Accessibility Legislation – an Insight

By Urte Thölke, Accessibility Competence Center, SAP User Experience, SAP AG – June 7, 2005

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Countries

 

Regulations

Argentina

The "argentin@internet.todos" program was created by decree in September 1998 to promote universal access to Internet and information technologies. However, it does not specifically mention people with disabilities.

Australia

There is no specific accessibility legislation in Australia. The current situation is affected by several regulations based on territory or state resources. That legislation includes the Western Australian Equal Opportunity Act 1984, Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 and Australian Capital Territory Discrimination Act 1991. The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) of 1992 administered by the Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) concentrated the focus on web accessibility as a result out of it. The Act was reviewed in detailed by the Productivity Commission in 2004 to guarantee a current and effective status. Regarding Accessibility guidelines Australia uses as a set of guidelines the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (W3C WCAG). Beyond these the Guidelines for Commonwealth Information Published in Electronic Formats (AusInfo Guidelines) provide details on preparing information in the most accessible format to meet the needs of particular audiences. Throughout these guidelines, particular recommendations are supported by references to original government sources. The IMS Accessibility Guidelines aim to provide a framework for the distributed learning (www.imsglobal.org/accessibility/accessiblevers/) community. This framework highlights existing solutions, discusses the opportunities and strategies for their implementation and identifies areas where further development and innovation are required to ensure education that is truly accessible to anyone, anytime, anywhere.

Austria

In Austria accessibility legislation is still in it's infancy. Of particular importance for the equality of opportunities and integration of people with disabilities are the establishment of a protection against discrimination and the declaration (of the Republic) for the equal treatment of disabled and non-disabled people in the Austrian constitution. Based on this declaration, a work group was established that screened the Austrian law regarding discriminations of disabled people and reported to the National Assembly. Following this report, a few amendments have already been made, especially in the area of procedural law.

Austria also sees the necessity for accessibility legislation based on directives of the European Commission (eEurope). That means in accordance to Austrian laws an e-government legislation which already asks in the Austrian e-Government Act that "….by 1 January 2008 at the latest, official Internet sites which provide information or electronic support for procedures are structured in such a way as to comply with international standards for access to the worldwide web, including unhindered access for disabled persons." (§ 1 (3), Austrian E-Government Act). Furthermore the planned anti-discrimination legislation should be put in place this year.

Belgium

There is no formal legislation in Belgium related to Web Accessibility. But thanks to a rather recent "law on Anti-discrimination" (voted on February 25th and published on March 17th 2003) stating that "Any lack of reasonable adjustments for people with disabilities will be considered as a form of discrimination", many initiatives were launched in Belgium to address the web site accessibility challenge.

Flemish Government

On June 11th 2004 the Flemish Government decided that the websites and (related) online services of its institutions (Flemish Parliament, the Flemish Government, the Ministry of the Flemish Community and the Flemish public institutions) should be made accessible before the end of 2007 (internet) and 2010 (intranet). Web sites and any related online services should be made accessible to people with disabilities and the elderly within a reasonable time frame and within the available budgets. The first results should be visible before June 30th 2005 for web sites that can easily be made accessible. Priority should be given to web sites and services on employment, welfare, mobility and explicitly addressing people with disabilities and the elderly. Before the end of 2005 each webmaster should present a clear Action Plan for the period 2006 - 2010 to the Flemish Parliament. These Action Plans will need to include clear indications on timing, budgetary impact and a proposal for long-term Quality Assurance measures.

Federal Government

Since December 2003 the French and Dutch language versions of the Belgian federal portal site have been awarded the "BlindSurfer label". This label guarantees accessibility to the portal content for visually impaired users. The label was awarded after thorough evaluation by the BlindSurfer association (ONA , Blindenzorg Licht en Liefde). In Belgium, the BlindSurfer label has been proposed as the official Quality Mark for Accessible web sites. Sword/ASCii is currently working with the Federal Public Service of Justice to make their web site accessible. It is one of the first Public Services which is undertaking concrete steps to improve the quality of their web site. Negotiations have also started up with the Federal Public Service of Finance.

