UK Sites May See Lawsuits by Blind

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Byline: Steve Pain Technology Editor

UK websites could be discriminating against the visually impaired - and website operators and Internet service providers could find themselves liable under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, according to a Birmingham-based expert at corporate law firm Hammond Suddards Edge.

'There are more than two million blind and partially-sighted people in the UK, the rights of whom are covered by the various provisions set out in the Disability Discrimination Act,' said Jonathan Moore, e-commerce and technology partner at Hammond Suddards Edge.

'The Act requires certain minimum standards of 'accessibility' for disabled persons and 'use of means of communication' and we expect these access requirements to cover commercial websites.'

According to Hammond Suddards Edge, there is no decided case law in the UK relating to the application of the Disability Discrimination Act to websites.

However, in Australia the Sydney Olympic Committee was found to be in breach of the Australian Disability Discrimination Act concerning the design of its website and in America, the American National Federation for the Blind has been given the go-ahead to continue its lawsuit against Internet giant AOL if certain criteria are not met.

The blind and partially sighted currently use synthesised speech, braille display or screen magnification software enabling them to decipher and use websites.

These technologies rely on web designers providing good HTML coding to enable them to work to their full potential.

Mr Moore said: 'As websites become increasingly complex and use more images there is a greater chance that they represent nonsense to these assistive technologies and cannot then be accessed or used by the blind and partially sighted. …