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Email exchanges with DRC and the Department for Work and Pensions (2001-2002)

Dear Mr Allott,

Thank you for your e-mail of 24 July.

The www.disability.gov.uk  website is maintained by the Disability Unit in the Department for Work and Pensions. Malcolm Whyte and Sue Piggott-Forster work for the Disability Rights Commission (DRC), which is an independent non-departmental public body. I am therefore copy my reply to the DRC so that may should they so wish reply separately.

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) makes it unlawful for any service or provider (which means any company or organisation, public or private) to discriminate against a disabled person in enabling access to, or in the standard of, a service provided. This applies whether the service is with or without payment and specifically includes access to and use of means of communications and information services. Part III of the Act, which came in to force in October 1999, places on service provider a legal duty to make 'reasonable adjustment' for disabled people to take positive steps to bring their services up to a 'reasonable standard'

In 2001 the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act, 2001 conferred similar rights upon disabled students as those available to disabled people against service providers under Part III of the 1995 Act. Namely educational establishments will have to make reasonable adjustments so that students or pupils are not at a substantial disadvantage compared to those who are not disabled.

However, until there are precedents to establish a body of legal opinion to constitute UK case law, it cannot be said how the DDA applies to Web issues specifically. Nonetheless, the new Code of Practice on Part III on the final provisions of the DDA which are due to come into force in 2004 gives a valuable steer. You can download the Code of Practice from the Disability Rights Commission website: http://www.drc.org.uk/drc/InformationAndLegislation/Page331a.asp.

This statutory Code, agreed by Parliament, provides detailed advice on the way the law should work. It also provides practical examples and tips. The status of the Code is that it must be referred to for guidance in court when deciding on Part III DDA cases. You will especially wish to note sections 2.17, 5.23 and 5.26, where explicit reference is made to website accessibility.

For further advice on your duties under the Disability Discrimination Act you may wish to contact the Disability Rights Commission. This body has been given similar powers and duties to the UK's Equal Opportunities Commission and Commission for Racial Equality and acts as a central source of information and advice to disabled people on their rights, and to employers and service providers on their duties under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). It also provides a conciliation service between service providers and disabled people.

The DRC can be contacted through their helpline on 08457 622 633 (textphone 08457 622 644) or you can e-mail them at enquiry@drc-gb.org. They can provide advice and information and can also supply a variety of leaflets giving further information about the DDA and the DRC. You may also wish to visit their website at  http://www.drc-gb.org  which has a wide range of material and links to other relevant sites.

You may also wish to note that as a result of the Sydney Organisation Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCAG) case, they were required to remove accessibility barriers from the official Games site. This Australian case was decided on the basis of W3C WAI Guidelines constituting the de facto international standard. Here is a link to those guidelines: http://www.w3.org/TR/WAI-WEBCONTENT/.

An interesting article giving a legal opinion as to the relevance of the DDA to website accessibility can be found at the following link: http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/01-2/sloan.html. You will find this website (The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/Jilt/) of interest generally.

The Office of the e-Envoy produces guidelines for Government websites which you may be interested to read:

http://www.e-envoy.gov.uk/publications/guidelines/webguidelines/websites/index.htm.

You may also be interested to read the wider guidance on accessible communications for Government Departments which is called "Let's make it accessible" and can be found on the Cabinet Office website:

http://www.cabinet-office.gov.uk/servicefirst/2001/joinedup/accessible/access.pdf.

Yours sincerely,

Noel Needham
Disability Unit

 

-----Original Message-----
From: Mike Allott [mailto:mike@consensussoftware.com]
Sent: 24 July 2002 15:31
To: Feedback-Disability@dwp.gsi.gov.uk
Subject:

Dear Malcolm Whyte, and Sue Piggott-Forster [or to their successors]

I refer to the email below and other emails on this subject.

I would be grateful if you could let me know what the current position is
concerning agreement on "best practice" for website design - insofar as it
affects those with disabilities?

Mike Allott

-----Original Message-----
From: Malcolm Whyte [mailto:malcolm.whyte@drc-gb.org]
Sent: 12 March 2001 09:28
To: 'Michael Allott'
Cc: Sue Piggott-Forster
Subject: RE: code of practice

Dear Mike,
Thank you for you response and apologies for the short delay in responding
which was due to workload and the need to consult colleagues. My earlier
email was intended to be the response to your complaint and I am sorry if
this was not made clear.
The DRC is very keen within the limits of its resources to do everything it
can to offer advice and to publicise best practice. However, we are quite a
small organisation and it is sometimes more effective for us to try and
influence work already being done by others rather than take everything on
ourselves. As I am sure you are aware disabled people face discrimination
daily even within the limits of the current legislation. A large slice of
our staff and financial resource is currently targeted at dealing with this.

Looking a little further ahead we are preparing codes of practice to advise
on the practical implementation of Part III of the act( access to goods and
services). Whilst web site development does fall in this area, we will not
be preparing a code of practice to deal specifically with that at this time.
Having said that the points you make are very valid and we do need to do
more to help support and influence the development of web sites. I have
discussed this with a number of colleagues working on policy and information
matters to see what we could do to help to draw together information that
would be more helpful to web site designers.
What we will do is to ask the web site review team, which includes external
stakeholders, to look specifically at this area. We will also as the
Librarian and the research team to see what information they can draw
together. Finally, we will look to add an area to the web site which
specifically signposts users to better quality information until we are able
to develop our own codes.
The web site review will be complete by mid June and I anticipate we will be
able to do this by Mid August.
Thank you for the time you have put into this.

Malcolm Whyte
Head of ICT

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