COMMISSION STAFF WORKING DOCUMENT Accompanying document to the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions "Towards an accessible information society" Status and challenges of e-accessibility in Europe - Hoofdinhoud
COUNCIL OF Brussels, 4 December 2008
THE EUROPEAN UNION
16830/08 ADD 2
TELECOM 222 SOC 768 COMPET 555 RECH 419
from: Secretary-General of the European Commission,
signed by Mr Jordi AYET PUIGARNAU, Director
date of receipt: 2 December 2008
to: Mr Javier SOLANA, Secretary-General/High Representative
Subject: COMMISSION STAFF WORKING DOCUMENT Accompanying document to the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions "Towards an accessible information society" Status and challenges of e-accessibility in Europe
Delegations will find attached Commission document SEC(2008) 2916.
Encl.: SEC(2008) 2916
COMMISSION OF THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITIES
Brussels, 1.12.2008 SEC(2008) 2916
COMMISSION STAFF WORKING DOCUMENT
Accompanying document to the
COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, THE COUNCIL, THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL
COMMITTEE AND THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
“Towards an accessible information society”
Status and challenges of e-accessibility in Europe
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1.Introduction ................................................................................................................. 3
1.1. E-accessibility - who is concerned?........................................................................ 3
1.2. EU-level policy instruments...................................................................................... 4
2.1. E-accessibility state of play ...................................................................................... 6
2.1.1. Provision of accessible ICTs – the e-accessibility deficit ............................ 6
2.1.2. Non legislative EU level activities on e-accessibility .................................... 7
2.1.3. Legislative approaches.......................................................................................... 9
2.2. Further actions towards a coherent and effective approach for e-accessibility .................................................................................................................................... 12
2.2.1. Increasing coherence and timely action by cooperation and coordination............................................................................................................ 13
2.2.2. Supporting innovation and deployment.......................................................... 14
2.2.3. Facilitating standardisation activities.............................................................. 15
2.2.4. Legislation ............................................................................................................... 15
3.Web accessibility ..................................................................................................... 16
3.1.1. Relevance and state of play................................................................................ 16
3.2. Web accessibility activities ..................................................................................... 18
3.2.1. Non legislative activities supporting web accessibility.............................. 18
3.2.2. Legislative approaches........................................................................................ 20
3.3. Further web accessibility actions........................................................................... 21
3.3.1. Rationale for further action on web accessibility......................................... 21
3.3.2. Estimated costs of implementing web accessibility.................................... 22
3.3.3. Accelerating in a common way the realisation of modern web accessibility ............................................................................................................ 24
This staff working paper provides background information on the 2008 Communication “Towards an Accessible Information Society”. It deals with both e-accessibility in general and web accessibility as a specific priority. This staff working paper is based upon two study reports prepared for the Commission in 2008 on e-accessibility and web accessibility respectively (both with an extensive analysis of legislation in Member States, USA, and some other third countries, and at EU level), the public consultation held from July — September 2008, consultation workshops, the impact assessment of the 2007 e-Inclusion
Communication, the ‘MEAC’ study 1 , and a range of other documents quoted in the notes.
The paper first presents general information on e-accessibility (and web accessibility), namely who is concerned and which EU-level policy instruments are at our disposal. Section 2 of the paper deals with e-accessibility in general, presenting both non-legislative and legislative activities, and subsequently providing more background information for the action proposed in the Communication to achieve a more coherent and effective approach to improving eaccessibility.
Section 3 then deals in more detail with web accessibility. It presents the current state of play addressing both non-legislative and legislative activities, and then provides more background information on initiatives that are proposed in the Communication to accelerate web accessibility.
1.1. E-accessibility — who is concerned?
E-accessibility means overcoming the technical barriers and difficulties that people with
disabilities and others like elderly people experience when trying to participate on equal terms
in the information society. 2 It potentially concerns any type of information and
communication technology (ICT) used by citizens. Full e-accessibility is a huge challenge, as there is a wide range of disabilities and ICTs are constantly and rapidly evolving.
E-accessibility is of great importance for many citizens:
Up to 15% of the population across the European Union has a disability, such as a visual,
hearing, speech, cognitive, or motor impairment 3 .
The elderly population is also much concerned by e-accessibility as disability correlates
strongly with age. In the EU 27 countries about 16% of the population are over 65, a number
that is estimated to rise rapidly in the coming years 4 .
Many other citizens could also benefit from e-accessibility in adverse or special usage environments such as noisy environments, hands-free and poor lighting environments.
1 Study on ‘Accessibility to ICT Products and services by Disabled and Elderly People’ (reports eaccessibility
and web accessibility), ‘MeAC’ study (Measuring progress of e-accessibility in Europe), Report from the Public Consultation on web accessibility and other e-accessibility issues. All available at http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/einclusion/index_en.htm
2 COM(2005)425 i on e-accessibility. 3 Report of the Inclusive Communications (INCOM) subgroup of the Communications Committee
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The core group of disabled persons for whom e-accessibility is relevant comprises some 84
million persons in Europe, of which 50 million in the age range 15-64 and 34 million in the
age range 65 and above. 5
As there is a wide variety of impairments, needs are very diverse and likewise a great variety of solutions is needed. As shown in Figure 1 there are many barriers to ICT and many ICT- enabled products and services that may pose accessibility challenges to persons with disabilities, as well as many potential solutions.