Walloon Government

On February 20th 2003, the Walloon Region in Belgium decided to actively start addressing the problems of their inaccessible web sites. Less than a month later (on April 10th 2003), the Walloon Government decided to take the necessary steps to make all of its (existing) public web sites accessible to people with disabilities. Accessible web sites will receive the BlindSurfer logo and all newly created sites must be accessible from the start…. All activities are coordinated by "Wall-On-Line", a special project set up (and adopted) by the Walloon Government in June 2001 to draft and put in place a concept for a multiple-purpose and accessible online Portal for all local services. "ONA" ("L'Oeuvre nationale des aveugles") is responsible for the technical aspects. A list of " priority sites " was dressed up in 2004 and made available on line. These sites should all be made accessible by the end of 2005….

Canada

Laws in Canada have even stronger provisions against discrimination than laws in the US and apply to every business, organization and individual in Canada. The basis are fourteen governments, each treating disability in a different way.

So human rights laws in Canada attempt to balance individual and collective rights. Traditionally, courts have strongly upheld restrictions to individual rights in order to protect vulnerable groups from harm. For example, there are laws in Canada that restrict public hate speech against identifiable groups. It is helpful to keep this tradition of protecting certain groups in mind when examining how human rights laws in Canada affect accessibility on the Web.

There is the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that is the overarching legislation. No one can make a law that contravenes it. There is also the Canadian Human Rights Act. But, although it protects all Canadians, it only applies to:

  • Federal departments, agencies and Crown corporations
  • The post office
  • Chartered banks
  • Airlines
  • Television and radio stations
  • Inter-provincial communications and telephone companies
  • Buses and railways that travel between provinces
  • Other federally-regulated industries.

If a company doesn't fall under one of those categories then one or more of the provincial or territorial human rights acts or 'codes' will apply depending where the company offices are.

Regarding the content all codes have a blanket provision that outlaws discrimination based on disability. All codes have provisions that specifically relate to discrimination in employment and many have provisions that pertain to publicly available facilities and services.

Several standards accompany legislation. E.g. the Canadian Standards Association develops voluntary industry driven standards with focus on Barrier Free Design, Design for Aging and accessible Banking Machines. Further standards are set up by the Standards Council of Canada, the TSACC (Telecommunications Standards Advisory Council of Canada) and the TBITS (Treasury Board Information Technology Standards). In the end Canada was the first country to adopt the WAI Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

Denmark

In Denmark there is no specific e-accessibility legislation, which means that it is up to each authority to decide how they are handling the challenge of including everybody into the knowledge society. The centre of excellence Information Technology for All was established in May 2003 by the National IT and Telecom Agency, in order to coordinate the efforts of the Danish government in the e-accessibility area. One mission of the centre is to help public authorities in Denmark to integrate e-accessibility in the public procurement process to a larger extend.

The centre has adopted an ambitious goal that accessibility should be an integrated part of all relevant public procurement process in the ICT area. We want the public authority to make decisions based on knowledge and adapted to each different digital system. We have chosen public procurement as one of our focus areas. The reason is that the public sector offers more and more digital services. To live up these challenges public authorities are investing a lot in new digital systems. It represents at least 15% of the national gross product which public authorities spend on goods and services. This means that if public authorities stand united in demanding accessible digital systems the manufactures will have to make their products accessible. Guidelines and tools for public procurement are therefore of very great importance.

Together with Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden the Nordic Guidelines for Computer Accessibility have been set up. See the section about Finland for more details.

European Union

At the European Council in Lisbon in March 2000, Heads of State and the Government of the European Union launched a strategy to prepare the EU for the challenges of the new century. This has become known as the "Lisbon Strategy". The objectives set at Lisbon – higher growth, more and better employment and greater social inclusion – were ambitious and Information and communication technologies (ICT) were identified as playing a key role in achieving them.

In response to this, the European Commission launched the eEurope initiative in June 2000 with the aim of accelerating Europe's transition towards a knowledge-based economy, and to realize the potential benefits of higher growth, more employment and faster access for all citizens to the new services of the information age.

The first phase of eEurope was the eEurope 2002 Action Plan, which comprised a total of 64 targets to be achieved by end 2002. The majority of these were successfully completed, and in June 2002, the European Council launched a second phase, eEurope 2005, which focuses on exploiting broadband technologies to deliver online services in both the public and private sector. The mid-term review of the eEurope 2005 Action Plan has confirmed that its main targets are valid until end 2005.

