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Hypothetically speaking, could a company be sued for not meeting accessibility guidelines?

I often see sites online which clearly do not - how would this stand up in court? Are guidelines (like the WCAG) just guidelines or are there any requirements?

  • 1
    Here is a EU Parliment Resolution referring to a proposed directive on accessibility, Proposal..on the accessibility of public sector bodies' websites, unfortunately it is far too much legal babble for me to understand so you'll have to sift through it yourself. – DasBeasto May 9 '16 at 14:44
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's a question about a legal issue that isn't directly connected to a UX problem. – msp May 10 '16 at 7:38
  • @msparer - accessibility isn't a UX problem? – Evil Closet Monkey May 10 '16 at 16:12
  • @EvilClosetMonkey Accessibility is, but OP is looking for general legal advise, which IMHO should not be discussed on UX.SE. – msp May 11 '16 at 9:18
  • to clarify i'm not looking for legal advice, more a discussion on how UX designers meet any available guidelines/requirements in their work. – Thomas Adcock May 12 '16 at 10:58
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Yes, the Equalities Act 2010 (previously the Disability Discrimination Act) is such a law in the UK. And it has been used before for prosecuting companies offering poor accessibility (generally for things like offers only being available to fully-sighted people who browse a website with mouse, so users with screenreaders, or only using keyboard can't actually access such offers).

Airline "BMI Baby" were one such company that were taken to court: https://econsultancy.com/blog/8834-rnib-gets-tough-with-bmibaby-over-accessibility/

Now, this article states that (as of 2012) no company had been successfully sued for poor accessibility, but that may not be true today (I'm not sure) however, just being taken to court over poor accessibility isn't exactly something companies would want to happen to them. Even if they win it's still very poor PR among many other negative consequences (the main consequence being that less than 100% of your possible target audience can use your site).

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    Good grief after looking at the screenshot I'm glad that website got sued... – DasBeasto May 9 '16 at 14:36
  • Not sure why you edited to say BMI Baby was a "scraper", it was a low-cost airline in its own right. Which is kind of to the point, because the website was likely the only channel where the products were purchasable, meaning blind customers were effectively discriminated from buying the products at all, not just from buying them through that particular reseller. – IMSoP May 9 '16 at 15:32
  • @IMSoP Fair point, I was drawing half from memory and half from that article, and I recall them being an airline scraper service rather than airline in their own right. I've amended. – JonW May 9 '16 at 15:52

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