Public websites to be accessible to all
(STRASBOURG) - The websites of hospitals, courts and other public sector bodies will have to be made accessible to disabled and elderly people, under new EU-wide rules approved by the European Parliament on Wednesday.
The web accessibility directive, already agreed by the Parliament and EU ministers, should make it easier for disabled and elderly people to access data and services on the internet, such as filing a tax return, applying for an allowance, paying fees or enrolling at university.
Parliament's rapporteur Dita Charanzova MEP said: "Today, we have ensured that e-government is accessible to everyone. Just as physical government buildings should be accessible, so too should the digital gateways".
She also looked forward to reform for private services, such as banks, television stations and private hospitals: "I hope that we can soon adopt the European Accessibility Act, so that both public and private services are accessible to all our citizens," she said.
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.
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 published in the Official Journal, EU Member States will have to transpose the directive 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.
Further information, European Parliament