Accessibility is the degree to which a product, device, service, or environment is available to as many people as possible. Accessibility can be viewed as the "ability to access" and benefit from some system or entity. The concept often focuses on people with disabilities or special needs (such as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) and their right of access, enabling the use of assistive technology.
Accessibility is not to be confused with usability, which is the extent to which a product (such as a device, service, or environment) can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals National legislation with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use.
Accessibility is strongly related to universal design when the approach involves "direct access." This is about making things accessible to all people (whether they have a disability or not). An alternative is to provide "indirect access" by having the entity support the use of a person's assistive technology to achieve access (for example, computer screen readers).
The disability rights movement advocates equal access to social, political, and economic life which includes not only physical access but access to the same tools, services, organizations and National legislation facilities which we all pay for. Article 9 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities commits signatories to provide for full accessibility in their countries.
While it is often used to describe facilities or amenities to assist people with disabilities, as in "wheelchair accessible", the term can extend to Braille signage, wheelchair ramps, elevators, audio signals at pedestrian crossings, walkway contours, website design, reading accessibility, and so on.
Accessibility modifications may be required to enable persons with disabilities to gain access to education, employment, transportation, housing, recreation, or even simply to exercise their right to vote National legislation.
Various countries have legislation requiring physical accessibility which are (in order of enactment):
· In the US, under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, new public and private business construction generally must be accessible. Existing private businesses are required to increase the accessibility of their facilities when making any other renovations in proportion to the cost of the other renovations. The United States Access Board is "A Federal Agency Committed to Accessible Design for People with Disabilities." The Job Accommodation Network discusses accommodations for people with disabilities in the workplace. Many states in the US have their own disability National legislation laws.
· In Australia, the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 has numerous provisions for accessibility.
· In Canada, relevant federal legislation includes the Canadian Human Rights Act, the Employment Equity Act, and the Canadian Labour Code.
· In the UK, the Equality Act 2010 has numerous provisions for accessibility.
· In South Africa the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act 2000 has numerous provisions for accessibility.
Legislation may also be enacted on a state, provincial or local level. In Ontario, Canada, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act of 2001 is meant to "improve the identification, removal and prevention of barriers faced by persons with disabilities National legislation..."
The European Union (EU), which has signed the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, also has adopted a European Disability Strategy for 2010-20. The Strategy includes the following goals, among others:
· devising policies for inclusive, high-quality education;
· ensuring the European Platform Against Poverty includes a special focus on people with disabilities (the forum brings together experts who share best practices and experience);
· working towards the recognition of disability cards throughout the EU to ensure equal treatment when working, living or travelling in the bloc
· developing accessibility standards for voting premises and campaign material;
· taking the rights National legislation of people with disabilities into account in external development programmes and for EU candidate countries.
A European Accessibility Act is to be implemented in late 2012. This Act would establish standards within member countries for accessible products, services, and public buildings. The harmonization of accessibility standards within the EU "would facilitate the social integration of persons with disabilities and the elderly and their mobility across member states, thereby also fostering the free movement principle".