During a debate of The Equality Bill: how disability equality fits within a single Equality Act – Work and Pensions Committee (2008) prior to the Equality Act 2010 being passed;“The Employers’ Forum on Disability stated that “barriers created by inaccessible technology are not acceptable. This includes inaccessible on-line recruitment, inaccessible and unusable IT systems, and inaccessible ‘e-commerce’ processes.” Ms Scott-Parker of the Employers Forum on Disability said: “We did some research about three or four years ago, at which point 85% of all the on-line sites that we looked at were inaccessible.
Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act 2010 simplifies and harmonises anti-discrimination legislation by replacing nine main pieces of legislation with one single Act. However, when it comes to web accessibility there are some who feel it is more confusing – Equality Bill makes Britain’s web accessibility law harder to access. Section 29(1) of the 2010 Act says that:
A person … concerned with the provision of a service to the public or a section of the public (for payment or not) must not discriminate against a person requiring the service by not providing the person with the service.
Failing to “provide a service to a disabled person that is normally provided to other persons is unlawful discrimination. This applies to commercial web services as much as to traditional services… Sections 20 and 29(7) of the Equality Act create and elaborate a duty for service providers to make “reasonable adjustments” to enable disabled persons to access their services. Section 20(6) says that with respect to services relating to the provision of information:
the steps which it is reasonable for [an information service provider] to have to take include steps for ensuring that in the circumstances concerned the information is provided in an accessible format.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Code of Practiceconcerning the application of the Act notes that this is an ongoing and evolving duty that should be continually reviewed rather than simply considered once (7.27), and one that should be anticipatory and shouldn’t wait for the disabled user to want to make use of the site (7.21).” (Website Law (Blog, June 2011)) The Equality and Human Rights Commission offer Equality Act guidance on their website.
British Standard 8878 Web Accessibility Code of Practice
In December 2010 the British Standard 8878 Web Accessibility Code of Practice was launched. It is the first British Standard to address the growing challenge of digital inclusion. It applies to all web products, including websites, web-services and web-based workplace applications (such as web-based email) that are delivered to users via Internet protocol, through a web browser.
BS 8878 is consistent with the Equality Act 2010 and is referenced in the UK government’s e-Accessibility Action Plan as the basis of updated advice on developing accessible online services. It includes recommendations for:
- Involving disabled people in the development process and using automated tools to assist with accessibility testing
- The management of the guidance and process for upholding existing accessibility guidelines and specifications.
BS 8878:2010 Web Accessibility Code of practice can be purchased from shop.bsigroup.com
Other Acts of Parliament
Chronically Sick and Disabled Person Act, 1970 (CSDPA) – Much amended but still includes the requirement of access to services and technologies for daily living. “Introduced by North West MP Alf Morris, the legislation was the first in the world to recognise and give rights to people with disabilities.” (BBC – Forty years of Chronically Sick & Disabled Persons Act) Children Act 1989 (England and Wales) , 1995 (Scotland) The Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 – The Children Act 1989 introduced in Northern Ireland (with some differences). Services provided under the Children’s Act include ‘some aids and adaptations’ (GOV.UK)
The Equality Act 2010 introduces the Public Sector Equality Duty which brings together the Disability Equality Duty (DED) with other existing duties (on race and gender). It also covers age, sexual orientation, religion or belief, pregnancy and maternity, and gender reassignment.
“The Duty has three aims. When developing or implementing policy, it requires public bodies to have due regard to the need to:
- eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other conduct prohibited by the Equality Act 2010
- advance equality of opportunity between people from different groups
- foster good relations between people from different groups.
‘Due regard’ means to consciously consider these three aims when making decisions about policy or practice which would affect people. For example, the duty covers:
- how a public authority acts as an employer
- how it develops policies
- how it designs and delivers services
- how it procures services.” (Office of Disability Issues)
Education Act, 1996. Special Educational Needs (SEN) Code of Practice for Wales , Scottish children have the Education (Additional Support for Learning) Act 2004 with a Supporting Children’s Learning: Code of Practice
The SEN Code sets out guidance on policies and procedures aimed at enabling pupils with SEN to reach their full potential, to be included fully in their school communities and make a successful transition to adulthood.
The Learning and Skills Act (2000) “The act included an outline of colleges’ duties regarding equal opportunities and meeting the needs of people with learning difficulties; requirements to publish their strategies and annual plans covering these areas were also set out.”
European Convention on Human Rights – It has allowed individuals to make complaints to the European Commission on Human Rights since 1966. The influence of the Convention has been growing in the UK in the past decade or so. (Leeds University, 1998)
Human Rights Act Article 10: Freedom of Expression – BBC lists the articles
The UN Convention on disability rights – “The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) is the first human rights treaty of the 21st Century. It reaffirms disabled people’s human rights and signals a further major step in disabled people’s journey to becoming full and equal citizens. Read The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (PDF)” (Equality and Human Right Commission)
Overview of Disability and Legislation