The European Parliament just adopted the 'Directive on the Accessibility of Websites and Mobile Applications of Public Sector Bodies' (Web Directive). From now on, all websites and mobile applications, including the electronic documents and multimedia, of public authorities in Europe have to be accessible to a wide range of users including 80 million people with disabilities.
This is a crucial milestone to achieve an inclusive digital society in which people with disabilities and other users have access to online services and information on an equal footing to other people; this is a right enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) that the EU has ratified.
In cases when some parts are not made accessible, public websites will need to explain why in a mandatory accessibility statement. There will also be a mechanism for citizens to request the content they cannot access. Regular monitoring and reporting by EU member states have also been agreed, which is indispensable for the success of this legislation. Nevertheless, the Directive allows some exceptions such as public broadcasters’ websites and live audiovisual streaming. European Disability Forum (EDF) expects that the gaps left in the Web Directive will be covered in other EU legislation in progress, such as the European Accessibility Act or the Audiovisual Media Services Directive.
During recent years, EDF, together with its members and partner organisations, has fought for accessibility of websites and for the adoption of a meaningful directive to make this happen in Europe. The European Commission’s initial proposal for the Web Directive, published in 2012, included only 12 categories of online services and very soft enforcement measures. Thanks to the collaboration with the Parliament and the Council, an improved text of a truly future proof and meaningful Directive has now been adopted.
EDF President, Yannis Vardakastanis , stated: "Accessibility is a human rights issue and a condition to participate in society, study, have a job and enjoy public services. This Directive is an important step in promoting the rights of persons with disabilities within the EU in line with the CRPD. The EU and all its member states should make all their public services and mobile apps accessible. This Directive provides a harmonised way to do this and make a real change in the lives of 80 million people with disabilities."
The Web Directive will enter into force 20 days after its publication in the EU Official Journal. After this, EU member states will have 21 months to adopt national legislation in compliance with it. One year after these 21 months, all new public websites in the EU should be accessible; older public websites will have two years to become accessible and mobile apps will have 33 months.
EDF will continue working with its national members in Europe to make sure that the Web Directive is implemented at national level and to make sure that EU Member States do not misuse the exemptions allowed in the text. Additionally, EDF will continue advocating for other relevant or complementary EU legislation, including the European Accessibility Act and the revision of the Audiovisual Media Service Directive to ensure that that will properly address what is not covered by the Web Directive.
REHACARE.com; Source: European Disability Forum