draw up and occasionally review and revise a code giving guidance as to the practices to be followed in the provision of electronic programme guides. The practices required by the code must also include the incorporation of features that will ensure access by people with a disability affecting their hearing, sight or both.
United States of America (US)
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)
ADA is not based on WCAG, as seen on W3C’s table. ADA demands that state and local governments and organisations provide public accommodation to provide effective communication and remove any barriers to accessibility to their websites. This extends to websites of private employers with 15 or more employees. Businesses that operate for the benefit of the public must also abide with this law to ensure their website is accessible.
ADA: Public Accomodations and Commercial Facilities (Title III)
Due to the way ‘public accomodation’ was defined in as “businesses that are generally open to the public”, when website accessibility issues were found, court cases were based on the idea of a corporate website being included. Both the National Association of the Deaf et al vs. Netflix case and the Robles vs. Domino’s Pizza LLC cases were ruled in the plaintiff’s favour, creating a precedent.
The Accessible Canada Act
The Accessible Canada Act governs accessibility standards in Canada. It issues Canadian Government permission to work with people with a disability to produce new accessibility regulations. Organisations under federal jurisdiction must comply with this Act or face up to $250,000 Canadian dollars. This Act was created to compliment the earlier Human Rights Act.
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)
AODA was the first provincial legislation. It involves private and not for profit organisations with more than 50 employees and all public sector organisation. On the 1st of January 2021, it stated that websites from such organisations must meet WCAG 2.0 level AA compliance standards. If these organisations failed to do so, they would face fines up to $100,000 Canadian dollars for each day of violation.
European Union (EU)
Web and Mobile Accessibility Directive
The Web and Mobile Accessibility Directive came into effect on the 22nd of December 2016. It aims to make public websites and mobile apps more accessible to people with a disability. This is through providing an accessibility statement for each website and mobile app as a feedback mechanism so users can flag any accessibility issues or request information that has been published in a non-accessible content. Member states regularly monitor public sector websites and apps to report the results. This Directive requires public websites and mobile apps to meet WCAG 2.1 level AA.
European Accessibility Act (EAA)
Under the EAA, EU member states will now have a set of common accessibility rules to follow. The goal of this Act is to harmonise and standardise accessibility rules. The EAA covers products and services that have been identified as being the most important for persons with disabilities. Digital products and services relating to this Act includes computers, operating systems, ATMs, ticketing, check-in machines, smartphones, TV equipment related to digital television services, telephone services and related equipment, access to audio-visual media services such as television broadcast and related consumer equipment, e-books and e-commerce (such as internet shopping).
Human Rights Act 1993
New Zealand’s Human Rights Act 1993 does not specify or rely on concrete web guidelines like WCAG. In contrast, their Web Accessibility Standard 1.1 states that government agencies must comply with WCAG 2.1 guidelines up to level AA. These agencies must assess and report on their conformance with the standard when requested by the Department of Internal Affairs.