The European Commission's view of the challenges that need to be addressed in a European Information Society strategy up to 2010 are set out in a Commission communication on "Challenges for Europe's Information Society beyond 2005: Starting point for a new EU strategy", adopted on 19 November 2004. This communication highlights the need to step up research and investment in information and communication technologies (ICT), and to promote their take-up throughout the economy. ICT should be more closely tailored to citizens' needs and expectations, to enable them to participate more readily in socially fulfilling and culturally creative virtual communities. The Commission communication identifies a number of challenges that will remain relevant for Europe's future Information Society policy, such as electronic inclusion and citizenship, content and services, public services, skills and work, ICT as a key industry sector, interoperability, trust and dependability and ICT for business processes.

The European Commission has launched a public consultation on how best to make information and communication technologies (ICT) available to all, including the disabled and the elderly. This consultation suggests introducing new legislation to remove the technical challenges and difficulties faced by some EU citizens when trying to use electronic products or services such as computers, mobile phones or the Internet. The public consultation focuses on three areas identified by the Commission as key to promoting what it defines as 'e-accessibility': public procurement, certification, and the use of legislation. The results of the consultation and the various inputs will feed into a Commission communication on e-accessibility, to be adopted by June 2005.

Finland

Anti-discrimination is written into the Constitution of Finland: Nobody is without acceptable grounds to be discriminated against because of their gender, age, ethnic origin, language, religion, conviction, opinion, health, disability, or any other cause related to a personal trait. There are no other anti-discrimination laws in Finland but instead there are laws with the same aim: they regulate services for the disabled. In Finland, however, municipalities enjoy great freedom in forming their policy and practice on services for the disabled, and unfortunately, legislation is followed in an extremely varying degree across the country.

There is no legislation or regulation concerning Design for All in Finland. However, both the concept and the aim, although not always labeled Design for All, are increasingly present in government-initiated research and development projects. In the Nordic Forum for Telecommunications and Disability (under Nordic Co-operation on Disability, under Nordic Council of Ministers), Finland participates in solving questions around disability and the information society in the Nordic countries. As part of the eEurope Action Plan, the Ministry of Education, Stakes, and the Ministry of Social Affairs are preparing the establishment of national centers of excellence in Design for All.

Finland's consumer policy central objectives are collected into the Consumer Policy Programme for the years 2000-2003, written by the Advisory Council on Consumer Affairs, under the Ministry of Trade and Industry. The programme states that Information Society services must be available to all population groups both technically and economically and that all population groups must be able to use essential services with reasonable conditions.

The Nordic Guidelines for Computer Accessibility built a common basis for the Nordic States in Europe. The Publication is divided into two parts (trace.wisc.edu/docs/nordic_guidelines/nordic_guidelines.htm): Part I describes what is meant by accessible information and communication technologies (ICT) and gives the rationale for inclusion of accessibility requirements in ICT procurement, ICT standardization and ICT design. Part II presents a set of functional requirements which meets the need for accessibility of personal computer systems operated by the end user. Except for a section on the accessibility of web pages, the intention has been to keep this publication independent of applications, technologies and vendors. However, it could not be disregarded that PC:s with Microsoft Windows has a market leading position of today's desktop and portable systems.

France

In France, the work of BrailleNet (www.braillenet.org/) provided the necessary push for legislative moves following increased popularity of the Internet and the Web since about 1996. Until very recently, there was no regulation concerning the Web and awareness concerning accessibility issues was very limited among the Web community.

The 1975 Disability Act stipulates that measures should be taken to enable every person with a disability to reach the highest possible level of autonomy and social integration and a number of decrees have been established to implement this act. Therefore, there was a strong need for disseminating information in France about the way to improve the accessibility of Web services for all citizens. The right opportunity was given by the European Community who decided to support participation of European organisations to the WAI project. This lead in January 1998 to the commitment of BrailleNet in the WAI project (represented by its co-ordinating organization, the INSERM) and the creation of a partnership between French public web sites and BrailleNet association which lead to revision of the 1975 law relating to disability in July 2003.

