The Israel Standard (IS) 5568 is the official set of web accessibility regulations of the Israeli government. The IS 5568 was initially due to 2015 but was delayed several times until it finally came into force in October 2017.
IS 5568 resulted from years of effort in various government departments (including the Ministries of Justice and Finance) to remove barriers for the disabled in Israeli society.
In 1998, the Israeli Parliament passed the Equal Rights For Persons With Disabilities Law (ERPD) the purpose of which was to insure those with disabilities could achieve “active participation in society.” The law defined a disabled individual quite broadly as “a person with a physical, mental or intellectual, including cognitive, impairment, whether permanent or temporary, which substantially limits [...] functioning.” To implement the ERPD, the Commission for Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CERPD) was established at the Ministry of Justice on August 2000. The Commission is charged with implementing this Law and other policies concerning persons with disabilities. From its inception, CERPD began to systematically assess appropriate accessibility policies for various domains in both the private and public sectors.
A major milestone in CERPD’s mandate occurred in 2012 when the Israeli government adopted the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Among its many protocols, the Convention called on states to insure access to “information and communication” technology for the disabled. The embracing of these U.N. standards is what ultimately led to the formulation of IS 5568. A committee of Israeli NGO representatives and government officials were convened to draft the IS. In solidifying the final version, it was decided that the Standard be based primarily on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). As the opening page of the IS states, the Standard is essentially “identical” to the WCAG 2.0.
To Whom does IS 5568 Apply?
According to amendments to the ERPD Law, the IS regulations apply not only to public entities but to every service offered to the general public. The ERPD contains an exhaustive list of examples of businesses and utilities which are bound by IS 5568. To simplify the rules, Israel’s Ministry of Justice has published a summarized menu containing the types of industries subject to the Standard. These services include:
- Education and learning
- Social welfare
- Sports and recreation
- Banking and credit
- Insurance and pensions
- Any other business deemed a “financial service”
There are important discrepancies between business sizes when it comes to who must comply with IS 5568 and when. Here is the breakdown:
Medium-sized businesses (defined as a company with an average annual income of NIS 300,000 or more)
- Those that were started after 2017 are currently obligated to comply with IS 5568
- Those that have existed prior to 2017 have until October 2020 to become compliant
Small Businesses (an annual average income of under NIS 300,000)
- In all cases have until October 2020
Private Contractors (less than NIS 100,000 of annual income)
- Are exempt from IS 5568 rules
Breach of duty to perform necessary adjustments to a website is a civil infraction in Israel under ERPD. A disabled individual is able to file suit against an entity maintaining a website that lacks accessibility standards. Similarly, an organization representing a group of disabled persons are able to file as a class action.
It is important to note that in this regard the legal teeth behind IS 5568 are more severe than other similar laws in other countries such as the American Section 508. Many accessibility laws only allow a plaintiff to force the owners to implement changes on their sites. Lawsuits brought for IS 5568 violation, on the other hand, entitle the aggrieved parties to statutory damages up to a maximum of NIS 50,000. Furthermore, the plaintiff does not have to prove any damages were incurred only that the site in question was not in compliance.