Visual Visual impairments impairments Solutions Solutions Solutions Solutions Solutions Solutions Solutions Solutions Hearing impairments Hearing impairments
Design mainstream ICT products / services so that the visual Design mainstream ICT products / services so that the visual Ensure that audio outputs are adjustable in sound volume & quality Ensure that audio outputs are adjustable in sound volume & quality presentation can be adjusted by the users (e.g. displays with presentation can be adjusted by the users (e.g. displays with
adjustable font size, contrast, use of colours) adjustable font size, contrast, use of colours) Provide audio & other output modes as alternative Provide audio & other output modes as alternative
Barriers Barriers Barriers Barriers (e.g. vibrating) to audio signals (e.g. vibrating) to audio signals Provide speech, audio and other output Provide speech, audio and other output Barriers Barriers Barriers Barriers
modes as alternative to visual displays modes as alternative to visual displays Cannot read visual Cannot read visual Provide text captions enabling deaf people Provide text captions enabling deaf people
&status indicators on ICT products & status indicators on ICT products displays displays Cannot hear Cannot hear voice on telephone voice on telephone to follow the audio component of to follow the audio component of
Cannot see visual Cannot see visual TV broadcasts / videos TV broadcasts / videos
Provide second audio channel / track Provide second audio channel / track system status signals system status signals Cannot hear audio Cannot hear audio to narrate the visual component of to narrate the visual component of status signals status signals Provide text telephones & operator relay Provide text telephones & operator relay TV broadcasts / videos TV broadcasts / videos Cannot see Cannot see services enabling text phone users to visual web visual web Mobile phones Mobile phones
services enabling text phone users to communicate with voice phone users
Design ICT products/services so Design ICT products/services so content content interfere with interfere with
communicate with voice phone users
that they are compatible with that they are compatible with hearing aids hearing aids
assistive technologies for blind assistive technologies for blind Cannot watch Cannot watch Design mobile phones to minimise Design mobile phones to minimise
users such as text-to-speech users such as text-to-speech TV broad TV broad Cannot hear Cannot hear interferences with hearing aids interferences with hearing aids TV audio
software software casts casts
Online content Online content Public Public
too difficult to too difficult to terminals terminals Design public telephones, ticket Design public telephones, ticket
Design online services and other Design online services and other understand understand unreachable unreachable machines, information kiosks, machines, information kiosks,
ICT-based products so that they ICT-based products so that they (e.g. complex (e.g. complex in wheelchair in wheelchair cash dispensers so that they are cash dispensers so that they are
are understandable and usable by are understandable and usable by language) language) accessible to wheel chair drivers accessible to wheel chair drivers
people with cognitive impartment people with cognitive impartment Interfaces Interfaces Interface / menu Interface / menu (e.g. simple/consistent menu structure, (e.g. simple/consistent menu structure, requiring too fine requiring too fine too complex too complex Design key pats, touch screens Design key pats, touch screens consistent use of icons , easy language) consistent use of icons , easy language) manipulation manipulation to use to use Cannot talk to voice-based Cannot talk to voice-based skills skills and other interfaces to cater for people and other interfaces to cater for people services & systems such as services & systems such as with dexterity problems (e.g. less sensitive, with dexterity problems (e.g. less sensitive, Design online services and other ICT-based Design online services and other ICT-based call centres & interactive call centres & interactive better spaced, larger buttons) better spaced, larger buttons)
products to accommodate age related products to accommodate age related response services response services
changes in information processing capabilities changes in information processing capabilities
(e.g. lower reaction speed, less fine motor (e.g. lower reaction speed, less fine motor Provide alternative to speech input in Provide alternative to speech input in Design ICT products/services so that Design ICT products/services so that
skills, reduced memory capacity) skills, reduced memory capacity) interactive voice systems interactive voice systems they are compatible with assistive they are compatible with assistive technologies for people with dexterity technologies for people with dexterity
impairments (e.g. alternative input devices) impairments (e.g. alternative input devices) Provide text telephones & operator relay Provide text telephones & operator relay services enabling text phone users to communicate with services enabling text phone users to communicate with
voice phone users voice phone users Physical & Physical &
Cognitive impairments Cognitive impairments Speech impairments Speech impairments mobility impairments mobility impairments
Figure 1 Barriers to e-accessibility and solutions
1.2. EU policy instruments
In the early 90’s e-accessibility was addressed through the EU’s Framework programmes for research and technological development. Ten years later e-accessibility became part of the broader research theme of e-inclusion, first through telematics for elderly people and people
with disabilities, then through the 6 th and 7 th Framework programmes. Research on eaccessibility
was complemented by work on European standards.
In the second half of the 90’s e-accessibility gradually became an integrated part of European policy on the Information Society. The policy approach had several aims, including to encourage cooperation of stakeholders (people with disabilities and other users, ICT industry and authorities), to provide political guidance and to benchmark progress.
In particular a dedicated chapter on e-Accessibility was available in the eEurope initiative.
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At the same time, references to e-accessibility started to appear in EU legislation related to the ICT sector, notably in the telecommunication Directives (currently called ‘electronic communications’ Directives), and the radio & telecommunication terminal equipment directive (R&TTE Directive), as explained in section 2. Non-ICT sectoral legislation also incorporated explicit and implicit references to persons with disabilities and to e-accessibility, notably in the field of copyright, public procurement and structural funds regulations. General EU legislation on equal rights explicitly covers disability and implicitly rights of disabled people to use ICT, namely the Employment Equality Directive and most recently the proposal for a Council Directive on “implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation”. Details on this EU legislation are provided in Section 2.1.2.
For e-accessibility policy in general, and web accessibility policy in particular, several instruments exist at EU level. This is further developed in section 2.1.2.
2.1. E-accessibility state of play
This chapter provides a short overview of the current state of provision of accessible ICTs, followed by an overview of current non-legislative and legislative measures at EU-level regarding e-accessibility. Then a short overview is given of legislative measures in Member States and third countries. Finally, an explanation is provided for the action proposed by the 2008 Communication “Towards an Accessible Information Society”.
