The Equality Act 2010 is one of the most important pieces of web accessibility legislation in the UK (EQA). With the exception of Northern Ireland, the EQA replaced the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995 across the UK.
The EQA imposes a legal obligation on UK goods and service providers (both public and private sector organisations) not to discriminate against people based on a number of protected characteristics, including disability. People with visual, motor, hearing, cognitive, and learning disabilities are included.
However, the EQA expects more from businesses than just non-discrimination. It also requires website owners to actively provide all of their users with an equal website experience. In this regard, the legal requirements are crystal clear. The Equality and Human Rights Commission published a statutory code of practise to clarify the legal obligations of goods and service providers. The following is stated:”…duty to make reasonable adjustments requires service providers to take positive steps to ensure that disabled people can access services. This goes beyond simply avoiding discrimination. It requires service providers to anticipate the needs of potential disabled customers for reasonable adjustments.”
To comply with the law, UK website owners must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to their web content so that it is accessible to people with disabilities – rather than waiting for disabled people to complain about their site’s inaccessibility. The EQA does not specify the technical accessibility standards that websites must meet. In practise, organisations should ensure that their web content complies with WCAG 2.1 Level AA standards.