This page is part of a resource suite that describes the social, technical, financial, and legal and policy factors relevant to developing a customized business case for Web accessibility for a specific organization.
Note that the term "policy" is used broadly in this document to refer to requirements from governments and other organizations in the form of laws, policies, regulations, standards, guidelines, directives, communications, orders, or other types of documents, which have different degrees of authority in different systems.
Legal and policy factors apply differently to specific organizations and situations. For example, one organization might be required by explicit government regulations to make its websites accessible, while another organization follows the Web accessibility policies recommended by its trade association and required by a partner company.
Many countries are ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which specifically includes accessibility of the Internet and other information and communications technology (ICT). Thus, countries that have ratified the Convention might be introducing new "policies, laws and administrative measures" related to Web accessibility.
This page provides guidance on addressing legal and policy factors in a business case for Web accessibility.
The following questions help identify how the legal and policy aspects of Web accessibility apply to the organization:
- Is the organization required by law or other
legal mandate to make its website accessible?
If so, the business case can list those laws or mandates that the organization is required to meet. See Determining Applicable Policies.
- Are there other Web accessibility policies
the organization should comply with?
If so, the business case can list those policies that the organization should comply with. See Determining Applicable Policies.
- Are the requirements adequate to meet the
needs of people with disabilities and older users?
If the required guidelines might not adequately meet the needs of the website's users with some disabilities, the organization can include in its business case additional guidelines it chooses to meet. See Considerations Beyond Requirements.
- Are there specified guidelines, conformance
levels, and dates for compliance?
For example, does the policy state that a certain level of compliance is required by one date, and a higher level of compliance is required by a later date? See Considerations for the Future.
- Might the org be subject to policies in the future?
For example, requirements might be in development now that will be enforced in the future; or, an organization might expand into countries or other markets where Web accessibility policies already apply. See Considerations for the Future.
- Does the organization understand the risks
of failing to provide accessible websites?
In some cases it is useful to include in a business case the negative impact on reputation and potential legal costs associated with defending against legal action for not complying with Web accessibility requirements. See Understanding Risks for Non-Compliance.
Web accessibility requirements can be in the form of policies, laws, regulations, standards, guidelines, directives, communications, orders, or other types of documents. Policies Relating to Web Accessibility lists governmental legislation and related information for many countries and regions.
Some governments have laws that specifically require that certain types of websites are accessible. For example, some organizations that receive government funding are required to comply with government policies on accessibility. Other governments might not directly specify Web accessibility, yet the web is indirectly covered under broader anti-discrimination legislation, information and communications technology (ICT) policy, or other laws or policies. In some countries, organizations' intranets and internal applications are covered by laws requiring accessibility accommodation in the workplace for people with disabilities or by age discrimination legislation with respect to older employees.
An organization might be required by non-governmental policies to make its website accessible, such as a university Web accessibility policy that requires department websites be accessible. Sometimes organizations are compelled to meet other policies, such as policies from trade or industry associations, professional associations, or standards organizations.
- Government - Some governmental Web accessibility requirements apply only to national government ministries' or agencies' websites; some also apply to provincial, state, or local governments. Some lower levels of government establish requirements independent of national requirements.
- Education - Many educational institutions and organizations are covered by governmental requirements for accessibility of web-based educational resources and online learning environments. In some countries or regions, educational institutions are covered in broad policies along with other types of organizations; and in others there are policies specifically addressing educational institutions. In addition to governmental requirements, some educational institutions and organizations have established separate or more extensive requirements for accessibility. In some cases there is a specific policy on Web accessibility; in other cases Web accessibility is covered under broader accessibility policies.
- Industry and Non-Governmental (Non-Profit) Organizations (NGO) - Some government policies require industry and NGO websites to be accessible. These types of organizations might also choose to follow other Web accessibility policies, such as recommendations from trade, industry, or professional associations. Many corporations and NGOs establish their own policies for Web accessibility, which are often more extensive than those required by government policies. In some cases, policies established by corporations or NGOs might also apply to subsidiaries, vendors, and others who do business with the organization.
Sometimes the required standards or minimum conformance level might not adequately meet the needs of the website's users with disabilities. If the needs of people with some disabilities are left out of the required accessibility standards, an organization might choose to meet additional guidelines in order to provide sufficient accessibility.
It is almost always significantly easier, more effective, and less expensive to incorporate accessibility early in website development or redesign, rather than retrofit existing sites later. Therefore, many organizations that might be subject to Web accessibility requirements in the future choose to incorporate Web accessibility as soon as feasible.
An organization might be subject to additional Web accessibility requirements in the future because:
- there are policies in development that will apply to the organization
- the organization expands into countries or other markets where Web accessibility policies apply
Some policies reference specific guidelines or standards for Web accessibility and include dates for compliance. For example, a policy might state that websites meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) WCAG 2.0 Level A success criteria by a certain date and Level AA success criteria by a later date. However, an organization might determine that it is most efficient to address all the requirements at the same time.
As described above, an organization could be subject to multiple Web accessibility policies; for example, standards from governments in different counties where they operate, from a trade association, and from a partner organization. Addressing different standards is more complex than addressing a single standard; however, because there is almost always significant overlap between standards, the work to meet two different standards is not twice the work to address one standard. In most cases an organization meeting the more comprehensive standard can easily ensure that other standards are also met.
For organizations that are concerned about meeting multiple standards, it can be effective to include in the business case detail on the overlap between standards. For example, include an appendix that shows the similarities between the different standards that shows where it is not much more effort to meet multiple standards.
Some organizations have faced legal action for not making their websites or intranets and web-based applications accessible. Not complying with accessibility requirements can result in significant legal costs and have negative impact on the organization's reputation.
Sometimes the legal requirements for an organization might not be clear. Some organizations determine that it is in their best interest (financially and otherwise) to make their sites accessible, rather than risk legal action.