Elly Williams' Weblog

Caught Between Industries

Fear of Legal Action

While reading the Interview with Andy Clarke over at accessify.com, I came across this quote which got me thinking:-

Like the Millenium Bug before it, accessibility has become a new opportunity for people to exploit fears of legal action and it is a practice which I abhore.

In October 2004, Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA 1995) came into force requiring businesses to “take reasonable steps to tackle physical features that act as a barrier to disabled people who want to access their services.” Now, this should be a great thing for disabled access. It should mean more ramps, better signage, wider walkways, and so on. What appears to have happened tho is that any shop, cafe, restaurant etc with a stepped entrance has a sign outside requesting that “Anyone requiring assistance to enter the property please attract the attention of a member of staff”. Hardly a great improvement.

Now, I understand that building things takes time (especially in public places) and I’m hoping that the situation in the ‘physical world’ will improve – but the ‘online world’ changes much faster and I’m worried that all that the increased ‘fear of legal action’ (however much of an abhorrent practice it may be, it’s out there) is going to produce is similar stopgaps (‘text only’ options anyone) when the people who need the changes really deserve something better.


As has been noted elsewhere, it’s conference season. And, like last year, Meri and I shall be heading off to Austin for SXSWi. And I’m pretty certain I’m going to end up having this conversation (or something fairly similar) with a number of people:-

Other person: So, Elly, what do you do?
Me: I’m an Architect.
Other person: Information Architecture?
Me: No. Buildings.
Other person: So, why exactly are you here?

is an Architecture Student and Web Designer based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, (UK)