legal website disability accessNearly 15 years ago, the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) triggered a seismic change in the way that businesses provide goods and services to the registered disabled. This landmark legislation brought ramps to shop doors, improved lift provisions in public buildings, and special signage to assist the visually impaired.

The idea was that providers must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for disabled people to ensure their access the same products and services as able-bodied customers. But are you aware of how the DDA extends onto the Internet, and requires business websites to make similar provisions for the benefit of disabled web users?

Have website improvements been lost with time?

Back at the time of the DDA’s creation, businesses spent millions of pounds ensuring their websites met accessibility guidelines so that they could be accessed by alternate browsers. There were also efforts made to add functions allowing users to adjust font sizes, or site colours to make text easier to read for the partially sighted.

In this way, even blind users could access key information using screen reader technology. It also meant that businesses could avoid prosecution for discriminating against disabled web users.

The DDA was replaced by the Equality Act in 2010, changing nothing in terms of the required provisions for disabled users. But time, and a lack of awareness of the legalities of website design, means that many new sites are no longer meeting the needs of disabled users.

What does your business need to be aware of?

Advances in computing power and internet bandwidth means that websites are more ‘visual’ than ever before. Virtually every website now uses large images for layout, as well as to showcase products or services.

But some sites place important text directly into images to improve the overall appearance. For a fully-sighted user, this isn’t a problem – they can read the embedded text easily. But visually impaired users who rely on a text-to-speech browser face a serious problem. The browser recognises the presence of the image, but it cannot read the text in the image.

It’s a simple oversight, but if the graphics contain important details about the terms of service, the disabled user is at a great disadvantage – and this is illegal.

Accessibility needs professional website design

This is just one of many factors you need to consider when designing a new website if it is to remain legally compliant. It is one thing to put together a reasonably attractive website using freely available templates, but it is quite another to make sure the site is compliant with disability laws – which is why we always recommend the use of a professional website design service.

If your site does not meet accessibility standards, your business is at risk of prosecution. You will also miss out on reaching a small, but significant, section of the buying public. Home shopping is actually a lifeline for many disabled users, so it makes good business sense to ensure they can use your site fully.

Learn more about accessible websites, including whether yours is compliant, by getting in touch with our expert team at Broadband Cloud Solutions today.

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