Accessibility Matters in the EU: The EU Web Accessibility Directive Has Been Approved

July 21, 2016 |
EU Directive Calls for Web and Mobile Accessibility

On July 18, the EU Council approved the EU Web Accessibility Directive submitted by the EU Parliament in May. This Directive requires that EU public sector websites and mobile applications conform to a set of accessibility standards. This Directive applies to governmental agencies at the national, municipal and local levels and also applies to other bodies and associations that are governed by public law, such as associations of municipal bodies.

As you may recall, the original EU Web Accessibility Directive was largely limited to websites. Under the leadership of the Netherlands presidency, the EU Council added mobile applications to the new requirements. At the same time, certain content is excluded from coverage, such as third-party content, heritage content, and live audio-visual broadcasts. Organizations need to also provide an accessibility statement, which includes specific instructions for requesting accessibility information on demand.

The next step is for the new changes and final text to be approved by the EU Parliament. This last step is expected to be largely pro forma. The new Directive will then be published in the EU Official Journal and go into force 20 days later. This is expected to take place in autumn 2016. Within 21 months of its approval, all EU Member States are required to adopt legislation to implement these new requirements (and may optionally add even more stringent requirements). They are also required to monitor public sector websites and develop an enforcement mechanism to ensure that public websites and mobile apps are accessible. After this, the Directive sets a further timetable for compliance:

  • New Websites – One Year
  • Older Websites – Two Years
  • Mobile Apps – 33 Months

Read more at the European Council, Accessible websites and apps for all: Council adopts first-ever EU-wide rules.

Steps to Becoming More Accessible

As predicted, this Directive is further proof that accessibility matters in Europe. As public sector organizations adopt this Directive and while we wait for the progression of the EAA, it’s important that all businesses, public sector or not, operating in Europe start adopting accessibility as best practice for web and mobile.

But for many, it’s tough to know where to start. Read our recommendations on four steps to tackle Web accessibility.


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Ken Nakata

Ken Nakata, JD, CIPP/US is the one of the most well-known attorneys in the area of IT accessibility and is the Director of Cryptzone’s Accessibility Consulting Practice (ACP). Nakata’s work focuses on Web and software accessibility from both a legal and technical perspective. Nakata’s ACP team helps organizations manage the change towards accessibility in all aspects, providing consulting services aimed at shaping their accessibility policies and practices, and evaluating the overall state of their Web properties leveraging Cryptzone’s accessibility solutions. He is also a board member for the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP),of which Cryptzone is a founding member.

Nakata worked for twelve years as a Senior Trial Attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice. He has argued on behalf of the United States government many times before the federal courts and has helped shape the government’s policies for the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. Nakata also worked as Director of Accessibility and Government Compliance at BayFirst Solutions, a Washington, DC consulting firm.

In 2000, Attorney General Janet Reno presented Nakata with the Attorney General’s Award for Excellence in Information Technology. In addition to practicing law, Nakata is active in software and web-based technologies, including Java, JavaScript, SQL, and ColdFusion. In July 2001, he was certified by Sun Microsystems as a programmer for the Java 2 Platform. Nakata is a frequent speaker on both law and technology and is equally adept at conducting one-on-one workshops with programmers and developers as well as explaining law and policy to large audiences. He holds a Bachelors of Art degree in mathematics from John Hopkins University and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and is admitted to the bars of New York, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania and Washington.

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