The ultimate vision for the WWW is that the entire internet will be accessible to people with disabilities, namely those for whom the normal, customary way of navigating online with eyes that see the screen, hands that operate the mouse and keyboard, and cognitive capacities that process the data without special difficulties, is challenging and oftentimes impossible.
However, since implementing accessibility has a financial aspect, the legislator constrained the applicability of that obligation and defined in clear terms the scope of exemption therefrom.
Here is a brief review: Who must make sure that his/her website is accessible and why?
First of all, the obligation to comply with the accessibility standard established by law applies to websites that provide a public service, meaning a service intended for the general public. Those whose website is a platform for providing this type of service must make it accessible. On the other hand, a private website that does not sell or offer a service and does not have a business behind it, does not have to be accessible. Public service is broadly defined by law and includes commercial, welfare, education, leisure, sports, hospitality, tourism, culture, communication and other services. In other words, any private business that offers its services through a designated website (lawyers, architects, clinics, dance classes, pizza places, various repair services, etc.) must ensure that its website has been made accessible in accordance with the standard established by law.
Secondly, these are the website-owners that must comply with the accessibility standard:
- Any private entity that operates a commercial website.
- Entities that offer services to the general public, even if they do not operate for profit, such as NPOs.
- Public authorities, such as government offices and/or local/community authorities and organizations.
However, even if the business and/or service meets the criteria detailed above, there are specific cases which are exempt from that compliance. These are the criteria for obtaining an exemption:
- A business whose annual turnover does not exceed one hundred thousand NIS is automatically exempt, with no need for any positive action to that effect.
- A business whose annual turnover does not exceed one million NIS, and whose website was activated before October 26th, 2017, is also automatically exempt. In other words, every business whose website was established after October 26th, 2017, and whose annual financial turnover is higher than one hundred thousand NIS, is obliged to comply with the accessibility standard.
Business owners can apply to the Commission for Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities for an exemption from website accessibility on grounds of a heavy financial burden. The applicant will have to prove these grounds and the burden of proof is very high, since in addition to the economic factor, the commission considers a whole range of considerations (the type of service offered by the website, available alternatives, the scope of audience which the website addresses, the traffic at the website, the cost of accessibility, alternative accessibility means and more) and counterbalances the protected values under the accessibility compliance against the data brought in support of the application. These are the criteria for submitting the application for exemption:
- A business whose annual turnover exceeds one hundred thousand NIS and whose website was activated after October 26, 2017.
- A business whose annual turnover exceeds one million NIS.
In conclusion, when establishing in law the obligation to make the Internet world accessible to people with disabilities, the legislator also envisaged the cases and business owners with limited income on whom, given the total set of relevant considerations, it would not be just to impose the costs of accessibility, and rightly so! However, we at UA work to neutralize this hindrance in advance and offer small and medium-sized businesses an accessibility package at a fair and highly competitive price, with the aim of promoting true equality and making the entire Internet truly accessible to people with disabilities