Like the United States, France has extended existing accessibility legislation to apply to websites, and has created criteria defining conformance, called AccessiWeb. These criteria mirror the Priority 1, 2 and 3 levels from WCAG and are called Bronze, Silver, and Gold respectively. Most of the WCAG criteria are represented in AccessiWeb, but the priority of many items has been promoted; therefore the Bronze AccessiWeb criteria represent a higher standard than WCAG 1.0 Priority 1. The AccessiWeb criteria also include a large number of detailed requirements not in WCAG, though in many cases they provide additional precision to WCAG checkpoints.

Germany

On the background of the EU recommendation to adopt WAI, in Germany an approach has been made to match it with the requirements and circumstances of politics and legislation. In 1994 the fundamental law of the Federal Republic of Germany (Grundgesetz, GG) was changed in such a way that a sentence was added to article 3 which said, that nobody may be discriminated because of his or her disability.

Another important law for the integration of disabled people was launched in October 2000: The law for the prevention of unemployment for severely handicapped people (Gesetz zur Bekämpfung der Arbeitslosigkeit Schwerbehinderter (SchwbBAG)) manifold measurements like better recruitment conditions, the development of in-house prevention, better information, consulting services and co-operation with relevant cost units lead to a welcomed development that the number of unemployed severely handicapped people could be decreased.

With the new legislation, social book IX (SGB IX) and the law on the equalization of opportunities for people with disabilities (Bundesbehindertengleichstellungsgesetz - BGG) the issue of barrier free access at the workplace and to public infrastructure has received a new emphasis in Germany. All the legislation process was performed with participation of organisations of end-users.

The definition of barrier free access for people with disabilities to human made infrastructure highlights three characteristics: taking the usual way, without extra effort and basically without assistance. For the first time access to information technology was explicitly taken up in the BGG and particularly barrier free access to the Internet.

On July 24, 2002 the decree on barrier-free information technology (Barrierefreie Informationstechnik Verordnung – BITV) according to BGG § 11 was officially published by the German Federal Government and entered into force. In order to the support of the implementation the "alliance for barrier free information technology" (Aktionsbündnis barrierefreie Informationstechnik – AbI) has been started with support of the federal government (Federal Ministry for Health and Social Security – BMGS). In cooperation with its partners AbI offers education, web-based information, etc. to support the implementation.

New legislation on barrier free access including web access has been released in year 2002 for Germany. The federal legislation is taken as a reference for existing and upcoming legislation on the state level. The state level will cover the public sector including state agencies and municipalities. For the private sector the instrument of targeted agreements (Zielvereinbarungen) can be applied. The need to support the practical implementation has dramatically increased. Hence, user organisations and experts try to join forces in the alliance AbI. AbI creates a reference for barrier free access to the web in Germany based on the expertise and activities of its members, partners and supporters. Internationally AbI creates relations to relevant actions in eAccessibility, EDeAN, WAI, etc. The international exchange is expected to continue stimulating the realisation of barrier free information technology through benchmarking and co-operation on European and international level. This international exchange has not only to focus on a coherent standard for barrier free internet but also on a unified testing of barrier free internet. The fact, that Germany has issued explicit legislative documents on web standards requires attention in international developments. If European and international developments consider the legislative situation and requirements, there is a good opportunity for common solutions.

India

The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights, and Full Participation) Act of 1995, is the most significant piece of legislation that has been enacted in India. The Act provides for both preventive and promotional aspects of rehabilitation, such as education, employment and vocational training, research, and manpower development. Additionally, the legislation encourages the creation of barrier-free environments, rehabilitation of persons with disabilities, unemployment allowances for persons with disabilities, special insurance schemes for employees with disabilities, and the establishment of homes for persons with severe disabilities. The Persons with Disabilities Act is the most comprehensive piece of legislation passed to ensure equal opportunities for persons with disabilities, thus allowing them to fully participate in nation building.

India has passed the Information Technology Act 2000. This legislation provides legal recognition for transactions carried out by means of electronic communication, commonly referred to as "electronic commerce." This technology involves the use of alternatives to paper based methods of communication and storage of information to facilitate electronic filing of documents with the government agencies.

