Understanding UK’s EQA Compliance for Accessibility

Understanding UK’s EQA Compliance for Accessibility
If you have a website in the United Kingdom, you might have come across the term “website accessibility.”
But what exactly does it mean, and should it be on your radar?
In this detailed guide, we’ll discuss:
  • Understanding EQA compliance and the basics of web accessibility.
  • Why UK websites need to meet accessibility standards.
  • Tips to lower the risk of lawsuits related to EQA compliance.
  • Plus, other useful advice you’ll want to remember.
This guide is your opportunity to learn all about web accessibility in the UK. Let’s dive in!

What is the EQA?

The EQA (Equality Act) outlines the rules that website owners must follow to ensure they don’t discriminate against customers with disabilities. It includes several sections that state the following:

Section 20

Section 20 says that service providers need to make adjustments for disabled people both online and offline.

Section 29

Section 29 sets rules against discrimination by service providers who don’t give enough help to disabled people. It says service providers can’t refuse help to someone who needs it.

Section 88

Section 88, along with Schedule 10, talks about making schools accessible for disabled students. It explains the requirements for an accessibility strategy, like improving the curriculum, the school environment, and the delivery of information to disabled students.

BS 8878

BS 8878 is a guide from the British Standards Institute about making websites accessible. It gives advice on designing websites, apps, and other online stuff so that people with disabilities can use them easily. The guide also talks about including people with disabilities when testing websites to make sure they work well for everyone.

In simple terms, EQA is about ensuring that website owners think ahead and consider the needs of customers with disabilities. This applies to websites, apps, emails, and products stored in the cloud.

What are the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations?

In the UK, the EQA established the basic standards for web accessibility legislation. However, in September 2018, additional measures were introduced for the public sector with the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations.

These regulations aim to make sure that people with disabilities can access services provided by public sector organizations. The law sets specific accessibility standards for public sector websites, requiring compliance with WCAG 2.1 Level AA. Additionally, organizations must publish an accessibility statement detailing any parts of their website that do not meet these standards.

All public sector websites should have followed these rules by September 2020. If they haven’t, they might face legal action.

Who Needs to Follow Accessibility Rules in the Public Sector?

The Public Sector Bodies Accessibility Regulations apply to various UK public organizations, but there are some exceptions. Those who must comply include:

  • Central government bodies
  • Local government entities
  • Certain charities
  • Specific non-government organizations
Entities exempt from these regulations include:
  • Non-government organizations, like charities, unless heavily funded by the public, provide crucial public services, or cater to disabled individuals
  • Public sector broadcasters and their subsidiaries

Partially exempt organizations, such as primary and secondary schools and nurseries, must adhere to the law except for web content essential for service usage. It’s crucial to remember that even partially exempt organizations must still share an accessibility statement on their website.

EQA and WCAG

To meet the UK standard for web accessibility, which is WCAG 2.1 Level AA, your website needs to follow its requirements. When creating content, consider the following best practices:

  1. Readability: Make sure your text is easy to read. Use accessible fonts, organize your content with headings for quick scanning, and write in a way that matches your audience’s understanding.
  2. Image Descriptions: Add descriptive alternative text (alt text) to images and non-text content. This helps screen readers convey the information and improves search engine understanding.
  3. Color Usage: Avoid using color alone to convey information. If color is used for meaning, include a text alternative to ensure accessibility for all users.
  4. PDF Accessibility: Make sure to tag PDF files for easy access.
  5. Website Structure: Accessible websites should use semantic markup to improve the readability of content and data. This means adding markup to identify headings and tables.
  6. Link Descriptions: In an accessible website, use descriptive links instead of generic ones. This gives more context to screen reader users.
  7. Forms: Properly label all elements in forms, including text fields, dropdown lists, and checkboxes, to ensure everyone can submit information.
  8. Multimedia Content: Videos and audio should have a text alternative, like captions or transcripts so that everyone can understand the content.
  9. Keyboard-Friendly Website: Ensure everyone can navigate your website easily using just a keyboard.

Consequences of Non-compliance

  1. Legal Claims: People who feel they’ve faced discrimination under the EQA can sue in civil court. If successful, they may get compensation for financial losses, emotional harm, and other damages from discrimination.’
  2. EHRC Enforcement: The EHRC can investigate discrimination complaints and penalize organizations breaking the EQA. Penalties could include orders to comply, public inquiries, or fines.
  3. Damage to Reputation: Violating the EQA can harm a business or organization’s reputation. This may result in losing customers, and employees, and getting bad press.
  4. Added Expenses: Breaking the EQA may lead to extra costs like legal fees, making adjustments for disabled individuals, or training staff on equality issues.

Closing Thoughts

In the UK, the Equality Act 2010 and other regulations safeguard the rights of individuals with disabilities. Both public and private companies, with a few exceptions like non-governmental organizations and public broadcasters, must follow this law.

For businesses, it’s crucial to make their website and mobile app information easy to access. This involves conducting tests and audits for web accessibility and presenting information in a user-friendly format.

To avoid sanctions and focus on your main goal of serving customers, consider hiring professionals. Experts can ensure your website and app meet all regulations, fix issues, and maintain accessibility for everyone.

Get AI-Driven Accessibility Solutions

Empower your organization with scalable, cost-effective, and efficient tools for an inclusive user experience.

Editors:

Debangku Sarma

Digital Marketing Associate
Continual Engine

Vijayshree Vethantham

Senior Vice-President, Growth & Strategy
Continual Engine US LLC

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