This section is aimed at people who work on UK Web sites and who wish to make their pages more accessible. If you want to avoid prosecution under the Disabilities Discrimination Act (DDA), you might like to read this stuff.
The DDA makes accessibility a legal requirement in the UK, and covers any Web site that is classed as a Service Provider - a broad definition that maybe excludes manufacturers with no retail arm, but could include almost anybody else. In the legislation, an airline booking website is mentioned as an example.
Already the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) has used the legislation to pressure sites into improving their accessibility. Along with many other people in the accessibility business, I once belieived that Part 3 of the act, which came into force in October 2004, strengthened the case against non-conforming sites, but it turns out that this is not true - Part 3 only applies to physical barriers.
The precise accessibility level required for conformance with the DDA is not clear. But we can get a few clues from the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) review of 1000 UK Web sites, The Web: Access and Inclusion for Disabled People. Here on TinHat there's a Commentary on the DRC Report, highlighting some of the more interesting issues for Web developers.
Currently, most sites are opting for WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative) level A. plus maybe a few extras. For example this is the level specified in the BBC guidelines - level A, plus valid HTML. You can read more about WAI level A on the Tinhat simple level A checklist page.
For more insight into how some large UK websites attempt to comply with accessibility standards, visit the Tinhat accessibility reviews page.
As it's current practice to aim for something between WAI level A and level AA, there may be a need for a formal specification in this middle ground. Here's my attempt - Tinhat Level A+ - which I heartily recommend.
In the medium term, we can speculate that large sites below WAI level A will be at risk of prosecution under the Disabilities Discrimination Act, particularly commercial sites providing a service, including essential utilities and banks. Anybody who can't reach level A is not really trying.
Government and institutional sites will have to conform. They can't go around breaking the law.
Smaller sites will be forced to comply in the longer term, maybe after a prosecution or two, the establishment of case law, and some bad press publicity.
Many years ago, the government published its own accessibility guidelines for government Web sites, but they were badly written and have generally been ignored. The guidelines are fully explained in the TinHat Interpreting UK government guidelines section pages, but to be honest they're hardly worth bothering with. No government site fully complies with them, and sensibly the WAI standards still dominate.
More pages in this section:
This Tinhat page is valid XHTML to WAI Triple-A standard
UK accessibility intro + menu
UK accessibility site reviews
Comment on DRC Report
Simple WAI level A checklist
Level A -
TinHat Level A+
Tips for web editors
Non-HTML files (PDFs) and accessibility
Gov guidelines for UK gov sites (intro)