2.1.1. Provision of accessible ICTs — the e-accessibility deficit
The ‘MeAC’ 6 study conducted for the European Commission in 2006-2008 provides an
extensive analysis of the e-accessibility situation in the Member States and in some third countries. One of the main findings is that people with disabilities in Europe continue to face many barriers when using everyday ICT products and services that are now essential aspects of social and economic life.
This lack in e-accessibility can be found across the spectrum of ICT products and services, for example telephony, TV, web and self-service terminals. The following striking examples of the state of play of e-accessibility (as at end 2007 unless otherwise indicated) point to the barriers encountered by people with disabilities:
Text relay services (essential for the deaf and speech impaired) are only available in half of the Member States and emergency services are directly accessible by text telephone in only seven Member States.
Mobile operators in only seven Member States provide dedicated information for customers with disabilities on their websites.
On average, less than one-third of national language broadcasts of main public broadcasters in Europe were provided with subtitling (for deaf people) in 2006; there is wide variability (from 95% to none) in the amount of subtitling across individual countries.
On average, less than one-tenth of national language broadcasts of main commercial broadcasters in Europe were provided with subtitling in 2006; most of this is provided in just a few countries.
Public broadcasters in only five Member States provided any of their programmes with audio description (for the visually impaired) in 2006 and, where they did, the levels provided amounted to a very small percentage of their overall programming.
Only a very small proportion of key government websites in the Member States meet the accepted minimum international standards on accessibility (12.5% passed automated testing and only 5.3% passed both automatic and manual examination).
The share of key commercial/sectoral websites (e.g. railways, TV, newspapers, retail banking) providing this minimum level of accessibility is even lower (only 3.9% passed automated testing while not a single site passed both automatic and manual testing).
Only in six Member States has one of the leading retail banks installed ATMs with ‘talking’ output (enabling self-service for customers with visual impairments). Across countries, on average only 8% of all ATMs installed by the main retail banks in the EU of 25 Member States provide this output, with the bulk of this provided in just a few countries.
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2.1.2. Non legislative EU action on e-accessibility
220.127.116.11. Research support
Sustained R&D in e-accessibility is important, as ICTs evolve rapidly and as new eaccessibility challenges appear. An example is digital television, whose menus are hard to navigate for people with dexterity or cognitive impairments or persons with reading difficulties (including some of the dyslexic, illiterate or foreign language speakers that in several countries represent a significant portion of the population).
Equally important, new technologies offer new opportunities to address participation barriers for persons with disabilities. A good example is direct brain-computer interaction by which a severely motor-disabled person (e.g. only able to blink an eye) is able to control devices ‘just’ by thinking.
Related to e-accessibility research is the Ambient Assisted Living joint research programme, (AAL) launched in 2008 to stimulate innovative ICT-based solutions for independent living and the prevention and management of chronic conditions of elderly people including their
related disabilities 7 .
For several years the approach in EU R&D has been that accessibility is best not “patched onto” existing mainstream technology, but rather designed into mainstream technology from the outset. This universal design or design for all approach is believed to deliver a double benefit: firstly, technology that nearly anyone can use, including disabled persons; and secondly, cheaper e-accessibility. Specific research on assistive technology has also been undertaken. Current R&D work on e-accessibility therefore seeks to embed e-accessibility into modern mainstream ICT (e.g. mobile communications, navigation systems, home
systems, personal computers and web) 8 as well as continued work on assistive technology.
The mainstreaming approach to e-accessibility also enables a better alignment between research and e-accessibility policy in general. Notably, research should deliver technical specifications that can provide input for formal or informal standardisation and thus can become reference points for “soft” or “hard” legislation. For example current audiodescription
9 legislation in the UK is based on research work undertaken in the 90’s with European funding under the TIDE programme 10 . The alignment of e-accessibility research
and other policy measures (deployment support, standardisation, legislative measures) is not always addressed in a systematic way.
18.104.22.168. Deployment / innovation support
The ICT Policy Support Programme, a sub-programme of the Competitiveness and
Innovation Programme (CIP ICT PSP) 11 provides support for innovation and deployment in eaccessibility.
It can fund deployment pilots that validate technology solutions in real-life settings and business models in line with European policy goals, as well as fund thematic networks for cooperation between stakeholders, exchanging best practice and benchmarking.
8 An overview of e-accessibility EU funded R&D projects and related work in independent living of
elderly which include a strong component of e-accessibility is available at: http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/einclusion/research/index_en.htm .
9 A voice-over of television programmes that describes the scenes for better understanding of visually
10 Telematics for the Integration of Disabled and Elderly people.
11 www.ec.europa.eu/cip .
As regards e-accessibility, the CIP is potentially a very important instrument: since the eaccessibility market is fragmented, deployment validation can deliver the evidence needed for industry and authorities to accept e-accessibility solutions across the board.
The CIP work programmes for 2007 and 2008 finance pilot schemes on e-accessibility and ICT for ageing.
22.214.171.124. Standardisation: Mandate 376
Standards are important to coordinate e-accessibility efforts across Europe. They are needed both in general to ensure a common understanding and application of e-accessibility principles, and more specifically to provide a yardstick against which e-accessibility can be assessed.
In 2005 the Commission issued a mandate 12 to the European Standardisation Organisations
(ESOs) to develop common requirements for ICT in the field of public procurement, including conformance assessment mechanisms. The ESOs have the duty to establish efficient coordination mechanisms and to work in close cooperation with relevant stakeholders.