The Economic Times (leading newspaper on Business and Finance) recently reported that the government in India is emerging as the fourth largest vertical spender on Information Technology after the telecom, manufacturing, and banking and finance industries. According to Gartner estimates, the Indian government spent approximately 1 billion U.S. dollars on Information Technology in 2002. This includes the expenditure of the central and state governments on hardware, software, telecommunication equipment, telecommunication services, and IT services. Excluded in the expenditures are the salary costs of IT staff. In fact, the government accounted for 9 per cent of the total IT spent in India for the year 2002, and in five years that is estimated to go up to 15 percent. Though e-government is still in its infancy, over 20 states/union territories already have an IT policy in place. In terms of basic computerization, police departments, treasury, land records, irrigation, and justice departments are seen as having the maximum potential. Even though web accessibility is a new area in India, corporations are showing an interest in it.

Ireland

The area of e-accessibility in Ireland is subordinated to a number of exiting and upcoming pieces of legislation. There is no specific mention of accessibility or access to services or information for people with disabilities through Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in any existing legislation.

However the Employment Equality Act 1998 and the Equal Status Act 2000 outlaw discrimination and victimization in employment, vocational training, advertising, collective agreements, the provision of goods and services and other opportunities to which the public generally have access fewer than nine grounds, one of which is disability. Reasonable accommodation of people with disabilities is a legal requirement under both the Employment Equality Act and the Equal Status Act, subject to a nominal cost exemption. Reasonable accommodation is an important part of Irish equality legislation.

The Equal Status Act 2000 requires providers of goods and services to accommodate the needs of people with disabilities through making reasonable changes in what they do and how they do it, where without these changes it would be very difficult or impossible for people with disabilities to access or obtain those goods and services. (Similarly, the Employment Equality Act requires employers to do all that is reasonable to ensure that their employees with disabilities can perform capably in their jobs.)

The Equality Act 2004 amended both the Employment Equality Act and Equal Status Act. Essentially it was the transposition of EU directives into Irish Law and under the Employment Equality Act shifted the "reasonable accommodation" clause to "undue hardship". So for example the large multi-national company would now have different conditions for accommodating the needs of people with disabilities than say the local corner shop.

The Irish Government launched the National Disability Strategy on 21st September 2004. The legislative component of this strategy, the Disabilities Bill 2004 establishes a statutory basis for public service providers to provide access to public buildings, services and information. There is little reference specifically to ICT and no direct reference to web accessibility in the Bill.

  • Section 26, subsection 2: Where a public body communicates in electronic form with one or more persons, the head of the body shall ensure that as far as practicable, that the contents of the communication are accessible to persons with a visual impairment to whom adaptive technology is available.

NDA welcome this provision but feel the scope is too restrictive. It excludes people with mobility impairments, intellectual and hearing impairments. Neither does everyone who has vision impairment require adaptive technology to access information electronically. They may just require the text on the screen to be resizable or that informational graphics be kept to a minimum.

Italy

In general terms, the National level legislation defines the overall framework of law, while Regional Governments are responsible for enacting detailed rules at local level. The right to participate to society as citizens on equal foot – and receive the same services – is stated in many documents, the most relevant being the Italian Constitution issued in 1948 (art. 3 states that all citizens must be regarded as equal independently on "…sex, race, language, religion, political opinion, personal condition and social condition…"). Although this statement can read as anti-discrimination principle, it took time to be understood in its full implications related to senior citizens or people with disabilities.

To date, in Italy there is no specific legislation establishing anti-discrimination principles against disability. However, in several pieces of legislation it is stated that the State is committed in ensuring full participation and integration of people with disability into society on equal foot.

  • The Framework Law on Handicap (L 104/92), among other things, commits the Government to undertake initiatives for improving accessibility of television and telephone services to people with sensory impairment, and to facilitate diffusion of ICT among people with disabilities.
  • Concerning Internet access, the Government established (Cabinet Resolution 13/3/2001, Ministry of Public Function) the principle that any website of the Public Administration should be accessible to any person including people with disability. Relevant accessibility specifications have been developed by an inter-departmental working group to prepare national guidelines for usability and accessibility of websites.
  • Just recently the Stanca Act passed both Houses of the Parliament unanimously. It is a holistic approach that includes training of public employees (technicians and users), the focus is clear on ICT and will include research activities. It is a shared consensus compliant with international rules. A periodic update will guarantee for a recent status.

The Inter-Ministerial Committee as a permanent instance is built out of seven ministers that focus on ICT for disabled, elderly and disadvantaged people.

