The Internet has given an international dimension to the world. The Internet has become the universal source of information at home, at school, and at work for people living all around the world.
According to the table of World Usage and Population Statistics, over the last decade, there’s been a 550% growth in Internet usage worldwide. This increase is primarily due to the emergence of mobile technology. This innovation has changed the way people use the Internet. Mobile technologies such as smartphones has made it possible for a much greater reach of the Internet to users, increasing the number of Internet users everywhere.
With the Internet emerging as a more important part of society throughout the world, many countries are recognizing and acting upon the need to ensure access to the web for people living with disabilities. Each nation is approaching the issue of web accessibility in a different way. Some have established laws that provide human or civil rights. Other nations, like the United States, have address the web accessibility issue through the technology procurement process. One common approach throughout the world is for nations to support and use the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0).
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines(WCAG) is developed through the W3C process in cooperation with individuals and organizations around the world, with a goal of proving a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally.
World Specific Legislation
The following sections cover key laws, documents and events that relate to web accessibility in Australia and New Zealand, Canada and the European Union.
Australia and New Zealand
The focus on web accessibility in Australia has largely come as a result of the Disability Discrimination Act(DDA) of 1992 that includes several statements that could directly apply to web accessibility. Under section 24 it is unlawful for a person who provides goods, facilities or services to discriminate on the grounds of disability by:
•refusing to provide the other person with those goods or services or to make those facilities available to the other person; or
•in the terms or conditions on which the first-mentioned person provides the other person with those goods or services or makes those facilities available to another person; or
•in the manner in which the first mentioned person provides the other person with those goods or services or makes those facilities available to the other person.
The document, World Wide Web Access : Disability Discrimination Act Advisory Notes (Version 3.2) was created in August 2002 by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) who has the responsibility for ensuring that Commonwealth web sites are accessible to all. These notes are not legal requirements, but contain advice on how to avoid discrimination. The following guidelines were given on the HREOC site as to how best to make use of these DDA Advisory Notes. This is a very useful document that all Australian agencies should become familiar with as they work toward creating accessible web content
The E-Government initiative of New Zealand consists of a number of different standards, strategies, guidelines, and resources related to electronic information. The scope of the E-Government initiative extends well beyond that of web accessibility, but it does include a web accessibility policy as well, which is referenced within a larger set of web guidelines. The web accessibility policy states that all public sector web sites “must deliver services in a way that is accessible to the people it serves” (emphasis in the original). In general terms, the guidelines state that web content must be adaptable to different user circumstances and preferences, and be accessible to people with disabilities. Specifically, the guidelines say that content developers must design content in accordance with WCAG 1.0 guidelines and that they:
•must satisfy priority 1 checkpoints
•should satisfy priority 2 checkpoints
•may satisfy priority 3 checkpoints
The Canadian Human Rights Act of 1977, guarantees specific human rights and freedom from discrimination to all Canadians (including on the grounds of disability). These rights are protected under law and may not be contravened by any other law or policy.
The Canadian Human Rights Act protects people in Canada from discrimination when they are employed by or receive services from the federal government, First Nations governments or private companies that are regulated by the federal government such as banks, trucking companies, broadcasters and telecommunications companies.
In the Canadian province of Ontario, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) covers provincially-regulated public and private activities and standards have been enacted for the provision of accessible Information and Communications. The law is notable as it carries a $100,000.00 fine for corporations that fail to comply.
European Accessibility Requirements for Public Procurement of Products and Services in the ITC Domain. The European Commission Standardization Mandate M 376, Phase 2 is similar to Section 508 in the United States.
The European Union Web Accessibility Policy covers official websites of the EU institutions (EUROPA).
The European Commission Digital Agenda for Europeincludes various policy commitments to digital accessibility. A detailed proposal was issued in late 2012 for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the accessibility of public secter bodies’ websites.