The main objectives of this mandate are to harmonise the accessibility requirements of public procurement of accessible ICT products and services, to identify a set of functional European requirements and to deliver European standards for e-accessibility. Mandate 376 will provide an electronic toolkit, enabling public procurers to make use of these harmonised requirements.
126.96.36.199. Measurement and benchmarking
An extensive survey of the implementation of e-accessibility provisions in the electronic communications Regulatory Framework was undertaken in 2006 by INCOM, the Inclusive
Communication subgroup under the Communications Committee (COCOM). 13 A significant
lack of progress in implementing these e-accessibility provisions was reported, with a clear indication that this was due to their non-mandatory character. This has motivated the Commission to propose a reinforcement of the provisions in the context of the revision of the Directives.
The MeAC study (referred to in the introduction) delivered a major report in 2007 which constitutes a primary reference on the current availability of accessible ICT and the extent and effectiveness of policies across Europe and third countries, including the USA.
The results of the study contributed to the ‘Riga Dashboard’, which measures progress on the targets for 2010 in digital inclusion agreed at the Riga Ministerial Conference on e-Inclusion in 2006. The first edition of this dashboard was published at the end of 2007 together with the
Communication on e-Inclusion. 14
188.8.131.52. Awareness and promotion
Exchange of best practices is supported through the ePractice portal 15 . In order to enhance the
visibility and recognition of good practices, the Commission launched in 2008 an e-Inclusion
12 http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/policy/accessibility/deploy/pubproc/eso-m376/index_en.htm . 13 COCOM is the regulatory committee following the implementation of the electronic communication
directives. INCOM 2006 report is available at: http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/einclusion/groups/index_en.htm .
Award scheme 16 in which e-accessibility is one of the 7 categories. The MeAC study created a website providing country reports, benchmarking results and other relevant information. 17
Industry, non-profit organisations and authorities regularly organise e-accessibility events. The European Commission also organises events on e-inclusion, including e-accessibility aspects, such as the ministerial conference on e-inclusion, in Vienna, from 30 November — 2
December 2008. 18
184.108.40.206. Cooperation and coordination
Several groups collate information and draft policy papers in the field of e-accessibility:
– INCOM addresses the state of play of implementing e-accessibility provisions in the electronic communications framework, as previously explained.
– A sub-group under TCAM 19 focused on real-time text, which is essential for hearing and
speech-impaired users to communicate via telephone and reach among others emergency services. No solution could be agreed upon although the discussions did lead to the Commission proposing a pilot scheme under the ICT-PSP work programme on total
conversation / accessible emergency services.
– The e-inclusion subgroup of the i2010 high-level group 20 held in-depth discussions on eaccessibility
and specific working sessions on web-accessibility. Participants in this
subgroup are representatives from Ministries most concerned with e-inclusion in general.
– The High level Group on disability that supports the Commission in the implementation of
the European Disability Action Plan 21 that covers, amongst other ICT, links with
disability policy in general.
– User-industry cooperation, notably on accessible digital television involved amongst
others EDF, AGE and EICTA 22 . An example was the e-Inclusion Partnership 23 , an
informal gathering of user organisations and ICT industry organised by the Commission.
Despite the above mentioned activities, systematic coordination and cooperation at European level that brings together all stakeholders and that addresses e-accessibility in a prospective rather than retrospective way is still lacking.
2.1.3. Legislative approaches
220.127.116.11. EU level
There is no specific EU legislation on e-accessibility. Nevertheless, there is sectoral legislation that, whilst e-accessibility is not the principal aim, does explicitly or implicitly include some e-accessibility-related provisions. However, coverage is limited as some sectors are not (clearly) covered by EU legislation: websites, mobile telephony services, TV equipment, computer hardware and software, consumer electronics, assistive technologies. Relevant sectoral EU legislation includes:
19 TCAM is the group created under the terminal equipment Directive (1999/5/EC).
22 European Disability Forum (EDF), the European Older People’s Platform (AGE) and the European
digital technology industry Association (EICTA).
Electronic Communications Regulatory Framework
The Framework Directive 24 on electronic communication requires national regulatory
authorities to promote equal choice, price and quality, and access to universal service for all
users, including disabled users. The Universal Service Directive 25 addresses a number of
issues relevant to e-accessibility of fixed telephony services, such as specific measures to ensure access and affordability for all, where appropriate; access to operator and directory services; access to emergency calls; availability/access to public payphones and special tariffs.
These provisions are limited in two regards: they only cover fixed telephony services (not mobile telephony or telephone equipment) and they are not compulsory. In practice, Member States have made limited use of these provisions.
In the context of the current revision of the EU Electronic Communications Directives, the Commission has proposed strengthening existing provisions (see section 2.2.4).
Terminal equipment covered by the R&TTE Directive 26
Article 3.3.f of the Directive entitles the Commission to propose an EC Decision establishing that some equipment should support certain features to facilitate use by users with a disability. So far, this option has not been used. This Directive is currently being reviewed.
Broadcast TV covered by the Audiovisual Media Services Directive 27
Article 3.c of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive states that Member States shall encourage media service providers to ensure that audio-visual media services are gradually made accessible to people with a visual or hearing disability. The Commission follows up on this provision with Member States and encourages its implementation.
Digital content covered by the copyright Directive 28
Article 5.3.b. of the copyright Directive allows Member States to make exceptions to copyright rules and protections to facilitate access for disabled people. A recently published
Green Paper 29 shows that, although Member States seem to have implemented the exceptions
to some extent, there is considerable variation across countries in the disabilities that are covered and requirements for some form of compensation to those holding the rights to use the works subject to the exception.