Japan

Japan's central ministries, government offices, and local governments are leading the way in considering Web accessibility. The Government Action Plan for Persons with Disabilities in Japan was formulated by the Headquarters for Promoting the Welfare of Disabled Persons in December 1995. The Action Plan was a seven-year strategy from fiscal 1996 to fiscal 2002 and included not only health and welfare measures, but also measures for people with disabilities as a whole, covering housing, education, employment, communications and broadcasting. There is specific reference to promoting on a priority basis a barrier-free society. In November 2000, The "Law for Promoting Mobile Access on Public Transport for Aged Persons and Persons with Physical Disabilities," was enacted.

Government is active in defining technical standards for infrastructure, but financing programs between business organizations and various levels of government and representative consumers are myriad and complex. Essentially the government has encouraged much more flexibility and private initiative in this area to develop an active and competitive market.

An example for one of these services is: Much equipment used on a daily basis, such as personal computers, printers, and AV equipment, is being equipped with a digital communication interface. Study is being carried out on a home network system that would link not only these devices but also home appliances.

Luxembourg

Some general regulations concerning non discrimination do exist in Luxembourg in the policy for elderly people and handicapped people as issued by Ministry for Family, Social Solidarity and Youth. This is described by the Ministry as a challenge for Luxembourg. A budget has been released for the 12 Senior Clubs. E-Luxembourg has initiated some projects in this field which still need realization.

A few provisions exist on delivery of services: Newspapers for blind people and cassettes can be found in special libraries for blind people. In an institution for blind people and people with reduced sight they do only work with a system to enlarge written texts. Often the need for ICT is not seen in a small country like Luxembourg. Also the elderly are not used to this kind of technology and want to stick to the things they used to work with during there whole life's. Luxembourg in this respect is not expected to play a front role in the development and uptake of IST by elderly.

New Zealand

There is no accessibility specific legislation in New Zealand. So Accessibility Guidelines came in place. During 2000, the Government Information Managers' Forum (GOVIS), through the web developers support forum, developed a submission document proposing guidelines for New Zealand government websites. This document, in turn, drew heavily on the UK web guidelines. GOVIS submitted their draft to the E-government Unit of the State Services Commission for consideration. The E-government Unit made a consultation draft available for agency feedback in February 2001, publishing the first version of the Guidelines in August 2001. The Guidelines were substantially recast in December 2002, learning from the experience of agencies and commercial implementers that had used the first version and reflecting progress in the e-government program.

The Web Guidelines establish a standard for public sector websites in New Zealand. The major focus of the Guidelines is accessibility – removing impediments to online access to government. Accessible websites can be used by people regardless of disability, use of the latest technology or the availability of fast Internet connections. The Guidelines also provide practical ways to provide economical and equitable access to trustworthy information and services, reflecting the core values of the Public Service in New Zealand. The current Version 2.1 can be viewed here.

Portugal

Initiatives in Portugal are lead by the Portuguese Accessibility Special Interest Group (PASIG), a non-profit NGO that established an international accessibility board consisting of well-known accessibility experts and industries. Together with PASIG, this board compiled Internet accessibility guidelines that were submitted to the Portuguese parliament on February 17, 1999.

The existing anti-discrimination legislation is only related to the employment of disabled people. There is no implicit procurement policy or strategy and regulations only apply to physical structures, which states that all physical and architectural barriers should be suppressed from public and collective buildings. According to the Resolution of the Ministers Council no.97/99 all information on public administration Websites must comply with the Guidelines developed by the W3C.

According to Portuguese legislation regarding disabled people, the State through the competent services must promote measures in the following areas: prevention, information and financing, medical and functional rehabilitation, special education, professional rehabilitation, AT and accessibility and mobility for this group. There are a variety of AT service delivery systems and a number of organizations are involved in the provision of AT.

South Africa

An anti-discrimination clause in the National Constitution of 1996, which includes disability policies to be implemented, builds the legislation on accessibility in South Africa. The government's policy is described in a White Paper, the Integrated National Disability Strategy of 1997.

Regarding Labor and Employment the Labor Relations Act provides gives some protection for disabled people against discrimination on the basis of their disability. The Department of Labor assists disabled people to access support services, to gain interview skills, job search skills, and time-management and communication skills.

