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Legal and Policy Factors in Developing a Web Accessibility Business Case for Your Organization

Page Contents

Introduction

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.

Identifying Legal and Policy Factors for a Specific Organization

The following questions help identify how the legal and policy aspects of Web accessibility apply to the organization:

Determining Applicable Policies

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.

Considerations for Different Types of Organizations

Considerations Beyond Requirements

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.

Considerations for the Future

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:

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.

Addressing Multiple Standards

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.

Understanding Risks for Non-Compliance

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.

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