Goods and services covered by the Public Procurement Directive 30
The EU Public Procurement Directives of 2004 include provisions that encourage accessibility and design-for-all requirements to be included in public procurement. Practice shows that there is very little inclusion of accessibility requirements in public procurements of ICTs in Europe to date.
The Commission issued a mandate to the European Standardisation Organisations (see section 18.104.22.168) to draft standards and a toolkit to help public procurers (and suppliers) in Europe address e-accessibility requirements.
Equality legislation 31
Article 5 of the Employment Equality Directive requires employers to take reasonable measures to ensure equality of access to employment for people with disabilities, unless such measures impose a disproportionate burden on the employer. Accessibility to ICT is indirectly concerned as an adaptation to equipment ensuring access to employment.
In addition, the Commission has recently adopted a proposal for a horizontal Directive on equal treatment among others on access to and supply of goods and services, also covering
(even if not mentioned explicitly) ICT goods and services. 32 Article 4 of this proposal for a
Directive deals with effective and non discriminatory access for persons with disabilities and it is an important aspect of the EU’s work towards implementation of the United Nations
Convention on persons with disabilities 33 .
Other pieces of EU legislation contain provisions on ICT and people with disabilities, such as
legislation on value added tax and state aid exemptions. 34
22.214.171.124. Member State and third country legislation
The previously mentioned study carried out in 2008 on accessibility of ICT products and services for disabled and elderly people provides a comprehensive view of the legislative landscape across the Member States, and in some third countries.
Sectors covered by legislation
The pattern of sectoral coverage of e-accessibility legislation across the Member States closely mirrors that at EU level, with by far the most commonly covered sectors being fixed telephony services, TV broadcasting and public websites. All other sectors (e.g. private websites and mobile telephony) have only sparse coverage, with just a few examples of legislation addressing these sectors in some Member States. Looking at third countries, it is noteworthy that both Australia and the United States, and particularly the latter, have a much wider sectoral coverage than most EU Member States.
Almost all Member States have implemented the revised EU public procurement directives, the employment equality directive and the digital copyright directive.
32 COM (2008) 426 i.
34 Commission Regulation 800/2008 and COM(2008) 428 i.
Apart from this, in the absence of any EU legislation to date, a number of Member States have implemented anti-discrimination legislation in the field of goods and services, which address the accessibility of at least some commercial websites.
More generally, almost all Member States have some assistive technology legislation and / or public service provision in place to help people with disabilities acquire assistive technologies.
Horizontal or non-sector-specific legislation
Apart from legislation regulating specific ICT sectors, there are also examples of crosssectoral and/or non-sector-specific approaches in some Member States, covering a number of ICT sectors within a single e-accessibility policy framework or measure. However, such approaches are not widespread amongst Member States. At EU-level, there is no such crosssectoral measure in place.
There are two different types of cross-cutting legislative approaches in Member States and third countries, namely laws that make specific reference to ICTs in general and/or eaccessibility in particular and laws on broader disability (equality) themes, with an implicit eaccessibility component.
E-accessibility an explicit focus
Non-sectoral legislation that explicitly addresses e-accessibility issues can be found in some European countries, sometimes inspired by EU regulation such as the ‘employment equality’
Directive. 35 Several countries have introduced equality or other legislation that explicitly
addresses e-accessibility issues in a more cross-cutting manner. According to the different jurisdictions within which such legislation has been enacted, they vary in terms of scope and other legal characteristics. No uniform approach is apparent, and the various approaches each have their strengths and weaknesses. Aspects of various approaches might serve as models of good practice, but no single approach yet appears to provide a comprehensive and effective horizontal approach.
In the USA the ‘Section 508’ of the Rehabilitation Act is a key reference point. 36
Implicit coverage of e-accessibility
Although equality legislation may not necessarily make explicit reference to ICTs, it may nevertheless have an impact on e-accessibility. Examples are legislation encouraging accessibility in general, and legislation providing for active involvement of NGOs in oversight and enforcement mechanisms. In the USA the prime example of such legislation is the Americans with Disabilities Act.
2.2. Further action towards a coherent and effective approach for eaccessibility
E-accessibility has become a high priority on the EU policy agenda, with recognition of its importance not only to achieve the social objectives of the Union but also its competitiveness and internal market objectives. However, the impact assessment accompanying the einclusion
Communication of 2007 37 concluded that the field of e-accessibility was
inadequately addressed across Europe in terms of efficiency and effectiveness, coherence and
35 Directive 2000/78/EC i of 27 November 2000.
completeness of existing measures and the degree to which existing measures are futureproof. There is no reason to assume that this situation has drastically improved since 2007. Reinforcement of a general approach to e-accessibility would therefore still have to aim for further improvement in these criteria.
The range of policy measures, illustrating the need for coherence and for cooperation and coordination is shown in the diagram below.
General policy approach to e-accessibility
Overview of instruments
Policy guidance Legislation - e-communications
-Communications - R&TTE - Declarations - public procurement - Resolutions - anti-discrimination
R&D - i2010, disability policy groups
-Framework - Legal, standards committees Awareness
Programme - Industry & users dialogues -Best practice -AAL 169 -Benchmarking
-CIP ICT PSP sation
-Structural funds -ESOs. M376
Figure 2 General approach to e-accessibility — overview of policy instruments
A coherent and timely policy approach is proposed by the 2008 Communication “Towards an Accessible Information Society”. Coherence is needed because of the multi-sectoral and multi-dimensional range of issues to be addressed, as traditional boundaries blur, new themes emerge and technologies and markets change over time. A timely response is needed because ICT-based products and services continue to present major barriers to participation for large numbers of Europeans. In addition, the trend in fragmentation in the regulatory requirements being introduced across Member States may soon pose significant threats to the smooth functioning of the internal market.
