Recently I had a discussion with a Web developer external to the University of Bristol. The discussion centred on the issue of Web accessibility and what became clear was that the developer was under the impression that his employer, a small charity, was in some way exempt from disability discrimination law in the UK.

The developer believed that Web accessibility was of lower concern to his organisation because:

  1. The charity does not have sufficient resources to produce accessible versions of its online content (specifically Flash and video content).
  2. No-one will sue a charity.

At this point I should confess that I have a somewhat evangelistic stance on accessibility. Personally I believe that all sites (even personal Web sites) have a social and moral obligation to be as accessible as possible (although admittedly you can’t always expect someone who produces a personal site as a hobby to be familiar with the issues). Aside from that, the law in the UK is pretty clear-cut when it comes to accessibility issues and charities are most definitely not exempt.

Regarding the argument about the resources associated with making content accessible, you could be forgiven for arguing that the technical specification for the service was insufficient from the outset. However, should this really be an excuse for not attempting to put the matter right?

It might be unreasonable to immediately make existing resources accessible, but is it acceptable to carry on in the same vein with new resources? Surely the best plan is to make new resource accessible and work back through the existing resources addressing the issues as time and resources allow?

As for the argument that “no-one will sue a charity”… well, we’ll have to wait and see but the costs of any defence of an antagonistic stance on accessibility would probably cripple a small charity anyway.