If your company operates in Israel, do you have a responsibility to maintain an accessible website?
The short answer: Yes, and if your digital content isn’t accessible, you might face financial penalties. In 1998, Israel passed the Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, which prohibits disability-based discrimination in public places, public services, products, and employment.
Like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act applies to websites — and as with the ADA, the government did not set standard specifications for online accessibility when passing the law. However, Israel eventually amended the act. Israel Standard (IS) 5568 took effect in October 2017 and serves as the country’s web accessibility standard.
Israel’s IS 5568 requires conformance with WCAG
As is the case with most international accessibility laws, IS 5568 is based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), the international standard for digital accessibility.
WCAG is organized into three levels of conformance: Level A (least strict), Level AA, and Level AAA. To comply with IS 5568, organizations must demonstrate conformance with WCAG 2.0 Level AA.
Here are a few important points regarding IS 5568 compliance:
- The law applies to public entities and every private organization that offers services to the general public.
- Private contractors with an average revenue of 100,000 New Shekels (NS) (Approximately $30,000 USD) or less are exempt from IS 5568.
- IS 5568 immediately applied to medium and large businesses with an average annual revenue of 300,000 NS or more.
- Small businesses must also comply with the law as of October 2020.
Penalties for noncompliance include fines of up to 50,000 NS, and private individuals are allowed to pursue litigation for violations. Plaintiffs are not required to prove actual damages — unlike in the United States, where ADA claimants must live with disabilities — and the law was controversial for that reason.
Nevertheless, IS 5568 remains in effect, and Israeli websites have strong incentives to follow the standards. As we’ve discussed in previous articles, digital accessibility has a strong business case: Accessible websites retain more users, perform better in search engine rankings, and provide a better experience for all visitors.
3 Examples of Common IS 5568 Compliance Violations
IS 5568 requires conformance with WCAG 2.0 Level AA, which is generally considered to be a reasonable standard for digital accessibility. WCAG operates on four principles: Content should be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust (commonly abbreviated as POUR). These principles can be extremely useful when building your content. Content that fulfills POUR is more useful to all visitors — not just people who live with disabilities.
Some of the most common WCAG 2.0 conformance violations include:
Missing Alternative Text
WCAG’s first guideline requires “text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms people need, such as large print, braille, speech, symbols, or simpler language.”
Image alternative text enables users to interpret the function and purpose of images when they’re not able to perceive images visually. In other words, alternative text describes the image — that’s essential for people who use screen readers and other assistive technologies.
Alternative text can be helpful for all users when an image won’t load due to a poor internet connection. Unfortunately, one WebAIM study found that 60.6% of the top million home pages on the internet had missing alt text on images in February 2021.
Improper Text Contrast
Color contrast ratio refers to the difference in the brightness of light between a foreground element (such as text) and the website’s background. WCAG Success Criteria (SC) 1.4.3 requires a minimum contrast ratio of at least 4.5:1 for normal text. Larger text (14-point bold or 18-point fonts) requires a minimum contrast ratio of at least 3:1.
When text has an insufficient color contrast ratio, users may have trouble understanding it. The Bureau of Internet Accessibility provides a free color contrast tool, which can be useful for evaluating conformance with WCAG SC 1.4.3.
Missing Form Labels or Instructions
WCAG SC 3.3.2 requires labels or instructions for all content that requires user input. This includes forms — and unfortunately, many forms have missing labels, which can create a frustrating experience for users.
Forms should provide clear, unambiguous information to enable users to complete the process. For example, if a form asks a user to provide their date of birth, the webpage should provide an example of an acceptable date format.
This is not a comprehensive list of WCAG conformance issues. To determine whether your website creates barriers for users with disabilities, you’ll need to perform a website accessibility audit. Because automated tools can miss certain accessibility issues, the best practice is to combine automated audits with manual testing.
To conform with IS 5568 and other international accessibility laws, follow WCAG
While IS 5568 is based on WCAG 2.0, the guidelines have been updated since the law was enacted. Eventually, Israel may pass legislation to require conformance with the latest version of the standards (currently, WCAG 2.1, with WCAG 2.2 scheduled for publication in June 2022).
Of course, the benefits of accessibility are substantial — we recommend conforming with the latest version of WCAG, regardless of your requirements for legal compliance. For more information, contact us or download our Definitive Website Accessibility Checklist, which offers guidance for creating a WCAG conformance (and IS 5568 compliance) strategy.