A brief history of relevant equality legislation

When it comes to Digital Accessibility, there are some important laws you should know about and how they have affected the requirements for organisations to deliver accessible services.

The Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 is probably the most well known regulation that covers disability rights in the UK. The main way in which it works is by requiring organisations to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to ensure that everyone has a fair opportunity or experience. Often this means making specific adjustments on an individual basis where issues are identified. This differs from the new regulations which require a more proactive approach from public sector organisations to accommodate everyone from the beginning.

The Equality Act 2010 remains a vital piece of legislation when it comes to digital accessibility and has in no way been superseded by the newer regulations, but rather now benefits from clarifications that the new regulations have made.

Because the Equality Act still applies and now there is a more specific explanation and measures for reasonable adjustments when it comes to digital accessibility, organisations should be thinking about the accessibility of all digital platforms not just their websites.

The Public Sector Equality Duty

The Public Sector Equality Duty is a part of the Equality Act and requires public bodies and others carrying out public functions to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, to advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations.

This Duty adds further specific guidance around the responsibilities of Public Sector organisations in delivering equality beyond that already listed in the Equality Act. In essence it puts more pressure on Public Sector bodies to provide services that are equal to all, more so than any other sector as Public Sector services have to be used by all and is often a non-competitive environment so users have no choice but to interact with certain organisations.

The Government Quick start Guide to the Public Sector Equality Duty is a useful document which explains what the Duty does, who is affected, and what needs to be done.

Disability Discrimination Act 1995

If you are operating or have users in Northern Ireland you will also have to be aware of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 which was repealed and superseded by the Equality Act 2010 in England, Scotland and Wales, but is still active for Northern Ireland.

The act makes it unlawful to discriminate against people in respect of their disabilities in relation to employment, the provision of goods and services, education and transport.