Citizens with disabilities, and older people with special needs, will have broader access to most public-sector websites and mobile applications, according to an EU law voted today by the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
Speaking after the vote in Strasbourg, Dublin MEP Nessa Childers said: “This directive is an important step towards an inclusive digital society. It will ensure that public-sector bodies’ websites and mobile applications are accessible to everyone. We live in a digital age. All citizens – including those who are blind, deaf or live with any disability – must be treated equally when it comes to access to information. Sometimes just one click on the corner of a computer screen or an audio command can make a huge difference. This directive is a first step. We hope that we will be able extend this proposal to public broadcasters and major websites in the private sector.”
Website Accessibility Directive
Under the new rules, the websites and mobile apps of public sector bodies – from administrations, courts and police departments to public hospitals, universities and libraries – will have to meet common accessibility standards. MEPs ensured that apps used on mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, must also comply with these rules.
Public sector bodies will have to provide and regularly update a “detailed, comprehensive and clear accessibility statement” on the compliance of their websites and apps with the directive, including an explanation for those parts of the content that are not accessible, and the reasons for that inaccessibility. A “feedback mechanism” will have to be put in place to enable users to report compliance issues and to request specific information if content is inaccessible.
On-demand access to certain types of content
Some types of content are excluded from the scope of the directive, but only if they are not needed for administrative processes, such as office file formats, pre-recorded time-based media or the content of archived websites. MEPs ensured that public sector bodies will have to make this excluded content accessible to any person upon request (on-demand access).
Public sector bodies will have to give an “adequate response to the notification or request within a reasonable period of time”, and provide a link to an “enforcement procedure” for use in the event of an unsatisfactory response to the feedback or on-demand request. Member states will have to designate an authority tasked with monitoring and enforcing these rules.
Around 80 million people in the EU have a disability. As the EU’s population ages, the number of people with disabilities or age-related internet access difficulties is expected to increase to 120 million by 2020.
Once the directive is published in the EU Official Journal, member states will have to transpose it into their national laws within 21 months of its date of its entry into force. They then have 12 months to apply the provisions to new websites, 24 months to apply them to existing websites and 33 months to apply them to public sector bodies’ mobile applications.