Posted by Charlotte Ebbutt, Associate
Websites and visual impairment – is the lack of functionality on your website or app leaving you vulnerable to claims already sweeping the US?
Companies from Prada to Domino’s Pizza are facing claims of their apps or websites failing to provide full and equal enjoyment of services offered to the visually impaired.
These increasingly popular virtual shop windows, an essential part of accessing goods or services for most consumers, are posing an unnecessary barrier to those with reduced vision. Individuals are using their legal rights as a mechanism for effecting change and this is a potential risk that UK businesses need to be acting upon.
Smartphones and websites feature built in screen reading software to help those with visual impairment. The software uses text attached to the visual elements of the website or app which are then turned into audible text to render them accessible without needing to be visible.
In the case against Domino’s the visually impaired claimant asserted that both the Domino’s app and website lacked the text needed for him to build his own pizza or to complete an order. The principals of his case were upheld by the US appeal court, a decision welcomed in the UK by the Royal National Institute for he Blind. The RNIB reminded businesses that “All organisations have a responsibility under the Equality Act 2010 to ensure that their websites can be used by blind and partially sighted people.”
So what is the law on website functionality for the visually impaired?
The Equality Act protects people from disability discrimination. Individuals who are certified as sight impaired automatically meet the definition of a disabled person under the Equality Act. The Equality Act imposes a duty on service providers to make “reasonable adjustments” to allow disabled persons to access their services. In providing access to a service websites may in themselves constitute part of the service.
The duty to make reasonable adjustments requires service providers to take positive steps to ensure that disabled people can access services. This goes beyond simply avoiding discrimination. It requires service providers to anticipate the needs of disabled customers for reasonable adjustments.
What practical steps can you take?
Functionality for the visually impaired needs to be a factor built in to current apps or websites and at the forefront of any upgrades or additions to those portals. The RNIB provides testing of Internet access functionality on a consultancy basis if colleagues or friends are not available to help with testing.
Ensure that the content is perceivable – for those who cannot see the image allow for them to press keys to access an audio description of the image.
Allow for navigation using a keyboard – remember that visually impaired customers may not find it easy to press a home button for example.
Provide users with the option to control the font size.
Remember colour blind users and maximise contrast between foreground and background, use text and audio description of colours where appropriate and warning icons where customers are completing forms rather than just a red colour where there is missing text.
Addressing barriers to use of your website or app for the visually impaired allows you access to an estimated 285 million extra customers worldwide.
Why risk a claim with the associated potential for reputational damage when the technology is available to comply with the relevant law and it can bring financial benefits at the same time?
If you have any enquiries, please contact Emma Banister Dean on:
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