Council and EP agree on more accessible websites across Europe
The current Dutch EU Council Presidency and the European Parliament reached an informal "trilogue" agreement together with the European Commission last week, on a new directive to make public sector websites and mobile applications more accessible, especially for especially for the blind, the deaf and the hard of hearing and those with low vision and with functional disabilities. The draft directive is the first EU-wide set of rules requiring member states to ensure that public sector websites and mobile applications meet European accessibility standards. According to the European Commission, around 80 million people in the EU are affected by a disability. As the EU population ages, the figure is expected to increase to 120 million by 2020. A common approach to ensure web accessibility is expected to contribute to an inclusive digital society and to unlocking the benefits of the Digital Single Market, for all European citizens.
The new rules will apply both to websites and mobile applications (apps) of public sector bodies. These include state, regional and local authorities, and bodies and associations serving the general interest that are governed by public law, thus ranging from administrations, courts and police departments to public hospitals, universities and libraries.
The agreed text of the Directive:
- covers websites and mobile apps of public sector bodies with a limited number of exceptions (e.g. broadcasters, livestreaming).
- refers to the standards to make websites and mobile apps more accessible. For example, such standards foresee that there should be a text for images or that websites can be browsed without a mouse which can be difficult to use for some people with disabilities.
- requires regular monitoring and reporting of public sector websites and mobile apps by Member States. These reports have to be communicated to the Commission and to be made public.
The text of the draft directive will now have to be formally approved by the European Parliament and the Council, as the next step. After that it will be published in the EU's Official Journal and will officially enter into force. Member States will then have 21 months to adopt national legislation to comply with it.
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