Photo Credit: National Archives – 1949
Photo Description: Eleanor Roosevelt is pictured holding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a highly influential document that she helped create.*
“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighbourhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”
Eleanor Roosevelt on the 10th Anniversary of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights speech titled “In Our Hands” (1958)
The following list outlines some (not all) of the many different web accessibility laws that have been enacted throughout the world. While some are more progressive than others and enforcement varies from region to region, more and more of the laws leverage the internationally recognized Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 as a key measure for testing and validating websites for optimal accessibility and usability.
United Nations Accessibility Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
During the December 1948 United Nations General Assembly in Paris, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was proclaimed. The UN set out to have human rights universally protected by having a diverse background of representatives draft The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Through each of the 30 articles, the UN declared the rights of human beings that all nations and all peoples should strive for.
Each member state of the United Nations has signed agreement to the UDHR. They have each agreed that every person is born equally and with freedom, entitling them to the rights of the declaration without thought to differences such as race, language, religion, or any other status. All persons shall not be subjected to slavery, inhumane treatment or punishment, arbitrary actions or interference. All persons have the right to life and liberty, equality in the face of the law, freedom of movement within borders and the right to seek asylum elsewhere, nationality, marriage and family, to own property, receive an education, employment, standard of living, and participation in community and society.
UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
The United Nations created the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on the basis that The Universal Declaration of Human Rights should protect everyone, equally. In practice, however, this was not the case. People with disabilities encounter obstacles in receiving education, employment, accessing information and services, and obtaining proper health care. The General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006 to ratify the problems encountered.
The Convention’s mission is to detail the rights of persons with disabilities while creating a code to implement the rights. Countries are encouraged to join the Convention to eliminate obstacles and barriers people with disabilities encounter throughout life. The countries that join the Convention are responsible for developing laws and policies in their respective states to ensure the rights for people with disabilities so that they are able to live an independent life and are treated with equality. The rights of persons with disabilities include, access to education, employment, health care, their finances, participation in culture and community. Without barrier or impediment, People with disabilities must have access to their living environment, transportation, public facilities and their services, and information and communication technologies.
Countries that join The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities must also report their commitment to ensuring the rights of persons with disabilities in form of their policies and laws. The Convention also has the ability to provide assistance for developing countries to promote the rights of persons with disabilities.
United States Accessibility Laws
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The ADA is a Civil Rights Law enacted in 1990 to prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability. Title II and Title III of the act have become prevalent in a growing shift to provide services and information on the web.
Title II of the ADA prohibits disability discrimination by public entities, such as state and local governments, regardless if they receive funding from the federal government. State and local governments must give equal access to people with disabilities through their services, programs, and activities. This includes schools and universities.
Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation that are privately owned and operated. This can include places ranging from banks to doctors offices. Recent lawsuits and court rulings demonstrate that websites are considered a place of public accommodation.
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits disability discrimination in federally run programs, programs that receive financial assistance from the federal government, and federal employment practices. It was the first act in the United States that protects the civil rights with people with disabilities.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act protects the civil rights of people who have disabilities from being excluded, denied benefits, or discriminated against. Section 504 applies to programs that receive financial assistance from the federal government or are part of an Executive Agency.
Section 508 was passed as an amendment to the Rehabilitation Act, requiring the the federal government to provide accessible electronic and information technology for employees and the public who have disabilities. This Procurement Law includes electronic and information technology that is procured, developed, or maintained by the federal government.
21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA)
The CVAA was enacted to enforce the FCC Closed Captioning Rules and bring 80’s and 90’s accessibility laws up to date with modern technologies.
Title I of the CVAA outlines the requirements for accessible communication services and products. This includes website and mobile browsers to be accessible for people with disabilities. Title II outlines the requirements for video programming to be accessible for people with disabilities, such as closed captioning.
Air Carrier Access Act
In November of 2014, the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) implemented new changes to the 1986 Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). The ACAA prohibits discrimination by airlines on the basis of disability. In their commitment to making flying easier and more accessible to people with disabilities the Department of Transportation is requiring airlines to make their automated kiosks and websites fully accessible. To make their websites accessible to people with disabilities, the ACCA requires airlines to follow the standards in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Success Criteria, Conformance Requirement Level AA. Level AA encompasses both the requirements in Level A and Level AA.
