Legal aspects of Web Accessibility

Disabled persons, including blind and visually impaired people have special difficulties with accessing richness of contents on the Internet. In order to mitigate this problem, the World Wide Web Consortium has developed a second version of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines that were published in 2008. According to these guidelines, web developers shall publish their contents in such manner that disabled persons could access it, e.g. blind persons could use screen reading technologies. These guidelines make it clear how a web developer shall e.g. make photos accessible or protect content using captcha.

The aim of the project is to research the contents of these guidelines as well as relevant legislation in order to find out the scope of the obligation to make content accessible. Furthermore, the aim of this project is also to apply developed model in empirical research, which will examine a compliance of public and private websites with these guidelines and relevant legislation in Poland. It is worth underlying that Polish administration has been obliged to apply WCAG 2.0 guidelines in a decree on National

Interoperability Framework as well as in the EU and international law. It is highly likely that this law is not being obeyed as until today there is no official translation of WCAG 2.0 guidelines into Polish language, which would be recognized by W3C or Polish lawgiver.

The main justification for this project is the fact that neither the contents of WCAG 2.0 guidelines is available in Polish nor any legal book on this topic. Actually, there is no single monograph or even journal article written in Polish that deals with legal aspects of web accessibility. To goal of the project is to fill up this gap and provide the groundwork for future research in this area. From the organizational perspective, research will involve both in-depth analysis of contents of WCAG guidelines and relevant legislation as well as IT research (analysis of websites code) as well as inclusion of blind and visually impaired people in a research, which know best which aspects of web surfing is the most problematic.

The outcome of this project will be a model for making web content accessible in accordance with WCAG 2.0 standards. Deliverables of this project embrace a detailed analysis of WCAG guidelines, including “Understanding…” and “Techniques…” as well as a book that will clarify the scope of the obligation (what to do and by whom) as well as consequences of non-compliance. Furthermore, the research team will also publish yearly reports on web accessibility in Poland, including a list of most commonly encountered problems.