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