In case you make a quick search of the term ‘web accessibility', you will end up with the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). These guidelines have been developed by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium. The prime purpose of these guidelines is to provide some universal standards that every website owner is expected to follow for web accessibility.
It is important to notice that these are just guidelines and not laws. So in case one does not follow these guidelines, he/she won't be liable to face any legal penalties.
However, countries do have their own web accessibility laws that vary. These must be followed, in case one does not want to face legal trouble or penalties.
Firstly, it is important to ask yourself the following questions:
· What the laws related to web accessibility are in the country?
· What should be done to make a website compliant with the laws?
· How can accessibility optimize for the target audience, and where is the target audience located?
Answering the above-mentioned questions may not be as easy as one thinks. This is because deciphering all the information and documents regarding web accessibility is a laborious task.
All over the world, some web accessibility laws exist that vary by region. Along with that, some practical guidelines are also present that which international brands have to follow to ensure that they are compliant with the laws.
In the United States, the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) is one of the most crucial documents related to accessibility. This document came into effect in the year 1990. While many people can interpret that ADA extends to the websites, there are no official laws for the public sector sites. However, this does not certainly mean that inaccessible sites will not run into legal trouble in the United States. As official accessibility laws do not exist, it is important to adhere to the best accessibility practices, which includes WCAG compliance. A reference guide has been provided by the W3C in this regard.
Passed in the year 2016, the European Union took forward a very crucial step with the Web Accessibility Directive. This, however, came into effect in 2018. After that, all the public websites had to conform to it.
According to the directive, all public sector websites carry the responsibility of making the content accessible to everyone. At the same time, an enforcement procedure and a public statement of accessibility have also been provided. As these documents must be available to everyone, it is a good practice to get them hosted somewhere on the website. At the same time, websites in the EU are also required to include a feedback mechanism to report content that is inaccessible.
The situation of web accessibility in Canada is quite similar to the United States. All over Canada, there are laws for government websites. However, there are no web accessibility laws for public sector websites in general.
Government websites, however, are required to meet all the WCAG 2.0 standards based on the Standard on Web Accessibility document.
In some parts of the country such as Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and Ontario, public websites are also required to be fully compliant with the WCAG standards.
Author: Austin Stanfel
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