The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) makes it illegal for a website provider to discriminate against a disabled person. In practice, this means that you must design your website so that disabled people can access it using technology - eg screen readers.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has produced a number of accepted guidelines for websites. These lay out three levels of standards:
- Priority 1 - websites must comply, otherwise some users will find it impossible to access the site
- Priority 2 - websites should comply, otherwise some users will find it difficult to access the site
- Priority 3 - websites may comply, otherwise some users will find it somewhat difficult to access the site
The UK government recommends that websites must satisfy priority 1 and should satisfy priority 2 of the guidelines.
How to check if your site is accessible
You can use a range of free online tools and services to check if your site is accessible.
If your website isn't accessible, it may put a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage compared to people who are not disabled. You may be required under the DDA to make 'reasonable adjustments'.
This means that, by law, you must:
- change a practice, policy or procedure that makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to use your service - eg using very small text that puts vision-impaired people at a disadvantage
- provide an auxiliary aid or service if it would enable (or make it easier for) disabled people to use the service - eg offering an alternative point and click interface for visitors that can't use a keyboard
Making websites accessible
People with different abilities will navigate websites in different ways, depending on their needs and preferences. Some may configure standard software and hardware to suit their needs. Others may use specialized software or hardware that helps them perform certain tasks.
You can make many adjustments to help disabled people to use your website. The WC3 website provides guidance on getting started with web accessibility. You can also see our best practices for accessible websites.