An overall coherent e-accessibility approach would be desirable to address all such aspects. This is also strongly supported by the public consultation on e-accessibility and web accessibility. The approach consists of a mix of sector-specific measures and general eaccessibility measures. Background to these measures is provided in the remaining sections of this chapter and in chapter 3 on web accessibility.
2.2.1. Increasing coherence and timely action by cooperation and coordination
To ensure coherent and effective management and coordination of both web accessibility and e-accessibility issues, existing support for co-operation with and between stakeholders should be stepped up.
• A dedicated ad–hoc high level e-accessibility group is proposed in the Communication.
This would provide guidance for a coherent approach to e-accessibility at European level, and define priority action to improve e-accessibility. Representatives of key actors would collate work on existing priorities so that there is coherence between the necessary components (research and innovation, standardisation, legislation etc). Priority areas of work based on the public consultation and ongoing work are web accessibility, accessible digital TV, total conversation/accessible emergency services. PCs and self-service terminals are other priorities. This e-accessibility group will be reporting to the i2010 High Level Group, and financed through the budget foreseen for this in the CIP ICT PSP
programme. Budget only concerns a few meetings per year for about 20 experts.
• This group could receive input from and provide guidance to existing relevant groups, i.e.
i2010 e-inclusion subgroup, mandate 376, INCOM, TCAM, and the Disability High level group.
• As the measures proposed are not mandatory, there is a strong appeal for users and
industry to take efforts to step up cooperation.
• Moreover, continued monitoring of both web accessibility and general e-accessibility
progress and implementation mechanisms is necessary. Studies in 2009 are due to produce e-accessibility implementation reports as well as further details on costs and benefits of eaccessibility.
• Under the 2009 CIP-ICT Policy support programme, a new thematic network on eaccessibility
and web accessibility, as proposed by the Communication, will further enhance and support stakeholder cooperation and the collation of experience and good
• There is clearly a lack of awareness of possibilities and user needs. The 2008 public
consultation indicated strong support for information measures and exchanging best practice. The ePractice good practice exchange network on e-government, e-health and e Inclusion, has already amassed much expertise on e-accessibility. Further support for this portal is proposed.
2.2.2. Supporting innovation and deployment
The Commission proposes to actively continue supporting e-accessibility and ICT for independent living of elderly and disabled people through the EU research programme with a further call for proposals in 2009.
In addition to the CIP pilot schemes on accessible digital TV, which began started in 2008, and on total conversation/accessible ‘112’ emergency call (expected to start in 2009), the Commission proposes for 2009 that the CIP continues to support e-accessibility and ICT for ageing well (notably as mentioned before, through a network to exchange best practice, cooperate and measure e-accessibility and web accessibility). With the proposed schemes the mainstreaming approach to research and innovation will continue to be the red line of a common European approach.
The Structural Funds’ Regulation 38 requires that "accessibility for disabled persons shall be
one of the criteria to be observed in defining operations co-financed by the Funds and to be taken into account during the various stages of implementation" (Article 16).
38 Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006 i of 11 July 2006 laying down general provisions on the
European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund and the Cohesion Fund and repealing Regulation (EC) No 1260/1999 i
2.2.3. Facilitating standardisation activities
More than 90% of respondents to the public consultation considered standardisation and technical specifications a high or relevant priority for future EU action on e-accessibility.
Internationally, in particular, standards cooperation can be further pursued, notably with the US, in the context of the review of ‘Section 508’ of the US Rehabilitation Act (dealing with ICT) and the EU’s work on Mandate 376.
The ‘MEAC’ study shows a clear correlation at national level between the existence of
legislation and the current level of progress on e-accessibility. 39 Studies also point to the risks
of legal fragmentation in the EU due to different legislative measures. Based on this, and building on the 2005 Communication on e-accessibility and the 2007 Communication on e Inclusion, the Commission has explored a more general legislative approach to e-accessibility.
However, given the vast, complex and evolving nature of e-accessibility, there is not yet a clear consensus on EU legislation specifically targeting e-accessibility. In the public consultation, 90% of user organisations considered binding legislation a high priority, versus only 33% of industry and public authorities.
There are also many open questions on the aspects of EU legislation on e-accessibility such as its scope, standards, compliance mechanisms, links to existing legislation, mix of bottom-up
and top-down approach 40 , mix of sectoral and general legislative action. A particularly
relevant development is the recent proposal for a directive on equal treatment. Furthermore, although there is a clear consensus on the need to act jointly to improve e-accessibility, there are different views on the next priorities to tackle.
The 2008 Communication “Towards an Accessible Information Society” emphasises the various options under current EU legislation that remain under-used. In addition it stresses the need to explore the options for improving e-accessibility through several pieces of EU legislation that are, or will be soon, under review, or have recently been proposed, notably:
• Directive 1999/5/EC i on terminal equipment is under review: here the issue is whether to
activate Article 3.3.f for adopting specific accessibility provisions.
• The Commission recently tabled a proposal for a directive on equal treatment, which refers to access to and supply of goods and services which are available to the public and whose Article 4 guarantees compliance of the principle of equal treatment in relation to persons with disabilities. The final adoption of this Directive will contribute to the implementation of some provisions of the United Nation Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities.
• Legislative proposals for electronic communications include provisions on disabled users
in relation to: setting binding national commitments, emergency services, conditions to authorise service provision and representation of user interests in bodies responsible for implementation of legislation. These proposals are now in the process of adoption by the Council and European Parliament.