The government put forward its ideas on disability policy in a Green Paper. Public hearings were held across the county, which resulted in a White Paper (statement of government policy) being published. This was circulated again to interested groups, such as organizations of persons with disabilities before being submitted to Parliament. The process was very consultative with concerned NGOs.

The laws can be enforced through the courts or through the Human Rights Commission. Voluntary organizations report incidences of violation. There have not been many cases in which disabled people have used the legislation, because the laws are still relatively new. Disabled people can receive legal aid from the state to pursue their case in court. The Office on the Status of Disabled People (OSDP) monitors the implementation of policies by government departments. The OSDP is located in the President's Office and has Disability Desks in all provinces.

Some policies have not been fully enforced. For example, building regulations to ensure accessibility are often ignored. More effort and dedication is needed to make this progress on disability related legislation a reality in the lives of people with disabilities. One of the most important issues that need to be dealt with is the allocation of resources to implement with concrete actions and changes the legislation that government bodies have created. Disability issues as viewed by governments and society have changed positively, now the work must continue to accomplish a more unified society worldwide.

Sweden

Anti discrimination legislation is integrated in the social security act, but also emphasized in the report IT and the Elderly. Concerning ICT there is no distinction made between general AT and ICT-applications; one is considered as an extension of the other.

This issue "design for all" is pronounced in the ICT-Bill. General web-services such as public information have been implemented. Now efforts are oriented towards the building of special needs solutions. This is a rather recent initiative, since most of the previous efforts have been concentrated on making public information public, on the Internet.

Now activities have reached the next stage, where the issue is to design new standards on large scale for the disabled and for the elderly. Historically a lot of R&D has been accomplished with regard to individual solutions for individual persons with specific needs – in their homes, cars, and so on. Now the challenge is to develop solutions on an industrial scale.

Turkey

The Constitution of The Republic of Turkey guarantees all citizens the rights of protection and participation in society, the rights of employment and protection in the work environment, and the rights of education and training for integration into society. To this end, various pieces of legislation related to the rights of health, education, care and rehabilitation, employment, social security, and accessible physical environment have been advocated by disability organizations in favor of persons with disabilities. The long-term efforts of these advocates led to the adoption of this legislation by the government.

Two particular improvements have been enacted and have given hope in the disability field. One of them deals with the reorganization of government bodies providing services, and increased collaboration among for-profit and nonprofit organizations; the other is an increase in the number of day care rehabilitation centers run by government, for-profit, and nonprofit organizations. Both improvements are a result of long-term efforts by people working in the disability field and are considered the seeds of better policy and services.

hope for the future exists through improvements in legislation; collaboration among government bodies and private, nonprofit, and disability organizations; advocacy efforts of disability organizations; and the participation of an increasing number of professionals and academicians.

UK

The Disability Discrimination Bill was introduced to the House by the Minister for Social Security and Disabled People. This led to the passing of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA). The right conferred under Part III on October 1, 1999 is applicable to all providers of goods, facilities, and services to the general public, with the specific exclusions of transport and education, and requires positive action which is reasonable and readily achievable to overcome the physical and communication barriers that impede disabled people's access. The act primarily covers employment issues and the provision of goods, facilities, and services.

Under the Act, anyone who is considered a disabled person can claim protection from alleged discrimination. Section 21 of the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) does apply to web service providers and requires them to make "reasonable adjustments" to their services so that disabled people can access them.

The Act has led to the creation of the Disability Rights Commission (DRC). The DRC will play a critical role in drawing up future codes of practice and advising parties of their rights, as well as generally encouraging the advancement of disability rights.

Guidelines set up by the British government were built on the fact that not all users chose to view websites using graphics, and many are unable to use images at all. These individuals may be using small-screen browsers which only display text, or may be blind users with Access Technology.

  • Where graphics are used for linking, a text alternative must be included.
  • Alt Tags must be used with images, even if an alternative text link is present.
  • Imagemap navigation methods should be used sparingly. Where it is used, a text alternative must be supplied. Imagemaps should be both Client and Server side. Imagemaps must have Alt Tags for each menu option.

United States of America

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that covered entities furnish appropriate auxiliary aids and services where necessary to ensure accommodations for individuals with disabilities, unless doing so would result in a fundamental alteration to the program or service or in an undue burden to the covered entity.

