Meaning of Web Accessibility

According to “Recommended Guidelines for Improving Accessibility of Information Communication for the Disabled and Elderly”, web accessibility refers to the availability of information communication products and services to those who wish to use them.  Legislations currently in place to ensure web accessibility include the Framework Act on National Informatization, Anti-Discrimination and Remedy for Disabled Persons Act (“Disability Discrimination Act”), and Welfare of Disabled Persons Act.

Expansion of Web Accessibility Compliance Requirements

Beginning April 11 this year, the enforcement of the Disability Discrimination Act, which prescribes compliance requirements for web accessibility, will expand not just to public organizations and educational institutions, but to all corporate entities, the financial sector and airline companies, whose websites provide web services to users.  As a result, the Disability Discrimination Act has been added alongside the Personal Information Protection Act, Copyright Act, and Information Communications Network Act in the list of legislations that must be reviewed when setting up an internet service.

Web Accessibility Certification Mark

Web Accessibility Certification Mark (WA Certification Mark) refers to the quality mark that recognizes and represents that a website complies with the standard guidelines for web accessibility in a way that does not inconvenience the disabled and elderly.  The evaluation for certification is based on the 4 principles (perceptibility, operability, understandability, stability) and 13 guidelines found in “Korean Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0” issued in late 2010 by the Korea Communications Commission (currently, the Ministry of Science, ICT & Future Planning) as well as the 22 evaluation criteria for these guidelines.  The WA Certification Mark is given to select websites following the evaluation and may be used as proof of web accessibility.  In addition to the National Information Society Agency, private organizations such as the Korea Web Accessibility Certification Center, Human Rights Forum of Persons with Disabilities in Korea, Sookmyung Women’s University Web Development Laboratory, Korea Institute of Web Accessibility, and Korea institute of Web Accessibility Certification Evaluation are currently granting WA Certification Marks.

Need for Preparation Regarding Web Accessibility

At the end of 2012, claims for damages involving public interest and disability groups were filed against several companies and public institutions on the basis that these organizations discriminated in the use of their websites by failing to comply with web accessibility requirements.  In addition, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea advised that various companies including 3 ground-wave broadcasting companies and a Busan broadcasting company improve their websites.  Under the Disability Discrimination Act, the failure to comply with web accessibility requirements can result in civil liability for damages.  Those who fail to comply may also face either advisory opinions, corrective orders, or a fine for negligence of up to KRW 30,000,000, or imprisonment of up to 3 years or a fine of up to KRW 30,000,000.  Despite these measures, however, the “2012 Study on the State of Web Accessibility’ indicates that the level of web accessibility in the private sector appears to still be inadequate, and preparations regarding this issue are still needed.