What is the EU Web Accessibility Directive?

There’s no doubt the internet plays a significant, and growing, part in the way we live. We book flights online, secure hotel reservations, apply for jobs, do banking, make doctor’s appointments and research the web for offers and information that is relevant to us.  But there’s still a huge number of people in the EU unable to do this due to inaccessible websites. 

With the deadline for compliance with the EU Web Accessibility Directive fast approaching, are you ready?

Image with text EU Directive on Accessibility

Approximately 80 million people with disabilities may not be able to access even the most basic digital public services.

With this in mind, the European Parliament introduced the ‘Web Accessibility Directive’ in an effort to compel public sector organisations to make provision in their websites and mobile apps, for users with disabilities - here’s the original news release from October 2016.

What are the enforcement dates?

We’re halfway through the dates for enforcement, and by now all member states should have put the directive into law (enforced from 23 September 2018), and any NEW website or application published after this date were subject to the directive (enforced from 23 September 2019).

Therefore, if your presence in the digital world is fairly new, you could be breaking the law if your website or app does not comply with web accessibility standards.

Upcoming enforcement dates refer to all remaining websites and applications, and outline that:

  • All websites published before 23 September 2018 will be subject to the directive from 23 September 2020 
  • All mobile apps will be subject to the directive from 23 September 2021 

So, how can you make sure you meet the standards? 

The web accessibility directive outlines that public service providers must ‘take the necessary measures to make websites and mobile applications more accessible by making them perceivable, operable, understandable and robust’.

Kelly Smith from Government Digital Service (GDS) stated that public sector bodies were expected to “evaluate the accessibility of their websites and mobile applications”, and from there they should “fix any issues and provide detail of this in an accessibility statement hosted on their website. If there are areas of inaccessible content, the organisation responsible will have to explain the way in which the content is not accessible and the reason for it. They will also have to provide accessible alternatives where appropriate.” 

When it comes to the aforementioned accessibility statement, this refers to the provision of a ‘regularly updated, detailed, comprehensive and clear accessibility statement on the compliance of your websites and mobile applications [in line] with this directive’.

Where can you get support? 

We know that your website is probably the most important tool you have to communicate your services to your citizens, and beyond the legal significance for web accessibility, we know that it’s your goal for your web content to be accessible to every one of your citizens all of the time. As your website constantly evolves, we know that achieving web accessibility is not an easy feat - but we’re all in it together, to support one another in making the digital world more inclusive for all.

We've pulled together lots of resources to help you make your website more accessible, which you can find in our dedicated web accessibility resources area - you'll find free guides, webinars, blogs and more. 

What extra tools can I provide to support my online visitors?

At Texthelp we’re big champions of Universal Design principles - building accessibility into any digital resource is always good news, and extra features can have benefits for every user, regardless of whether they’ve got disabilities or not.

As you follow web accessibility guidelines to help you comply with the EU Web Accessibility Directive, you'll be creating and designing content with inclusivity in mind. To help support your efforts, there are tools such as ReachDeck. ReachDeck is software which helps you to improve the accessibility, readabiltiy and reach of your online content.

Discover more about the benefits ReachDeck, or try it for free.


Further reading

For further reading, here’s the legislation - EU Directive on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies.

For something a little more digestible, read what our nordic partners Funka - who were closely involved in the development of the Directive - have to say about it.