39 See the MeAC study and the study on accessibility to ICT products and services by disabled and elderly
40 Top down legislation imposes positive e-accessibility obligations, while bottom up legislation give
rights of redress/complaints on accessibility grounds.
3.W EB ACCESSIBILITY
3.1.1. Relevance and state of play
a)Relevance of web accessibility
Web accessibility gives people with disabilities the opportunity to perceive, understand, navigate, interact and contribute to the Web. The lack of web accessibility affects many people: people with disabilities; elderly people; people with dyslexia, low literacy or not fluent in the language; people with low-bandwidth connections, older technologies or devices with limited display or interaction capabilities and new web users. When web accessibility is implemented it also benefits people whose abilities change as they age. These persons can only make use of websites if they are properly designed and if they meet their specific needs (see Figure 3).
Web accessibility has become particularly important because of the explosive growth in online information and interactive services provided on the web, from online banking and shopping, dealing with government and public services to communicating with distant relatives. If web accessibility is not achieved, many people are at risk of being partially or totally excluded from the information society.
Visual impairments Visual impairments Solutions Solutions Solutions Solutions Solutions Solutions Solutions Solutions Hearing impairments Hearing impairments
Use flexible layouts that can be adapted by users to viewing needs Use flexible layouts that can be adapted by users to viewing needs Provide volume control when using sounds, background music, Provide volume control when using sounds, background music,
(e.g. size, formatting, colour and background colour of text) (e.g. size, formatting, colour and background colour of text) videos with sound etc. videos with sound etc.
Provide textual descriptions of images, graphs and animations (so Provide textual descriptions of images, graphs and animations (so Provide sign-language alternatives of all textual content for users that Provide sign-language alternatives of all textual content for users that
called “alt” text) that can be read by screen reader software called “alt” text) that can be read by screen reader software only speak sign-language, e.g. signing videos or animations only speak sign-language, e.g. signing videos or animations
Provide audio description of the visual part Provide audio description of the visual part Barriers Barriers Barriers Barriers Barriers Barriers Barriers Barriers Provide text alternatives of all relevant audio, Provide text alternatives of all relevant audio,
of multimedia content such as videos of multimedia content such as videos
Layout not adaptable to Layout not adaptable to e.g. sub-titles / captioning for videos e.g. sub-titles / captioning for videos
Provide content in a way that it can Provide content in a way that it can users viewing needs (e.g. users viewing needs (e.g. Cannot hear sound Cannot hear sound at all or at usual at all or at usual be read by screen reader software, be read by screen reader software, font-size, contrast) font-size, contrast) Avoid user alerts that are only based on Avoid user alerts that are only based on volume volume
e.g. by using valid HTML code e.g. by using valid HTML code sound and provide a visual alternative sound and provide a visual alternative
Cannot see visual Cannot see visual content (images / content (images / Cannot read textual Cannot read textual multimedia) multimedia) content due to illiteracy content due to illiteracy
Cognitive Cognitive Dexterity Dexterity (some deaf) (some deaf)
impairments impairments impairments impairments
Provide elements (like buttons, Provide elements (like buttons,
Structure large amounts of texts, Structure large amounts of texts, Difficulties hitting Difficulties hitting menu items, form fields) of menu items, form fields) of
e.g. by using headings and sube.g. by using headings and sub Difficult to Difficult to small elements on small elements on sufficient size and with sufficient sufficient size and with sufficient
headings or by breaking down headings or by breaking down understand large understand large the screen with the screen with amounts of amounts of mouse mouse margin to adjacent elements margin to adjacent elements
into several pages into several pages unstructured text unstructured text Cannot use Cannot use Alternatively, use flexible layouts Alternatively, use flexible layouts
Use images, icons or graphs in Use images, icons or graphs in keyboard instead keyboard instead that allow users to control the size that allow users to control the size Confused Confused
a sensible manner to illustrate a sensible manner to illustrate of mouse of mouse by animations, by animations, and formatting of those elements and formatting of those elements
textual content textual content sounds etc. sounds etc. Provide full support for keyboard-only Provide full support for keyboard-only Unable to response Unable to response users, e.g. by defining keyboard users, e.g. by defining keyboard
Avoid confusing, fast moving, Avoid confusing, fast moving, in given time limit in given time limit Confused by unintuitive / Confused by unintuitive / shortcuts shortcuts flashing animations and flashing animations and badly structured menus badly structured menus Long loading times Long loading times unexpected, loud, unexpected, loud, Avoid response mechanisms (like Avoid response mechanisms (like
Confused by complicated due to large due to large out-of-context sounds out-of-context sounds Confused by complicated pressing a button) that impose time pressing a button) that impose time amounts of data amounts of data
language, jargon language, jargon limits or ensure that time limits limits or ensure that time limits Viewing needs require Viewing needs require are not too restricted are not too restricted
adaptation of layout adaptation of layout
Low literacy Low literacy (small display) (small display) Provide easy, clearly structured menus, using Provide easy, clearly structured menus, using Slow connections, small displays etc. Slow connections, small displays etc.
labels that are familiar to users labels that are familiar to users Use flexible layouts that can be adapted by users to viewing needs Use flexible layouts that can be adapted by users to viewing needs
Avoid unnecessarily complicated language and jargon, provide Avoid unnecessarily complicated language and jargon, provide Make reasonable efforts to ensure that a website remains Make reasonable efforts to ensure that a website remains alternative easier descriptions and explanations of jargon or alternative easier descriptions and explanations of jargon or usable when the transmission of images and multimedia content usable when the transmission of images and multimedia content abbreviations abbreviations has been turned off by the user in order to save bandwidth has been turned off by the user in order to save bandwidth
Figure 3: Some web-related e-accessibility challenges and solutions b) EU policy measures
The importance of web accessibility has been recognised for many years by the European Institutions and Member States:
– In 2001 the Commission adopted a Communication on web accessibility, encouraging
Member States to endorse the Web Accessibility Initiative Guidelines 41 .
