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An Overview Of Digital Accessibility Laws And Regulations

With more people relying on the internet for several things, digital accessibility has become an important subject matter these days. Since the advent of several technological advancements, many laws and regulations have been enacted to ensure that digital information and other web-related platforms and processes are accessible to everyone.  

Because of this, businesses and organizations continually strive hard to develop standards to help ensure their websites, mobile applications, and other digital data can be accessed by everyone. So, if you want your business to be compliant and competitive in the digital world, here’s an overview of some digital accessibility laws and regulations you should get familiar with.  

Digital accessibility

Digital Accessibility Laws And Regulations In The U.S.  

In the United States, there are two popular laws pertaining to digital accessibility. These include: 

1. Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) 

The Americans With Disabilities apply to different industries, including private employers with 15 or more employees, businesses that offer products and services for the benefit of the public, and state and local government agencies.  

Essentially, ADA refers to a digital accessibility law promulgated in 1990. It specifically mandates that all businesses are prohibited from discriminating against individuals in the activities of public accommodations based on their disabilities. In other words, all websites and digital information should be accessible and operable to all people regardless of abilities or disabilities. Failing to comply with the said regulation may result in the payment of fines, attorney’s fees, and other related consequences.  

Moreover, compliance with ADA digital accessibility standards applies to all digital information and communication technology, including media devices, computing devices, recorded presentations, and digital documents like PDFs and user guides. 

Thankfully, there are many providers out there that offer services for document accessibility to businesses. These can help organizations comply with the ADA standards for digital accessibility.  

2. Section 508 

While ADA generally applies to all organizations, Section 508 was regarded as an amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It requires federal agencies to offer accessible electronic and IT products and services to people with disabilities. It sought compliance by the federal organizations with Section 508 criteria or standards for digital accessibility. It means that all digital content and data on websites and other similar platforms should be operable, perceivable, robust, and understandable to people with disabilities. 

A thing to note is that Section 508 as a digital accessibility law doesn’t generally apply to private entities unless they work under a contract with a particular federal agency. Nevertheless, as a private company, meeting the guidelines under Section 508 is considered best practice.

3. Digital Accessibility Laws And Regulations In Other Countries  

Now that you’re aware of the common digital accessibility laws in the United States, it could also be helpful to familiarize yourself with the related laws and regulations in other countries worldwide. These can include the following: 

  • Canada: There are also digital accessibility laws and regulations in this country. One of them is The Accessible Canada Act which aims to prevent accessibility barriers in digital information and communication technologies for organizations under federal jurisdiction. Refusal to comply may also result in the payment of thousands of dollars in fines.  
  • Australia: Australia has also made further developments to safeguard the rights of people with disabilities within their jurisdiction. The Disability Discrimination Act 1992, for instance, was enacted to prohibit discrimination against people based on their disabilities. This law’s scope also covers access to digital information and other web resources, and failing to comply may leave private and public sectors open to fines or legal action.  
  • Europe: Like other countries, Europe has also taken steps to establish digital accessibility laws and regulations to protect consumers regardless of their abilities or disabilities. For example, the EU Web Accessibility Directive provides that public sector organizations should ensure that all their websites, mobile apps, and other digital content are accessible to everyone. Also, the promulgation of the directive, known as the European Accessibility Act, aims to provide digital accessibility standards for specific industries, including manufacturers of computers or communication technology, eCommerce websites, and banking systems, to name a few.  

Wrapping Up

In today’s digital world, websites, applications, and other digital content should be accessible and usable by everyone, especially those with disabilities. This is one reason why various digital accessibility laws and regulations around the world are in place to protect the rights of each individual.

Therefore, keeping the information mentioned above in mind if you’re running a business online can be beneficial. That way, you’ll have an overview of some common digital accessibility laws and regulations that may apply to your business. And although these mandates vary from country to country, failure to comply with the provisions and standards for digital accessibility may result in legal and monetary consequences.  

Author Bio:

Mary Wise is a legal researcher in a law firm. She shares her knowledge about different areas in law, including tech law, through her articles and blog posts. During her free time, she goes on road trips with her family and friends.

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by Mary Wise

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