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RE: Legal status of WCAG Re: Who needs what ...

From: Martin Sloan <martin.sloan@orange.net>
Date: Tue, 24 Aug 2004 21:57:43 +0100
To: "'Andy Heath'" <a.k.heath@shu.ac.uk>, "'Charles McCathieNevile'" <charles@sidar.org>
Cc: "'Harry Loots'" <harry@ikhaya.com>, "'RUST Randal'" <RRust@covansys.com>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <000401c48a1d$04699710$04617ad5@Bertie>

Andy - at present there is no specific legal requirement under EU law for
websites to be accessible. 

The European Commission adopted a non-legally binding Communication (COM
(2001) 529) in relation to web accessibility in 2001. However, this only
applies to the accessibility of Member States' 'public' websites, stating
that Member States should adopt the WAI Guidelines. No particular level of
compliance is stated, although the Commission states that the EU is adopting
Level A for the Europa website and its intranets.

A Resolution of the European Parliament ((2002) 325) in support of the
Commission's Communication "stresses the fact that, for websites to be
accessible, it is essential that they are double-A compliant, that priority
2 of the WAI guidelines must be fully implemented." However, again, this is
not legally binding.

In the UK, the government states that all public websites should meet Level
A of the WAI guidelines, although recent guidance issued to local government
in England and Wales has now recommended that this is increased to Level AA
on the basis of the views expressed by the European Parliament. The official
UK Government policy is "to encourage departments and agencies to make their
services as accessible to disabled people as is reasonably possible."

If the EU was to introduce a new law regarding website accessility it would
do this by proposing and approving a directive. The directive would then
require to be implemented by each Member State to enshrine the principles of
the directive in the laws of each Member State (in the UK this would be done
by secondary legislation - ie Statutory Instrument/Regulations). As an
aside, the average number of years between a draft directive being proposed
and coming into force in a Member State is probably about 6 years - so I
wouldn't hold your breath!

There are links to the various docs referred to from my website if you wish
to read more.


Martin Sloan
e: martin.sloan@orange.net
w: www.web-access.org.uk

-----Original Message-----
From: w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org [mailto:w3c-wai-ig-request@w3.org] On Behalf
Of Andy Heath
Sent: 24 August 2004 17:07
To: Charles McCathieNevile
Cc: Harry Loots; RUST Randal; w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Subject: Re: Legal status of WCAG Re: Who needs what ...

> But if you go to court (actually you go through some stages, but I
> think  the phrase communicates the right idea) you will be tested 
> against some  law that says "you must not discriminate". In the notes 
> that explain the  law, one of the things they say is "the best guidance 
> we have for how to  avoid discriminating is to follow WCAG". That is, 
> they are not sure, in  advance, of how to decide whether you 
> discriminated. That has to be tested  in each circumstance. They ssupect 
> that if you haven't done what WCAG  asks, you probably are 
> discriminating, and if you have done it, you are at  least doing what is 
> recognised as the right thing to avoid it. If you meet  WCAG a complaint 
> can still succeed on the basis that you need to do  something more, but 
> you are unlikely to be faced with a damages claim. If  you don't meet 
> WWCAG the court is mor likely to decide that you are  discriminating on 
> purpose, by not meeting the common community standard of  reasonable 
> behaviour, and you may face a damages claim.
> I am pretty sure that the situation is similar in the UK and I would 
> be
> surprised (altugh I have enver read canadian law) if it is much 
> different  in Canada.

well the situation hasn't really been tested in the UK.
Here the law says you must make reasonable adjustments
but what exactly is reasonable is not determined in
technology terms.  But what you say about not meeting
the common community standard would seem like common
sense and I would *guess* that that is how it would be interpreted in court.
There is some notion somewhere in European law that says WCAG is compulsory
but I don't know the detail of how that as a european thingy (dunno its
formal status - directive maybe - please someone clarify) would apply to the

Andy Heath
Received on Tuesday, 24 August 2004 20:58:28 UTC

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