Within the next two years, web accessibility will be compulsory in the EU

  • Author: Michaela Slade
  • Date: 26 May 2016

At the beginning of the month, three years since its proposal, it was agreed that public sector web accessibility will now become a legal requirement in Europe; an improvement that will make a huge impact on the community and create a shift in the roles and skills of web developers.

The new legislation is set to roll out within the next two years, so developers have time to prepare to make sure that their websites are accessible and compliant with EU laws.  Some legal requirements may include the requirement to include alternative text for images, captioning of audiovisual content, and the opportunity to browse a website without a mouse.  Older content will be available to citizens in accessible form on demand with a clear statement on the website to explain if a part of the website is not accessible.

What this means for global web accessibility

Since the US Government embraced Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 through Section 508 there has been significant progress in the adoption of web accessibility standards around the world. . Other governments have since started embracing the commitment to web accessibility through legislation, benchmarks and acts the future looks positive for web accessibility.

This new piece of EU legislation is an advancement in the online world of accessibility; it is what the world is working towards. In the past we have seen acts and policies such as the US Rehabilitation Act, Section 508 in 1998 and Australia’s National Transition Strategy (NTS) help encourage web accessibility for a wider audience. But this is a step further than that; legislation enforces rather than suggests, further highlighting website accessibility importance and that web-developers act accordingly. 

What this means for Australian web accessibility in comparison

Since the introduction of WCAG 2.0, an internationally recognised benchmark for web accessibility,it has been reported that 26% of Australian websites were compliant (AA) with the benchmark at the end of 2012.  This figure could be improved if Australia were to adopt similar approaches as the EU.

Accessibility has been a government priority for a number of years. With the release of the WCAG 2.0, developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the Australian Government is poised to improve the provision of information and services online.

“It’s encouraging to see the EU continue to improve its policy and legislative frameworks to support WCAG 2.0. Hopefully Australia will also look at ways to improve its ability to support accessibility so that all people with disabilities can actively participate in the online community.” – Dr. Scott Hollier, MAA Digital Accessibility Director and W3C Advisory Committee Representative.

What can you do?

As a developer or an individual who runs an online platform, you can familiarise yourself with WCAG 2.0 as a starter and an eye-opener.  You may wish to check out our complete guide to web accessibility for designers, a practical topic-based resource to help you comply with WCAG 2.0. If you require further consultation or support with web or document accessibility then please contact us.