Virtual Cafe Scientifique, University of Southampton

Virtual Cafe Scientifique

Accessibility Legislation and Business

Archived site - this website is out of date and kept online for reference only.

An updated ECS Virtual Café Scientifique is currently under development, as part of the EPSRC POLMAT project.

 The following information is also available from our training website

Key business goals for accessible and usable information communication technologies

(Taken from OneVoice for Accessible ICT)

  • Reach new markets.

  • Maximize employee engagement and productivity.

  • Provision high quality products and services.

  • Improve supply chain management.

  • Build partner and community relations.

  • Minimize risk of legal action.

Case studies from the report below showed that “in achieving these goals, each organisation reveals how the investment contributes to critical success factors relating to customers, employees and internal processes, thus improving performance. Crucially they illustrate how the investment increases the bottom line. And further how providing accessible ICTs contributes to a social responsibility agenda to benefit society as a whole.

Accessible Information and Communication Technologies: Benefits to Business and Society Report (download PDF 4.81 MB)

Current statistics show that over 50s now control around 80% of the UK’s personal wealth and account for 40% of consumer spending while people with disabilities have an estimated annual spending power of £80 billion a year. Neglecting to design for older people and potential impairments is therefore a serious commercial error. (OneVoice for Accessible ICT)

The document “Social Factors in Developing a Web Accessibility Business Case for Your Organization” discusses how the Web impacts the lives of people with disabilities, the overlap with digital divide issues, and Web accessibility as an aspect of corporate social responsibility.

18% of men and women aged 16 and over reported having at least one disability, and 5% reported having a serious disability. The prevalence and severity of disability increases steadily with age and this is reflected in the difference in the mean age of adults with one or more disabilities (62 years) and those without a disability (44 years). The most commonly reported type of disability was locomotor disability (12% of men and 14% of women) followed by hearing disability (6%, 4%) and sight disability (2%, 3%). (Health Survey for England, 2001

During a debate of The Equality Bill: how disability equality fits within a single Equality Act – Work and Pensions Committee (2008) prior to the Equality Act 2010 being passed; “The Employers’ Forum on Disability stated that “barriers created by inaccessible technology are not acceptable. This includes inaccessible on-line recruitment, inaccessible and unusable IT systems, and inaccessible ‘e-commerce’ processes.”  Ms Scott-Parker of the Employers Forum on Disability said: “We did some research about three or four years ago, at which point 85% of all the on-line sites that we looked at were inaccessible. 

Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 simplifies and harmonises anti-discrimination legislation by replacing nine main pieces of legislation with one single Act.  However, when it comes to web accessibility there are some who feel it is more confusing  -  Equality Bill makes Britain’s web accessibility law harder to access.  Section 29(1) of the 2010 Act says that:

A person … concerned with the provision of a service to the public or a section of the public (for payment or not) must not discriminate against a person requiring the service by not providing the person with the service.

Failing to “provide a service to a disabled person that is normally provided to other persons is unlawful discrimination. This applies to commercial web services as much as to traditional services… Sections 20 and 29(7) of the Equality Act create and elaborate a duty for service providers to make “reasonable adjustments” to enable disabled persons to access their services. Section 20(6) says that with respect to services relating to the provision of information:

the steps which it is reasonable for [an information service provider] to have to take include steps for ensuring that in the circumstances concerned the information is provided in an accessible format.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Code of Practice concerning the application of the Act notes that this is an ongoing and evolving duty that should be continually reviewed rather than simply considered once (7.27), and one that should be anticipatory and shouldn’t wait for the disabled user to want to make use of the site (7.21).” (Website Law (Blog, June 2011)) The Equality and Human Rights Commission offer Equality Act guidance on their website.

British Standard 8878 Web Accessibility Code of Practice

In December 2010 the British Standard 8878 Web Accessibility Code of Practice was launched. It is the first British Standard to address the growing challenge of digital inclusion.  It applies to all web products, including websites, web-services and web-based workplace applications (such as web-based email) that are delivered to users via Internet protocol, through a web browser.

BS8878 launch event presentation – 7 Dec 2010

View more presentations from BS8878 community of practice

BS 8878 is consistent with the Equality Act 2010 and is referenced in the UK government’s e-Accessibility Action Plan as the basis of updated advice on developing accessible online services. It includes recommendations for:

  • Involving disabled people in the development process and using automated tools to assist with accessibility testing

  • The management of the guidance and process for upholding existing accessibility guidelines and specifications.

BS 8878:2010 Web Accessibility Code of practice can be purchased from

Other Acts of Parliament

Chronically Sick and Disabled Person Act, 1970 (CSDPA) – Much amended but still includes the requirement of access to services and technologies for daily living.  “Introduced by North West MP Alf Morris, the legislation was the first in the world to recognise and give rights to people with disabilities.” (BBC – Forty years of Chronically Sick & Disabled Persons ActChildren Act 1989 (England and Wales) , 1995 (Scotland)   The Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995  – The Children Act 1989 introduced in Northern Ireland (with some differences).   Services provided under the Children’s Act include ‘some aids and adaptations’  (Directgov)

The Disability Equality Duty (DED) came into force on 4 December 2006. This legal duty requires all public bodies to actively look at ways of ensuring that disabled people are treated equally. All of those covered by the specific duties must also have produced a Disability Equality Scheme, which they must now implement.

The Disability Equality Duty (DED) came into force on 4 December 2006.
This legal duty requires all public bodies to actively look at ways of ensuring that disabled people are treated equally. All of those covered by the specific duties must also have produced a Disability Equality Scheme, which they must now implement.

Education Act, 1996.  Special Educational Needs (SEN) Code of Practice for Wales , Scottish children have the Education (Additional Support for Learning) Act 2004 with a Supporting Children’s Learning: Code of Practice

The SEN Code sets out guidance on policies and procedures aimed at enabling pupils with SEN to reach their full potential, to be included fully in their school communities and make a successful transition to adulthood.

The Special Educational Needs and Disability (Northern Ireland) Order 2005 (SENDO) 

The Learning and Skills Act (2000) ”The act included an outline of colleges’ duties regarding equal opportunities and meeting the needs of people with learning difficulties; requirements to publish their strategies and annual plans covering these areas were also set out.”

European Convention on Human Rights - It has allowed individuals to make complaints to the European Commission on Human Rights since 1966. The influence of the Convention has been growing in the UK in the past decade or so.  (Leeds University, 1998)

Human Rights Act Article 10: Freedom of Expression - BBC lists the articles

The UN Convention on disability rights -  Directgov – “The United Nations (UN) has set up an international human rights convention on the rights of disabled people. The UK was actively involved in setting up the convention. The government believes it will play an important part in protecting and promoting disabled people’s human rights around the world.”

Overview of Disability and Legislation

Disability and Legislation from E.A. Draffan