which is likely to become law in October 2004.
New regulations will amend the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act to include far-reaching changes in the law that governs the way society behaves towards disabled people.
Section 21 of the draft legislation says:-
"Where a provider of services has a practice, policy or procedure which makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled persons to make use of a service which he provides, or is prepared to provide, to other members of the public, it is his duty to take such steps as it is reasonable, in all the circumstances of the case, for him to have to take in order to change that practice, policy or procedure so that it no longer has that effect."
My own view is that this will be the part of the amendment that will apply to web design. In practical terms the new regulations will mean that all new web sites must be designed with disabled access in mind. Designers must pay attention to colour schemes, drop down menus, text sizes and layout, and site navigation. The new regulations will have the full force of law, and I imagine that government will issue a set of guidelines for web designers in due course.
It will obviously be quite impossible for government to police the internet in any meaningful way, and I imagine that they'll rely on reports from disabled users to identify sites that don't comply with the law. This kind of legislation relies for its effectiveness on the voluntary cooperation of the section of the community involved, and I expect that there'll eventually be some kind of 'satisfaction mark' that can be applied for by designers, and exhibited on sites that meet the criteria laid down in the guidelines.
We'll keep you all informed as the date for legislation approaches, but in the meantime there's nothing to stop you designing sites that meet some of the needs of disabled people right now. For more information about how to do that