Web Accessibility Legislation

A number of countries have implemented legislation to guide governments, businesses, educational institutions, and the like with respect to their obligations to make Information and Communications Technology (ICT) accessible to people with disabilities. Generally, legislation is crafted to assist people with disabilities to access information, and it may include groups such as those who are blind or have low vision, people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, those with cognitive disabilities, and individuals with motor impairments. Countries may have different definitions in place to identify who is considered to have a disability.

ICT may include websites and web applications, software, hardware, mobile applications, etc. The kinds of organizations, types of products and services, and range of people with disabilities may vary, so please be sure to seek advice so that you understand what is applicable in your particular situation.

Of course, countries have approached the topic of ICT in different ways, but often, legislators turn to the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Accessibility Initiative's guidance as a foundation. It is ideal when countries point to guidance from the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) rather than creating new guidelines. In the United States' Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Final Standards and Guidelines, this is called "incorporation by reference."

Very generally, this guidance tends to include the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0), but may also include the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG 2.0) and the User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG 2.0). Although the references here are to the recommendations, developers and designers tend to find the supporting documents linked from them, such as those that include code samples, easier to understand and implement.

In addition, though it may not be directly referenced, WAI provides information about non-web-based Information and Communication Technology (ICT). For details, see Guidance on Applying WCAG 2.0 to Non-Web Information and Communications Technologies (WCAG2ICT), and the WCAG2ICT Overview that accompanies it.

To see whether your country has implemented relevant legislation, please refer to Web Accessibility Laws and Policies (from the WAI). If you know of legislation that has not been included in this resource, you are welcome to submit it for consideration.

Furthermore, in Europe, you may also want to check the Instruction videos on the European standard for accessibility requirements in public procurement of ICT products and services, EN 301 549.

The document, Why Standards Harmonization is Essential to Web Accessibility (from the WAI), discusses the value of following examples set by other countries in an effort to streamline information accessibility worldwide.