Accessibility Laws in The Emerald Isle
Web Accessibility in Ireland
The National Disability Authority (NDA) envisions an Irish society where all people, regardless of disability, enjoy equal rights and equal access to participate fully in society. Ireland has taken legislative measures to move toward this goal and support social inclusion for all of its citizens. In particular, Ireland has demonstrated its commitment to digital inclusion and ensuring web accessibility for everyone by requiring captions on prerecorded and live audio content. This achievement is the result of years’ worth of advocacy work within and on behalf of the disability community.
A Strategy for Equality
In 1996 the publication “A Strategy for Equality” was put forth by the Commission on the Status of People with Disabilities. This report may be seen as a catalyst for increasing rights of people with disabilities in Ireland. In the years following this report, several anti-discrimination laws were passed to protect and include individuals with disabilities. The Employment Equality Act (1998) and the Equal Status Act (2000, 2004) both include disability as one of the faces of discrimination.
The Disability Act 2005
Nearly a decade after the Commission report was released, Ireland reached an accessibility and inclusion milestone; the Disability Act 2005 mandated that public services be made accessible and inclusive for all people regardless of disability. Notably, the Act requires that when a ‘public body’ communicates electronically, the contents of the communication must be “accessible to persons with a visual impairment to whom adaptive technology is available.”
NDA Code of Practice
The National Disability Authority has produced a legally binding Code of Practice, which outlines how to meet the requirements of the Act, using the WCAG 2.0 AA standard.
What Is WCAG 2.0?
Published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a set of guidelines and standards for creating digital content that is accessible for all individuals regardless of whether they have a disability.
The WCAG standard:
- Outlines best practices for making web content universally perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust
- Defines criteria for successful inclusive web design, with ascending levels of compliance (levels A, AA, and AAA)
- Is composed and reviewed by a global community of digital experts
- Connects the world through common information technology and user experience standards
A preliminary version of WCAG was released in January, 1995. In 1999 an updated version was created, known as WCAG 1.0. WCAG 2.0 was released several years later in December, 2008. Since then, WCAG 2.0 has come to be the international standard in web accessibility.
In accordance with WCAG 2.0 Level AA, it is required to provide captions for all prerecorded audio content in synchronized media, except when the media is a media alternative for text and is clearly labeled as such. Captions must also be provided for all live audio content in synchronized media.
The WCAG 2.0 is created with four universal design principles in mind. The four principles are:
- Perceivable – Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.
- Operable – User interface components and navigation must be operable.
- Understandable – Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.
- Robust – Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.
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