All websites should be accessible, especially by people with disabilities. The Equality Act 2010 governs website access. All types of disabilities should be considered when designing a website or mobile application. This includes blindness, visual impairment, hearing loss and cognitive or motor impairment.
The Equality Act does not specifically cover website accessibility, but it does cover the provision of services, which includes services provided by a website operator. Website operators have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people in the services they provide.
The Equality Act states that:
‘Where a provision, criterion or practice of A puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in relation to a relevant matter in comparison with persons who are not disabled, to take such steps as it is reasonable to have to take to avoid the disadvantage.’
It also states that:
‘The steps which it is reasonable for A to have to take include steps for ensuring that in the circumstances concerned the information is provided in an accessible format.’
Website operators need to anticipate the needs of potential and actual disabled users for reasonable adjustments. The aim is to provide a service to disabled users that, as closely as possible resembles the service provided to the public at large.
The Equality Act 2010 does not specifically dictate what constitutes reasonable adjustments.
The Equality Act 2010 Statutory Code of Practice stipulates that what is reasonable for a service provider will vary depending on certain circumstance. The following questions should be considered when providing online services:
- What steps, if any, have already been taken to overcome the disadvantages faced by those with a disability when accessing online services?
- What further steps can be taken?
- Considering the time and financial resources required, is it practicable to take such steps?
- Would taking the steps cause considerable disruption to online services?
- What assistance and resources are available to take the steps?
It is likely to be considered ‘reasonable’ for a large business with more resources to be required to include more adjustments than a small business with limited resources.
A website operator should consider the needs of all potential users, as only making adjustments for one type of disability is not complaint with the Equality Act 2010.
Service providers cannot require disabled customers to pay for the costs of any adjustments.
A service provider is not required to take steps which would profoundly alter the nature of the service.