Funka acts as experts to interpret the Norwegian Discrimination and Accessibility Act
Funka was assigned to act as experts by the Norwegian Equality and Anti-discrimination Ombudsman when for the first time someone filed a charge that a web solution breached the Norwegian Discrimination and Accessibility Act.
The plaintiff was a blind man who felt discriminated against because it was impossible to order an airline ticket and assistance at the airport at the same time on the airline Norwegian’s website. The user had to make a call to order assistance, something that was more time-consuming and expensive than doing it online.
Interpreting the law
The issue to be reviewed by the Ombudsman was therefore whether it could be considered discriminatory that people in need of assistance are forced to call instead of using the web. Norwegian's defense was that it would be unreasonably expensive to implement the change to add the possibility to book assistance in the same workflow as ticket booking. After several rounds Funka was called in as experts, with the following tasks and findings:
- We conducted an audit of the booking system that Norwegian reported that they used, and it turned out that this could handle assistance booking without extensive modifications.
- We showed that several other airlines offer the possibility to order assistance online.
- Moreover, we showed that most airports handle similar orders manually anyway, making expensive development obsolete.
Norwegian chose to meet the requirement, and have added the possibility to book assistance online.
Please observe that the appeal was devoted exclusively to the possibility that book a ticket and assistance simultaneously via the web. Other problems with accessibility on Norwegian’s website were not part of the investigation.
The road ahead
This case shows the necessity of individuals actually complaining for the Discrimination and Accessibility Act to be meaningful. In addition, we see that there are problems with the lack of expertise at the authority in charge of dealing with complaints.
When Difi presents its status measurement on IT accessibility in Norway, it will be interesting to see if these deficiencies in the system will be offset by more website owners opening their eyes to the risk of being reported, and therefore act proactively.