One of the main components of adequate website accessibility is the requirement to display a proper accessibility statement on the website.
Past experience shows that the failure to comply with that requirement is the main vulnerability of websites and the main reason for lawsuits in that field.
That happens for two main reasons:
Firstly, in contrast to a complaint over an alleged accessibility flaw in the website (a specific flaw, not the utter absence of accessibility adjustments), which cannot serve as an automatic cause for a legal claim, but requires a prior notice of 60 days to enable the correction of the problem, the absence of an accessibility statement at the website or the availability of an inadequate statement can serve as an automatic cause for a lawsuit without prior notice. Hence, many websites who came under the “radar” of those who made it their job to “hunt” for that weakness, are dragged into expenses, needless hassle and possibly further considerable payments against removing the lawsuit or the threat of filing one.
Secondly, a significant number of those who do display an accessibility statement on their website, including various guides and instructors on the matter, are not acquainted with the meticulous technical requirements that an adequate statement must contain, consequently exposing themselves/their clients to the risk of being sued and having to bear needless expenses.
The requirement to display an adequate accessibility statement on the website appears in three different sections of the Regulations on Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities (Service Accessibility Adjustments), 2013 (‘the Regulations’): Section 34(a)(4), Section 35e, and Section 91(e).
Section 35e establishes the general obligation to place an accessibility statement on the website that includes information on the accessibility adjustments made on the website as well as the contact details for inquiries on accessibility issues.
Section 91 establishes the conditions under which a business must appoint a specific accessibility coordinator (a business with 25 or more employees), the coordinator’s duties and the need to display his/her details, among other things, on the business’s website.
Section 34(a)(4) stipulates that the physical accessibility adjustments made at business should be displayed at the business’s website. A reasonable question arises here: what is the relation between providing a service at the physical location of the business and making its website accessible in the virtual domain?
The answer is simple: when it comes to a business/service that has a website, but also has a physical interface (such as a store, an office, a studio, a clinic, etc.), it is obliged to publish on its website the physical accessibility adjustments in the business/service itself. This has to do with stipulating, as part of the accessibility statement, details on the availability or absence of physical accessibility arrangements such as disabled parking, a disabled elevator, disabled toilets, service stations adapted for people with disabilities etc.
It is important to note that the law does not oblige the business to install these physical accessibility adjustments (which are regulated by other laws, as the case may be, with no relation to digital accessibility), but to ensure that they are included in the accessibility statement which appears on the website, in order to make it easier for people with disabilities to know in advance whether they can physically attend a business they browsed online, which depends on the availability of such arrangements, or whether they should ask for a meeting in an accessible place outside the business.
We in UA provide our clients with an adequate Accessibility Statement format, emphasizing the need to independently examine, as far as this is required, whether there are specific aspects that must further be addressed therein (for example, businesses with many branches, businesses in unique location, etc.).