WCAG has become a cornerstone in the global effort to make the digital world more inclusive. Recognized for its comprehensive approach to web accessibility, WCAG has influenced and been referenced in numerous international legislations, ensuring that online spaces are accessible to everyone, regardless of their abilities. Among the laws where WCAG holds a pivotal position are:
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a pivotal piece of American legislation concerning accessibility and civil rights for individuals with disabilities. It prohibits discrimination based on disability in various facets of daily life. Over the years, a consensus has emerged that the ADA extends to the online domain. Today, U.S. courts apply ADA accessibility requirements to websites, necessitating their compliance with the act. Specifically, ADA Title III, which covers public areas such as banks, colleges, transportation, real estate agencies, and “public accommodations,” requires businesses under this category to ensure accessibility for the disability community. In 2018, the Department of Justice (DOJ) clarified that websites are considered places of public accommodation and should adhere to ADA Title III. This essentially means that almost all businesses fall under this category. While ADA Title III doesn't explicitly detail the steps to make a website accessible, U.S. courts often reference WCAG as the standard for compliance in ADA-related cases.
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act
Section 508 is a significant amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It mandates that all U.S. federal agencies and any other organization or business that receives federal funding (including service providers to such bodies) ensure their information and communication technology (ICT) is accessible to people with disabilities. This encompasses a wide range of digital content, including websites, email, web-based applications, electronic documents, and multimedia. Section 508 incorporates WCAG 2.0 Level AA as its standards for conformance. This means that not only federal agencies but also contractors, recipients of federal funds, and federally conducted programs and services must ensure their digital content aligns with these guidelines. The overarching goal is to guarantee that all users, especially those with disabilities, can access and use the digital resources provided by these entities.
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)
The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is a Canadian legislation aiming to create a more accessible Ontario by 2025. The AODA has set various standards, one of which pertains to web accessibility. Under this standard, many organizations in Ontario are required to make web content accessible, adhering to WCAG 2.0 Level AA guidelines, with the exception of success criteria 1.2.4 Live Captions and 1.2.5 Audio Descriptions (Prerecorded). This means businesses and organizations in Ontario must ensure their digital platforms conform to these guidelines to provide an inclusive online experience for all users.
The European Accessibility Act (EAA)
The European Accessibility Act (EAA) is a significant piece of legislation in the European Union that aims to improve the accessibility of products and services across its member states. While the EAA is expected to make web accessibility compulsory by 2025, it's worth noting that the EN 301549 standard, which references WCAG 2.1 Level AA, is already in place in Europe, setting accessibility requirements for ICT products and services.