Web Accessibility is Law in Israel…
We heard a talk about Israel Web Accessibility law at WordCamp Jerusalem 2016, several days ago. To begin with, I’m not a lawyer. I don’t even play one on TV so I’m not going to cite the law nor should you interpret the opinions you read here as an acceptance of liability or that I am claiming any legal knowledge. I’m not. What I am sharing is the food for thought I came away with.
The law is interesting and of course, web accessibility is important if not crucial. However, the ramifications of the law are almost as relevant.
The following points came across during the presentation:
- This law has been in effect since 2013.
- The law enables a complainant to sue for damages in a case where a site does not meet the standards required by law for accessibility.
- Other countries have web accessibility standards but none makes this a legal requirement involving liability.
- It applies allegedly to sites that provide “information to the public”.
- No litigation case has appeared in Israeli courts since the law’s inception.
- Public sector sites have an extension until 2018 to become web accessible.
This is certainly an opportunity for any skilled, knowledgeable professional to provide web accessibility compliance or testing services, so long as they are not risk adverse. One of the concerns voiced during the presentation at WordCamp was that liability can include not just the site itself, the theme the site builder recommends or customizations, but also content subsequently posted to the site.
The government and the public sector as a whole are benefitting from the extension they granted themselves until 2018 for their sites to become compliant. In Israel most IT services in the public sector are provided by outsourcing companies who compete for tenders. One can assume that if the public sector has not already begun issuing these tenders to make their sites accessible, it will wake up to the need for this shortly. The outsourcing companies are big enough to acquire the knowledge and handle the liability issues. Web accessibility, an opportunity for them.
The WARPTEST POV
The presentation at WordCamp highlighted the sense among attendees that the government had done what it does best: imprinted existing physical world standards on the digital domain. Technology professionals often feel that legislators pass laws without a full comprehension of the tech or the impact. There weren’t a lot of smiling faces about all this:
— jonathanross (@jonathanross) March 28, 2016
Again, don’t misconstrue what I’m saying. Web accessibility is important and this is where I part ways with the lawyer who gave the WordCamp presentation.
IMHO if the government is legislating web accessibility in much the way they do with car licensing, then why shouldn’t the government be obligated to provide a standard automated testing tool for site builders to verify compliance to standards. This would be akin to the test center you take your car to prior to annual licensing.
The really interesting thing is that this law doesn’t just apply to web sites. Compliance to accessibility also applies to mobile apps. One might assume that should this become a burning issue, Google, Apple and Microsoft will all have a dog in this fight.
Many people came away from the presentation feeling that the government went too far. This opens up huge opportunities for the litigious and turns site building and content writing into something as risky as feeding crocodiles.
A law that has been around since 2013 and has not generated one court case leaves questions. Are sites more web accessible since the law was passed? I believe not. Has the law ensured that those who need web accessibility are receiving it? I’m unconvinced that the law changed that for the better either.
Nutshell, there are opportunities here for the bold and the knowledgeable. WordPress Theme creators, mobile app developers and QA are just a few. If we are willing to accept the risk of providing web accessibility compliance services then this is a niche waiting to be filled.
Which do you see, the risk or the opportunity?