No Nonsense accessibility
The 2010 (Oct) Equality Act replaces both the DDA (1995) & the Race Relations Act (1976) . Essentially this amalgamation is a tidying of legislation but there are some improvements (?) afforded by the combination of the separate Acts : it is still illegal to discriminate on the grounds of disability, and this covers goods & services as well as employment & premises. Education is fully incorporated. The Act maintains the concept of reasonable adjustments, whereby a service provider/employer is obligated to make changes to allow disabled people to access education, employment, premises or services. The 2010 Act still makes it illegal to run an inaccessible site, but it now appears that the service provider is legally liable rather than the owner. This means in theory a website can be taken down resultant from a complaint to the service provider?
What the 2010 Equality Act doesn't say
The Act doesn't specifically mention websites but instead refers in Schedule 25 to the Information Society & Information (network) providers and their obligation not to discriminate. Again the Act is thin on the speciftcs wrt visual impairment (VI) and hearing impairment but gives no information how non discrimination (inclusion) is to be achieved or even a framework onto which accessibility could be built (unlike its American equivalent US Section 508). Fortunately the World Wide Web Consortium (w3c) has sets of guidelines WCAG 1 (1999) its update WCAG 2 (2008) , defining what accessibility looked like in terms of the underlying html code. We also have our own more descriptive BSI BS8878 code of practice. However the culture of web design runs counter to this kind of prescriptive approach and web technologies have forged ahead turning the internet into an interactive televisual medium as high bandwidth & fast cpus became common place. The denouement of this cultural clash came when in Australia in June 1999, Bruce Maguire a blind sports fan, lodged a legal complaint against the Sydney Olympics website.
Persistent non compliance
Though McGuire won his case it's a sobering thought, that the 2004 DRC survey showed that the disabled could not use 80% of websites and in 2011 web accessibilty still remains a lottery. Our own little survey (10 designers recommended in Mac User) showed that only one passed w3c & webAim validators (Robbie Manson).