The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and websites - Section 21
Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 will be introduced in October 2004. NOTE: This page may be out of date.
VORD Web Design has summarised the main parts of the Code which are relevant to websites. Much of the text is copied from the Code, and our comments are shown in boxes. VORD Web Design cannot offer legal advice and ask you to read the disclaimer at the bottom of this page.
Section 21 of the Disability Discrimination Act refers to a service provider being under a duty to take such steps as it is reasonable to take in order to make reasonable adjustments to overcome physical barriers to access for disabled people.
How does this apply to websites?
Section 2.13: Subject to certain exclusions, the Act affects everyone concerned with the provision in the United Kingdom of services to the public, or to a section of the public, whether in the private, public or voluntary sectors. It does not matter if services are provided free or in return for payment.
Section 2.1.7 contains the following example of a service:
"An airline company provides a flight reservation and booking service to the public on its website. This is a provision of a service and is subject to the Act."
Sections 5.23 and 5.26 include "accessible websites" in the range of auxiliary aids or services which it might be reasonable to provide to ensure that services are accessible to visually and hearing impared people.
What needs To be done to websites?
In Section 3.2 the Code says it is unlawful for a service provider to discriminate against a disabled person by:
- Refusing to provide (or deliberately not providing) any service which it offers or provides to members of the public; or
- Providing service of a lower standard or in a worse manner; or
- Providing service on worse terms; or
- Failing to comply with a duty to make reasonable adjustments (under Section 21 of the Act) if that failure has the effect of making it impossible or unreasonably difficult for the disabled person to make use of any such service.
VORD Web Design describe some of the problems people with disabilities may encounter when visiting a website on our accessibility page.
The Code does not go into detail about what should be done to websites to prevent discrimination other than to provide "accessible websites" (Sections 5.23 and 5.26). The Code does not refer to any accessibility standards for websites. VORD Web Design work to WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative) Standards which are described in our accessibility standards page.
How can service providers identify possible adjustments?
Section 5.38: Service providers are more likely to be able to comply with their duty to make adjustments in relation to physical features if they arrange for an access audit of their premises to be conducted and draw up an access plan or strategy. Acting on the results of such an evaluation may reduce the likelihood of legal claims against the service provider.
Section 5.39: In carrying out an audit, it is recommended that service providers seek the views of people with different disabilities, or those representing them, to assist in identifying barriers and developing effective solutions. Service providers can also draw on the extensive experience of local and national disability groups or organisations of disabled people.
Section 21 refers to a service provider being under a duty to take such steps as it is reasonable, in all the circumstances of the case, for it to have to take in order to make reasonable adjustments.
Section 4.22 continues: However, without intending to be exhaustive, the following are some of the factors which might be taken into account when considering what is reasonable:
- Whether taking any particular steps would be effective in overcoming the difficulty that disabled people face in accessing the services in question;
- The extent to which it is practicable for the service provider to take the steps;
- The financial and other costs of making the adjustment;
- The extent of any disruption which taking the steps would cause;
- The extent of the service provider’s financial and other resources;
- The amount of any resources already spent on making adjustments;
- The availability of financial or other assistance.
Section 2.33 states: Generally, primary and secondary schools, youth services and further and higher educational establishments are excluded from Part III.
It might be possible to argue that the cost of making adjustments to existing websites is an issue, however for new sites the additional cost of compliance could be more difficult to argue. VORD Web Design do not make any additional charge for designing to accessibility standards, and our prices are generally lower than our competitors.
What happens if you fail to comply?
Section 1.4 states that the Code does not impose legal obligations. Nor is it an authoritative statement of the law — that is a matter for the courts. However, the Code can be used in evidence in legal proceedings under the Act. Courts must take into account any part of the Code that appears to them relevant to any question arising in those proceedings. If service providers follow the guidance in the Code, it may help to avoid an adverse judgement by a court in any proceedings.
Section 4.34 states that a disabled person is able to make a claim against a service provider if:
- The service provider fails to do what is required; and
- That failure makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for that disabled person to access any services provided by the service provider to the public; and
- The service provider cannot show that such a failure is justified in relation to the disabled person.
Where does the code apply?
Section 1.3: It applies to England, Wales and Scotland. A similar but separate Code applies to Northern Ireland.
VORD Web Design have tried to summarise the aspects of Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act Code of Practice that might apply to Web Design and Websites. Aspects not relevant to websites have been removed from the text to improve readability. Our summary is very brief and we have excluded a great deal of information, some of which may apply to your service. Please do not regard any part of this document as legal advice. We would recommend that you contact a Lawyer specialising in the Disability Discrimination Act if you require legal advice relating to the Code.