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EU sets rules for web accessibility



Directive in pipeline to make public sector websites and apps usable by disabled people

Public sector organisations are facing the prospect of meeting EU standards on the accessibility of their websites and mobile apps, following an agreement between the European Parliament, Council and Commission last week.

Representatives of the three bodies agreed on a new directive for national governments, designed to help disabled people – especially the blind, deaf and hard of hearing – to use online services.

While no EU-wide standards are yet in place, the European Commission has already issued a mandate to the European Standards Organisation to develop a framework for accessibility to ICT products and services. This includes web content and could be used in public procurement.

Reporting responsibility

The directive covers websites and mobile apps with a few of exceptions, notably for broadcasters and live streaming, and requires regular monitoring and reporting of their compliance. Member states will have to report on their performance to the European Commission and make the reports public.

Among the standards with which they will have to comply is the inclusion of text to describe images and that it should be possible to browse the websites without a mouse.

The next step is for the agreement to go the European Parliament and Council. If approved it will be published in the Official Journal of the European Union and member states will have 21 months to make it part of national legislation.

Andrus Ansip (pictured), vice president of the Digital Single Market, said: “Internet access should be a reality for everyone. Leaving millions of Europeans behind is not an option.

“Tonight's agreement is an important step towards a Digital Single Market, which is about removing barriers so that all Europeans can get the best from a digital world.”

The Commission said that about 80 million people in the EU are affected by disability, and the figure is expected to rise to 120 million by 2020 as the population ages. Improving web accessibility is one element of the European Disability Strategy for 2010-2020.

The EU includes requirements for accessibility within its Information Providers Guide, and the proposal for a new directive was submitted by the European Commission in December of last year.

Picture from European Commission



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