This posting summarizes some detailed research into the state of government accessibility standards around the world, as of November 2012. Usually these evolve fairly slowly, although the recent Jodhan vs. Attorney General of Canada case may change that (governments don't like being successfully sued by their citizens).
In general, these standards apply to government agency websites (and not commercial web sites) with the exception of Australia where commercial sites are also required to comply. Other countries have disability discrimination laws which cover websites, but these don't specify the technical standards required to comply with the law.
This table shows government accessibility standards, and relevant legislation, in 17 territories:
Comparison of accessibility standards in 11 countries
||WCAG 2 AA
||Disability Discrimination Act
||All government and non-government websites should comply with WCAG 2 AA by end of 2013
WCAG 2 AA
|Human Rights Act 1977
||Common Look and Feel 2.0 required WCAG 1 up till July 2011 for all government websites. The Jodhan vs. Attorney General of Canada ruling requires the Canadian government to update the guidelines to WCAG 2, and this was implemented as the Standard on Web Accessibility on Aug 1, 2011.
||WCAG 1 AA
||European Parliament Resolution (2002) 0325*
||Required for all EU commission websites - see EUROPA - Web accessibility policy. Progress towards WCAG 2 is being done by the Mandate M 376 working group which started work in 2006.
||RGAA 2.2.1 (based on WCAG 2)
||Law No 2005-102, Article 47
||Required for all French central government websites by May 2011. All other French public websites (public services, towns, public research, etc) are required to comply by May 2012.
||BITV 2 (based on WCAG 2)
||Federal Disabled Equalization Law (BGG)
||BITV 2 came into force on Sept 22, 2011, and is required for all government websites. It is based on WCAG 2, but not identical.
||WCAG 2 AA
||WCAG 2 AA became the standard for GovHK websites in March 2012.
||Guidelines for Indian Government Websites (based on WCAG 2 A)
||WCAG 2 Level A became the standard for Indian government websites in February 2009.
||WCAG 1 AA
||The Disability Act 2005
||All government websites - Code of Practice on Accessibility of Public Services and Information Provided by Public Bodies
Technical Rules of Law 4/2004 (based on WCAG 1 AA)
|Law No. 4/2004 (“Stanca” Law)
||Required for all government websites
||JIS X 8341 (based on WCAG 2)
||Based on WCAG 2 with provisions made for the Japanese language and input systems. Required for all local and central government websites. Commercial websites are also encouraged to use it.
||WCAG 1 A
||Government websites must comply with the government web guidelines, which include WCAG 1 A. There are no requirements for non-government websites.
||WCAG 2 AA
||Human Rights Amendment Act 2001
||Web Accessibility Standard 1.0 (WCAG 2 AA with some exceptions) required for all government web sites.
||LOV 2008-06-20 nr 42: Lov om forbud mot diskriminering på grunn av nedsatt funksjonsevne
||The law requires all websites to be be universally designed. There's an ongoing consultation on whether to apply a technical requirements of WCAG 2 at level AA (with the exception of 1.2.3, 1.2.4 and 1.2.5 which apply to timed media)
||AODA (WCAG 2 AA)
||Required for all new Ontario government websites by January 2012, and existing government websites by January 2016.
||SGQRI 008 (based on WCAG 2)
||Standards sur l'accessibilité du Web
||Custom made standard based on WCAG 2.0 with specifics covering websites, downloadable documents and multimedia.
||UNE 139803:2004 (based on WCAG 1 AA)
||Law 34/2002, Law 51/2003
||Required for all government websites. No mandatory requirements on non-government websites.
||WCAG 1 AA or
WCAG 2 AA
|Equality Act 2010
||The COI standard for inclusive websites requires WCAG 1 AA or WCAG 2 AA for all UK government web sites. Other UK websites need to comply with the Equality Act and provide equal access, but this doesn't specify technical standards (although complying with at least WCAG 1 A or 2 A demonstrates that accessibility issues have been considered).
||Section 508 (subset of WCAG 1 with a few additions)
||Section 508 of Rehabilitation Act
||US federal agencies' websites must comply with Section 508 guidelines. These are currently being updated and will incorporate WCAG 2 AA - but the update has been subject to continual delays through 2013 and 2014.
* Irony Alert: the European resolution insists web site documents should be clear and simple, but kicks off with 22 paragraphs of incomprehensible bureaucratic text. Here's an example:
whereas the internet as a part of society is an instrument for society as a whole, so it is fundamental that technologically neutral access to public information is offered for all groups in society...
The key takeaway from this research: adoption of WCAG 2 is progressing steadily and becoming increasingly important:
- The governments of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan and New Zealand have already adopted WCAG 2.
- UK government sites must comply with either WCAG 1 AA or WCAG 2 AA.
- In the US, Section 508 is being refreshed to harmonize with WCAG 2.
- The European Commission is investigating a move to WCAG 2 as a European government standard, but this is complicated by competing national standards in Germany (BITV) and Italy.
Edit: originally published November 2010, updated July 2014.
Here's a month-by-month review of the important events of 2010 for our company and customers:
- Jan - PowerMapper 5.0 Released
PowerMapper 5.0 was released to support and maintenance customers. New features included: new map styles; analytics data import; data visualization; map notes.
- Feb - Management Buyout
PowerMapper Software completed the acquisition of Electrum’s PowerMapper and SortSite product business as part of a management buyout (MBO).
- Mar - Draft of new Section 508 accessibility standards
The US Federal Access Board released a draft refresh of the Section 508 Standards and Section 255 Guidelines
- Apr - Customer base expands to 30% of Fortune 100
Sales figures revealed that PowerMapper and SortSite were used by more than 30% of the Fortune 100.
- May - SortSite 4.0 released
New features in the release included: English and French spell checking; accessibility and link checking inside PDF documents; link checking inside Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents.
- Jun - IE6 usage fell below 5% in US and Europe
Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) usage fell below 5% for the first time. First released in 2001, and bundled with Windows XP, this version has plagued web developers with browser compatibility issues for a decade.
- Jul - Partnership with Shaw Trust announced
Shaw Trust (a UK charity which supports disabled and disadvantaged people) started using SortSite as part of their web accessibility services.
- Aug - New Headquarters
We moved to new headquarters in the center of Edinburgh, providing lots of options for expansion and a linchpin for our growing global operations.
- Sep - Google Instant released
Google released Google Instant, which provides real-time search results as you type.
- Oct - Transition of Yahoo organic search and PPC to Bing
The transition of Yahoo's search results to Bing, concluded with the transfer of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising to Microsoft's Adcenter platform.
- Nov - Donna Jodhan wins accessibility case against Canadian government
Justice Kelen ruled that Canada’s federal government must deliver key websites in a usable format for blind and partially-sighted Canadians. The court gave the Canadian government 15 months to make government websites comply with WCAG 2.0.
- Dec - BSI publishes BS 8878 web accessibility standard
BS 8878 Web Accessibility Code of Practice was published by the British Standards Institute (BSI) to address the growing challenge of digital inclusion. It's useful to anyone new to accessibility as it gives guidance on process, rather than on technical issues.