Legal aspects of Web accessibility

In 2006 it was stated that only 3% of the examined public websites complied with minimum accessibility norms.

At the Ministerial Conference “ICT for an Inclusive Society” held on 11th June 2006 in Riga, EU Ministers signed the declaration according to which they are obliged to provide full accessibility of all public web pages as stipulated in the guidelines of W3C Consortium.

Digital Agenda for Europe (COM 2010)245)

2.6. Enhancing digital literacy, skills and social inclusion

Accessibility and usability are also problems for Europeans with disabilities. Bridging this digital divide can help members of disadvantaged social groups to participate on a more equal footing in digital society (including services of direct interest to them such as eLearning, eGovernment, eHealth) and to tackle their disadvantage through increased employability. Digital competence is thus one of the eight key competences which are fundamental for individuals in a knowledge-based society40.

40 Cf. Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 on key competences for lifelong learning.

Digital Agenda for Europe (COM 2010)245)

2.6.2. Inclusive digital services

There is also need for concerted actions to make sure that new electronic content is also fully available to persons with disabilities. In particular, public websites and online services in the EU that are important to take a full part in public life should be brought in line with international Web accessibility standards47. Moreover, the UN Convention on the Rights of persons with disabilities contains obligations concerning accessibility48.

47 Notably the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.

48 Cf. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities:

Article 9 Accessibility

1. To enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life, States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas. These measures, which shall include the identification and elimination of obstacles and barriers to accessibility, shall apply to, inter alia:

b) information, communications and other services, including electronic services and emergency services.

2. States Parties shall also take appropriate measures to:

b) ensure that private entities that offer facilities and services which are open or provided to the public take into account all aspects of accessibility for persons with disabilities.

According to preliminary estimations, in Poland there are approximately 100 central institutions, 16 voivodeships, 400 districts and 2500 municipalities. A substantial majority of them already have or will soon have their own website.

According to the statutory requirement of the Act on access to public information dated 6th September 2001 as further amended, all information on public matters is subject to sharing. Public authorities and other entities executing public tasks are required to share public information.

The act clearly states that everyone has a right of access to public information. This access should be understood in categories of equal access guaranteed by art. 32.1 of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland.

The Constitution of the Republic of Poland
Art. 32.1
All persons shall be equal before the law.
All persons shall have the right to equal treatment by public authorities.
Each person subject to the Polish jurisdiction must be equally treated by authorities and public institutions, irrespective of the age, sex, education, denomination or disability.

During the Ministerial Conference “ICT for an Inclusive Society” held on 11th June 2006 in Riga, EU Ministers, including the Polish minister, signed the declaration according to which they are obliged to provide full accessibility of all public web pages as stipulated in the guidelines of W3C Consortium.

The Act on incorporation of some European Union regulations in the field of equal treatment of people dated 3rd December 2010 defines specifically the concepts of indirect discrimination, direct discrimination and harassment. New regulations impose anti-discrimination actions all people offering their services in public. Regulations set the rule of equal treatment and legal means of its protection.

Art. 13. §1.
Each person against whom the equal treatment rule was violated has the right to damages.

The amended art. 18 of the Act on computerisation of entities performing public tasks mandates the publishing of information in the form accessible to disabled people. Within the draft of executive regulation to art. 18 of the Act, §13, it was accepted that web pages have to comply with the standards defined in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 issued by the World Wide Web Consortium at AA level, excluding live transmissions.