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Adam Turner

Regulators are now taking notice of accessibility

Accessibility


It is a simple fact – everything you do should be accessible. The pages of your website, the way you present your information, the small print in any digital transaction – they now really should be compliant with WCAG 2.1 Guidelines. Increasingly, we are seeing accessibility compliance being regarded a given from lawmakers as well as professional and industry regulators. They may have a requirement for you to present information to the public in a particular way, perhaps for transparency or data privacy reasons. Being able to successfully present that information to everybody means it must be accessible. 

While improving accessibility is a “no brainer” anyway because it’s actually a strategic investment and pretty much benefits everybody, when regulators are also positioning it as a given then it’s time to do something about accessibility compliance. 

Risk functions and management teams are already tuned into the demands of regulators and regard falling foul of their expectations as serious, so if you’re not doing something about accessibility compliance then it’s truly time to get your act together.

What the CCPA says

This point is never clearer in recently issued notice provisions relating to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), legislation that’s already having a high impact on web teams. The provisions explicitly state that information presented to site visitors must be accessible to those with disabilities, meaning that elements such as opt-out notices and privacy policies must be accessible. 

For example, this is what is states for the privacy notice:

Be accessible to consumers with disabilities. At a minimum, provide information on how a consumer with a disability may access the policy in an alternative format.

To make your privacy policy accessible it’s likely that the way users navigate to these elements is also accessible, so these regulations may have a more fundamental impact on site-wide accessibility. 

Regulators are focusing on accessibility

There are plenty of other examples. From 23 September 2019 all UK public sector bodies including higher education establishments must ensure their website complies with the WCAG 2.1 guidelines, a requirement driven by the relative EU directive.

Elsewhere accessibility compliance relating to specific industry sectors is also explicit. For example, US airlines are required by law to make channels accessible.  

Meanwhile in the UK, the Solicitors Regulators Authority (SRA)’s handbook establishes practices relating to publishing information relating to costs on a solicitor’s website. As well as going into detail on what information should be included, according to rule 1.6 is must:

Cost information published under this rule must be clear and accessible and in a prominent place on your website

In our view, the use of the word “accessible” in relation to guidance on presentation of information on a digital channel is clear and unambiguous in this context. 

Everything must be accessible

If you’re not doing something around web accessibility compliance then you really need to be. This is no longer something that is “niche” or only of concern to the accessibility community. 

Sitemorse Founder and CEO Lawrence Shaw comments

“Everything you do has to be accessible. Industry regulators are now fully aware of the rules and the requirements around accessibility compliance. Many organisations are already highly complacent when it comes to the threat of accessibility litigation, but they may also now be facing the threat of their industry regulator taking action. The public sector and companies in regulated industries are already very sensitive to their commitments, and it’s time for accessibility compliance to be taken just as seriously.”

To find out more about how Sitemorse can help you with website accessibility, please visit https://sitemorse.com/

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