How the UK’s EQA Affects Web Accessibility for Businesses
The Equality Act 2010
In the UK, there have been many Acts and Regulations regarding equality in the workplace. In October, 2010 the Equality Act (EQA) became the law with the intention to combine many different laws into one cohesive and comprehensive anti-discrimination Act. The Act brings together more than 100 pieces of legislation, and provides a clear legal framework that protects the rights of individuals and promotes an equal opportunity for everyone.
While the EQA encompasses many acts and laws, the nine major pieces which it includes are:
- the Equal Pay Act 1970
- the Sex Discrimination Act 1975
- the Race Relations Act 1976
- the Disability Discrimination Act 1995
- the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003
- the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003
- the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006
- the Equality Act 2006, Part 2
- the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007
Providing one all-encompassing piece of legislation will provide more consistency for employers and employees regarding what needs to be done to create a fair and equal workplace environment that complies with the law.
Who Has Duties Under the Act?
The Act applies to all employers and service providers. If a business provides goods, facilities, or services to the general public (or a portion of the public) then they are considered to be a service provider. The size of the organization does not matter, nor does it matter if the goods and services are free or paid for. Under the Act, private clubs and associations have some responsibilities as well.
What does the Equality Act 2010 Mean for Businesses?
Who Does the Act Protect?
In order to ensure that all workers are granted equal access and opportunity, this Act protects against discrimination due to any of the protected characteristics:
- Marital status
- Sexual orientation
- Gender reassignment
- Religious background
The EQA makes it illegal for service providers to treat people less favorably due to any of the protected characteristics, which includes disability. Therefore, a website – which is classified as a service – must be fully accessible to individuals with varying abilities in order to comply with the law.
Specifically, under the EQA, websites must meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA at minimum. WCAG 2.0 has 12 guidelines which are organized into 4 principles:
In accordance with WCAG 2.0 Level AA, it is required to provide captions and audio description for all prerecorded audio content in synchronized media. Captions must also be provided for all live audio content in synchronized media.
Having an accessible website ensures that any potential visitor to the site will have equal opportunity to access goods, services, or information, and will ensure you do not end up in a legal case.
These laws can prove to be very beneficial for businesses. A business that supports equality for all, will create employees who are confident they will not be discriminated against in the workplace. Employees who feel they work in a place that will support them and not discriminate against them will typically be more committed to their work and work hard, knowing that they have equal opportunities for advancement and there are no barriers to job progression.
Also, when employees feel certain they will be evaluated on their job performance and measurable success only, they will feel encourage to put their best foot forward.
Testing Your Service
Although businesses may want to follow the law and provide the most equal access possible, navigating the legal requirements can be tricky. Businesses which may feel overwhelmed by ensuring website compliance actually have many tools at their disposal. There are several automated tools, which although should not be relied on completely, can help pick up approximately 20-30% of accessibility issues. Additionally, having users test your service is a very helpful way to gauge accessibility and usability. You can have individuals who are differently abled test your services and offer real feedback and insight. And finally, you can hire professionals for a review or a full audit of your digital content.
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