Affordable Care Act – Meaningful Access Rule
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is implementing a Meaningful Access Rule. The Meaningful Access Rule will apply to the ACA’s Section 1557’s anti-discrimination policies. This section defines that any health care provider that receives funding from the federal government must not discriminate any individual on the basis of race, color, nationality, sex, age, or disability. The new regulations will require theses health care provider to provide physical and Electronic and Information Technology (EIT) accessibility.
International Accessibility Laws
Law No. 26,653
The Argentinean Nation Congress passed Law No. 26,653 to require that web pages must be accessible to all individuals.
Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)
Enacted in 1992, the DDA prohibits direct and indirect disability discrimination in areas such as employment, education, sports, provisions, laws and programs. The purpose of the DDA is to promote and enforce that people with disabilities are ensured equal rights in their communities.
Broadcasting Services Act
The Australian Broadcasting Services Act was enacted in 1992 to promote, provide, and ensure that audiences have access to broadcasting and that broadcasters are meeting audience needs by implementing regulations. The Australian Parliament has made an amendment to the Broadcasting Services Act establishing that TV programming needs to be closed captioned during specified broadcasting times.
Australian Communications and Media Authority Act
The ACMA was established to have authority to regulate broadcasting rules, as well as other communication and media acts.
Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy
The Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy strives to establish universal design for accessibility and to reinforce the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. All government owned and operated information and services must be accessible by conforming to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. This includes federal, state, and territories in Australia.
Canadian Human Rights Act
Enacted in 1977, the Human Rights Act made it illegal to discriminate people against, “race, national or ethnic origin, colour [sic], religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, [and] disability…”
Government of Canada Web Standards
The Government of Canada Web Standards took effect in 2011 to replace the Government of Canada Common Look and Feel Standards of 2001. After being updated in 2013, the Web Standards require government websites to be accessible to people with disabilities. To make their websites accessible, they must comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 Level AA.
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act – AODA
As one of the more progressive Civil Rights Laws in the world, AODA was enacted in 2005 and amended in 2016 with the mission of creating a barrier free society by 2025. It requires public sector organizations and large private sector and non-profit organizations with more than 50 employees to make their websites accessible to people with disabilities. They must make their websites accessible using Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 Level AA by 2021.
Mandate 376 was established to standardize accessibility. European Union members are required to have accessible public procurement of ICT products and services. Mandate 376 mission is to have products and services not contain barriers so that they are accessible to all individuals. Products and services include: websites, digital services, computers and emails. To have an accessible website, the Mandate 376 Procurement Law outlines that websites must conform to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.
Standard – EN 301 549
EN 301 549 details the Accessibility requirements suitable for public procurement of ICT products and services in Europe.
Law No 2005-102
Law N° 2005-102 outlines equal opportunities and participation for people with disabilities in France. Under Article 47, the Référentiel Général d’Accessibilité pour les Administrations (RGAA) requires all French government and public websites to comply with web accessibility standards. In 2015, The RGAA 3 was updated from the RGAA 2.2 to integrate new technologies, such as HTML and ARIA. The RGAA is based off of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0.
Federal Disabled Equalization Law – BGG
Agencies within the German federal administration that have an internet presence, public access internet presence, and that are using information technology that is accessed by the public are subject to the Federal Disabled Equalization Law (BGG). The Law stems from the Disability Discrimination Act requiring barrier-free information technology.
Under the BGG, BITV 2 was established to set required guidelines for government websites. The guidelines are enforceable and are based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 with minor differences.
Indian Web Accessibility Guidelines
The National Portal of India project developed an initiative to ensure that governmental websites are accessible. The Guidelines for Indian Website was released in 2009 and was added to the Central Secretariat Manual of Office Procedures (CSMOP). Websites must comply with the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA.
Disability Act 2005
The Republic of Ireland established the act to assess needs, services, and employment opportunity for people with disabilities. Under the Act, The National Disability Authority was established, as well as The Centre for Excellence in Universal Design.
