1. What is the EU Web Accessibility Directive?
The EU Web Accessibility Directive is a piece of EU law that applies in all EU countries, as well as in countries of the European Economic Area. The Directive is often referred to as the ‘Web Directive’ or ‘Web Accessibility Directive’. Its full name is ‘Directive (EU) 2016/2102 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 October 2016 on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies’.
This Directive aims to make public sector websites and mobile applications more accessible, and to harmonise varying standards within the EU, reducing barriers for developers of accessibility-related products and services and providing people with disabilities with better access to online public services.
This will allow EU citizens, particularly those with a disability, to gain better access to public services.
The text of the EU Directive on Accessibility of Public Sector Bodies Websites and Mobile Applications is available in all EU languages. Its objective is to provide people with disabilities with better access to the websites and mobile apps of public services.
The Directive requires websites and apps of public sector bodies, with a limited number of exceptions (e.g. public broadcasters, live streaming), to meet specific technical accessibility standards. The Directive also requires:
an accessibility statement for each website and mobile app;
a feedback mechanism so that users can flag accessibility problems or request information published in a non-accessible content;
regular monitoring of public sector websites and apps by Member States and reporting on the results.
The European Commission has a detailed summary of the provisions in the Directive.
3. What are the accessibility rights of persons with disabilities?
The rights of persons with disabilities are enshrined in the United Nations Convention for the right of persons with disabilities (UNCRPD).
Several articles in the UNCRPD relate to accessibility rights, including:
- Article 3 - General principles
- Article 4 - General obligations
- Article 9 - Accessibility
- Article 21 - Freedom of expression and opinion, and access to information
The UNCRPD was ratified by the European Union, as well as all EU member states. They therefore committed to taking appropriate measures to:
- ensure access for persons with disabilities, on an equal basis with others, to information and communication technologies and systems,
- develop, promulgate and monitor the implementation of minimum standards and guidelines for the accessibility of facilities and services open or provided to the public,
- promote access for persons with disabilities to new information and communications technologies and systems, including the internet.
State Parties have also undertaken to refrain from engaging in any act or practice that is inconsistent with the UNCRPD and to ensure that public authorities and institutions act in conformity with it.
In the EU, the Web Accessibility Directive sets out what public sector bodies must do to ensure that their websites and mobile applications are accessible. The European Commission provides more information about the Web Accessibility Directive on their website.
6. What is the European Accessibility Act and how does it relate to the Web Accessibility Directive?
The European Accessibility Act (EAA) is a new piece of EU law. Its objective is to remove accessibility barriers to a range of goods and services traded in the internal market. It will make it easier for persons with disabilities to find accessible products and services.
The EAA will set new EU-wide minimum accessibility requirements for a range of products and services. This piece of EU legistion is a Directive, which means that it sets binding accessibility goals for EU Member States, who can decide how they achieve these goals.
The EAA is aligned with and complements other EU legislation tackling accessibility, such as the Web Accessibility Directive. While the Web Accessibility Directive applies to websites and apps of public sector bodies, the EAA also applies to the private sector and covers a wider range of products and services, including websites and mobile applications.
The Act came into force on 27 June 2019 and Member States have 3 years to transpose it into national law. This means they have to introduce new and/or update existing national legislation to comply with the EAA by June 2022. Businesses will then have a maximum of 3 years to prepare as they will need to comply with the EAA by no later then June 2025, when it will be fully in force.
The products and services covered by the EAA include:
- computers and operating systems
- ATMs, ticketing and check-in machines, payment terminals
- TV equipment related to digital television services
- telephony services and related equipment
- the 112 EU emergency number
- audio-visual media services such as television broadcast and related consumer equipment
- services related to air, bus, rail and waterborne passenger transport
- banking services
With regards to websites and mobile applications, the EAA has the same accessibility requirements as the Web Accessibility Directive.
Find out more about the EAA in the European Disability Forum toolkit on the transposition of the EAA.
7. Where can I find a list of policies on web accessibility in different countries?
The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) maintains an international list of laws and policies in different countries. This is currently being updated and expanded through the WAI-CooP Project.
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