In 1996, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a policy ruling that stated that ADA Titles II and III require State and Local Governments and the business sector to provide effective communication whenever they communicate through the Internet (Deval Patrick, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, letter to Tom Harkin, U.S. Senate, re: application of the ADA to "web pages" on the Internet, September 9, 1996, 10 NDLR 240).

In June 2001, the United States federal government enacted regulations regarding equal access to information technology for people with disabilities. Specifically, on August 7, 1998, Public Law 105-220 enacted the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998, which significantly expand and strengthen the technology access requirements of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 508).

Section 508 establishes accessibility requirements for any electronic and information technology that is developed, maintained, procured, or used by the United States federal government. It requires that all U.S. government agencies "ensure that…federal employees with disabilities…have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access of those without disabilities." It also requires that federal agencies developing Web sites ensure that citizens with disabilities have equal access to the information on those Web sites. For more information on Section 508, see the official Section 508 Website.

US States

Policies

Currently, many states are looking at Web and IT Accessibility policies and ways to refine and improve them. Some states had accessibility policies in place before Section 508 while others did not. Many states are changing accessibility policies to reflect the requirements of Section 508. Some are taking a combined approach by keeping their core policies and adding further accessibility "guidelines." Some states see Section 508 merely as a starting point and want to add further requirements based on W3C initiatives.

There is no uniform methodology by which all states create and implement IT accessibility policies. Some states have scrambled to put together IT accessibility policies, especially in the area of Web accessibility. Programmers simply need guidelines by which they can build accessible websites. It is a new frontier for some states that are attempting to move toward accessibility while addressing the outcry from people with disabilities.

Legislation

It is unclear to what extent states will be held accountable to Section 508 legislation. The spirit of Section 508 was originally applied to federal agencies, government contractors, and others receiving federal money. Many disability advocacy groups have attempted to hold states accountable to Section 508 because they receive federal funding through the Assistive Technology Act. Thus far, states have not been in full compliance in regard to Section 508 regulations. This question remains unanswered and perhaps will be addressed by Congress to clarify states' roles in regard to Section 508.

Slowly but surely, states are addressing IT accessibility not just through policies, but legislatively, as well. Currently 22 states have IT accessibility laws and 5 states are presently in the preliminary stages of drafting legislation, issuing executive orders, or writing policies. One state has an executive order in place and four states have accessibility standards suggested from their top IT administrators; however, no actual legislation is in place.

Many states had IT accessibility legislation on the books prior to the 508 standard. More commonly, these states only addressed accessibility for persons who were blind. Some states are moving to modify legislation and draft amendments to bring their legislation up to Section 508 standards.

On a positive note, states that are looking to adopt Section 508 are doing so for increased usability system-wide. Nationwide, state information technology offices are looking at policies, training, and support to successfully implement Section 508 requirements from a usability standpoint. States are finding that their usability is greatly improved when accessibility is implemented correctly.

Litigation

In 2003, three blind state employees from Pennsylvania and the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania (NFBP) filed a lawsuit against the state and its governor. The suit asserted that the state's multi-million-dollar computer system upgrade for use by all state employees was inaccessible to blind employees and, therefore, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Attorney Joe Espo, of Brown, Goldstein & Levy, who represents both the NFBP and state employees, will be speaking on "States' Experiences with IT Accessibility" at the upcoming Assistive Technology Act Programs Annual Conference, November 8-10, in St. Louis, MO. The current status of this case is unclear.

In 2001, the Arkansas Administrative Statewide Information System (AASIS) had similar accessibility problems for blind employees. Two blind state employees filed a lawsuit, to prevent further use of the information system without modification for accessibility. The judge put an injunction on the state's plan to roll out more components of the application that was deemed in- accessible. In turn, Arkansas is suing German software developer SAP contending the company did not fulfill its contract to develop the programs.

Litigation in the area of state IT accessibility is being closely watched. It is anticipated that groundbreaking lawsuits will set precedents for mandatory inclusion of state employees with regard to IT accessibility.

Resources

New York adopted a new policy and standards in June 2004:

South Carolina adopted a new web policy in June 2004:

Arizona's governor approved Section 508 bill in June 2004:

Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs Annual Conference

National Federation of the Blind in Pennsylvania

 

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