Code of Practice on Accessibility of Public Services and Information Provided by Public Bodies
The National Disability Authority (NDA) is an independent statutory board that advises the government and private sector in matters of disability policies and procedures while promoting Universal Design. The NDA prepared the Code of Practice on Accessibility of Public Services and Information Provided by Public Bodies after being requested by the Republic of Ireland’s Minister of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. For websites to be compliant, they must not contain barriers for people with disabilities. The NDA requires websites to conform using the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA.
Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Enacted in 1998 the Israeli parliament, known as Knesset, passed the Equal Rights for People with Disabilities Law. Under the Law, people with disabilities have equal rights and protection in all aspects of society, from employment to housing.
The Equal Rights for People with Disabilities (Service Accessibility Adjustments) Regulations 5773-2013
The Knesset’s Labor, Welfare and Health Committee made an amendment to the Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities Section 35 known as the Equal Rights for People with Disabilities Regulations 5773-2013. The regulation came into force in 2013, governing website accessibility. These regulations apply to government and municipality agencies, public entities, and to services that are being offered to the general public.
Websites must be accessible to people with disabilities, containing no barriers. To make their website accessible, they are required to follow Standard 5568. The standard outlines that websites must be accessible following the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, established by the World Wide Web Consortium. Existing and new websites must be accessible by October 2016.
Law 4/2004 – “Stanca Law”
Under the Stanca Law, Italy made it its mission to provide an accessible information technology to people with disabilities. Under the law, governmental agencies and private agencies are required to provide accessible technology if they provide information to the public. Under Decree No. 75, websites must be barrier-free and following the Ministerial Decree issued that website must follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Level II to be compliant with the Stanca Law.
The Act on the Elimination of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities
In 2013, the Japanese equivalent to a Parliament passed a Civil Rights Law, the Act on the Elimination of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities, to ban discrimination based on disability and requiring reasonable accommodation.
Japanese Industrial Standards
Established in 2004 and updates through 2016, the Web Content Japanese Industrial Standards (JIS) was established to provide web accessibility guidelines. JIS is based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.
Human Rights Amendment Act
Established in 1993, the Human Rights Act was intended to create equality and fair treatment to all people in New Zealand. The Act and its Commission protects the people from unlawful discrimination. In 2001, the Human Rights Amendment Act made changes to the Human Rights Act to continue to ensure equality.
Web Accessibility Standards
Effective as of 2013, the New Zealand Web Accessibility Standards requires government websites to be accessible by conforming to the Web Content Accessibility Standards 2.0 Level AA. The Web Accessibility Standards applies to government websites that are available to the public, with a focus on websites that are accessed by people who are not employed by the New Zealand government and websites that use logins for authentication.
Law 51/2003 – “LIONDAU”
In accordance with Spain’s Constitution, Law 51 was enacted in December 2003 to ensure that people with disabilities are not discriminated against and are given equal opportunities in “political, economic, and social life.” The Spanish government must not discriminate and have accessible technologies and services that are related to societal information and social media.
The web accessibility standard UNE 139803 was established in 2004 to outline the requirements for Law 51. The Spanish standards organization, AENOR, based the requirements form web accessibility off of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
The UK’s Equality Act was established in 2010 to protect people from discrimination in employment and in society. This Civil Rights Law protects against all aspects from age to disability.
British Standard 8878
The code of practice for web accessibility was brought up under British Standard 8878 to issue self-regulating standards. The Standard issues processes for ensuring that web products are accessible to all people. Web products are defined by the standards as: websites, web applications, software that is a service, and cloud based services. The Standard is loosely based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
Communications Act & OFCOM Regulations
The UK Communications Act was passed in 2003 and established that the Office of Communications (OFCOM) will be transferred general powers of regulation. OFCOM regulates communications such as: TV, radio, fixed line telecoms, mobile, and wireless airwaves. They set the rules, standards, and guidelines for closed captioning in the United Kingdom. Broadcasters will have to have content subtitled.
This website includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Though provided in good faith that the information is accurate at the time of publication, such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. Please contact a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction for advice on specific legal issues.