In a digitalised society, information and services are increasingly available online. Persons with disabilities and older people require websites designed according to web-accessibility standards to operate correctly with their assistive technologies. Unfortunately, most websites including public websites do not respect those standards, excluding the vast majority of the population.

In 2012 the European Commission released a legislative proposal on the accessibility of public websites addressing public sector bodies' websites, such as those of municipality services, those for income taxes declaration, job search services, education, health related services, etc. 

Thanks to the advocacy of the European dissability movement, the Directive came to a reality in October 2016 with substantial improvements namely:

  • A broader scope that covers all public sector websites, as well as mobile apps, which were not included at the beginning.
  • A robust enforcement mechanism that also enables a feedback mechanism for users to indicate accessibility barriers on websites and apps.

Final text of Directive 2016/2102 on the accessibility of websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies (in all EU languages) can be found here.

'Web-accessible' means a website or web-based service (including those designed for mobile devices and/or use) which is easy to browse, navigate, understand, operate, interact with and use safely, securely, independently, and with dignity by a person with a disability under all circumstances (including emergency cases).

This does not exclude the use of assistive devices or augmentative and alternative communication to achieve accessibility for particular groups of persons with disabilities where this is needed.

The following testimonies reflect the importance of accessible web content:

  • Lars (Denmark): 'I tried to access a government website that showed a short video on how elections work. I could not understand the video because there was no alternative video with a sign language version.'
  • Helena (Poland): 'Internet is great but I cannot access my bank account online because it is too complicated to log on to the bank website.'
  • Stefan (Germany): 'On the radio, I heard an advertisement informing listeners of how to check electricity invoices online. I was interested and went to the mentioned website. However, it was a Flash animation and I am blind so my screen-reader could not read anything and I could not pay my bills online, like anyone else.'

New ICT services and devices to access the web are being developed at a fast pace: for instance, recently, applications on mobile devices are more and more used to access the web. Therefore, web-accessibility refers also to the accessibility of any technology used to browse the web with the ultimate goal to provide information and communication to persons with disabilities on an equal basis with the others.

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