– In two Resolutions adopted in 2002 and 2003 42 , the Council stressed the need to
increase efforts to speed accessibility to the web and its content.
– The European Parliament suggested in 2002 that all public websites be fully accessible
to disabled persons by 2003, the European Year of Disabled Persons 43 .
– In 2005, the Commission Communication on e-accessibility 44 again drew attention to
the importance of EU-level policies in this field and the Ministerial Declaration on eInclusion at Riga in 2006 set as one of its priorities the promotion of inclusive eGovernment by ensuring accessibility of all public websites by 2010. However despite increasing awareness of authorities and other schemes, progress on web accessibility remains unsatisfactory. It was already clear at the end of 2007 that this objective would not be met, as only around 5% of public websites and only 3% of
commercial websites across the EU were sufficiently accessible.
– The Communication on e-Inclusion in 2007 45 called upon Member States to agree by
mid 2008 on a roadmap for accessibility of public websites.
c)Websites accessibility in Member States
When the MeAC study tested a sample of key public and sectoral/commercial websites in each Member State, only a very small percentage were found to meet accepted international accessibility standards.
– 12.5% and 5.3% of government websites were accessible for automated and manual
testing respectively .
– For sectoral/commercial websites, just 3.9% passed the automated test and none passed the manual test.
– These results mean that only a small proportion of key public websites (national governments, national parliament, and key ministries such as social, employment, health and education) meet the accessibility standards and the situation is even worse for key sectoral/commercial websites (e.g. railways, TC, newspapers, retail banking). In a few countries, the majority of the public websites tested met the standards, but in many none of them did.
Across the Member States the most common instruments used to promote and improve web accessibility are detailed technical guidance, support training schemes, monitoring and
41 COM (2001)529 i.
42 2002/C 8602 and 2003/C 39/03.
46 The automated test uses a software tool Test Accessibilidad Web (TAW) of the Spanish Fondacion
assessment of websites, various awareness campaigns, coordination with relevant stakeholders and research activities both at national and European level.
The public consultation showed that the majority of the respondents indicated that the above mentioned actions would contribute to a high level of availability of accessible web sites. (83.4% generally agreed, whilst 38.5% strongly agreed and only 4.9% disagreed). About one in ten respondents (11.8%) had no opinion. Also, a clear majority of respondents perceived the need to encourage intranet websites to be accessible. In addition, 94.3% of respondents agreed with the statement that Member States should seek alignment with international standards.
3.2. Web accessibility activities
3.2.1. Non legislative activities supporting web accessibility
An example of EU R&D input to technology developments is the link between the W3C Web
Accessibility and Ageing Task Forces 47 , supported for data collection and dissemination by the WAI-Age project 48 funded under the 6 th Framework Programme. This action aims at
better understanding the needs of the ageing community in the context of existing web accessibility guidelines. To this end, it provides a contribution from the ageing community into the work of the W3C in revising and complementing educational materials to better reflect the needs of the elderly and to pursue standards coordination in order to promote adoption and implementation of a common set of guidelines.
A cluster of research projects funded under the 6 th Framework Programme also investigated
the harmonisation of web accessibility measurement, resulting in an assessment methodology
(UWEM) 49 , a CEN Workshop Agreement on Specifications for a Web Accessibility Conformity Assessment Scheme and a Web Accessibility Quality Mark 50 .
b)Deployment / innovation support
In relation to deployment and innovation support, support can also come from the CIP programme. However, in the first two years of this programme (2007-2008), web accessibility was not singled out for funding.
c)Web accessibility standardisation
As regards web content, the current de facto standard is version 1 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 1.0) from W3C, although this is not a European standard. W3C has been working on version 2 of the guidelines (WCAG 2.0) for several years and is about to officially adopt it. These guidelines are the result of a long process involving many
47 World Wide Web Consortium: A vendor-neutral forum for the creation of de-facto standards for the
both when reviewing a web site, attributing quality marks or implementing an automatic surveillance observatory. Specifications for statistical indicators: http://www.eiao.net/publications/Indicator_refinement_FINAL_v1.31.pdf .
50 CEN workshop agreement:
specialised bodies and, when adopted, it will become the international reference for web accessibility.
W3C has developed three sets of guidelines to ensure web accessibility: Web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG), authoring tools accessibility guidelines (ATAG), and User
agents’ accessibility guidelines (UAAG) 51 , addressing website owners, providers of authoring
tools and providers of user agents (web browsers and related assistive technologies) respectively.
At European level, work continues on the Mandate 376, which closely follows the work of W3C/WAI.
Strong support was given for the coordination of web accessibility efforts across Europe in the public consultation.
Many Member States have developed national standards or regulations based on these W3C WAI guidelines.
d)Measurement and coordination
Both at national and European levels substantial measurement and benchmarking are being carried out. One of the most recent is the MeAC study, which reported at the end of 2007 the
finding of a severe lack of web accessibility, as mentioned above. 52
e)Awareness and promotion
In the specific field of web accessibility, the Commission supports the Web Accessibility
Benchmarking (WAB) Cluster of projects. 53 The cluster is developing an EU-harmonised
assessment methodology for Web accessibility, based on W3C/WAI and to be synchronised with the planned migration from WCAG1.0 to WCAG2.0. This should ensure that evaluation tools and methods developed for global monitoring or for local evaluation are mutually compatible and coherent (and with WAI).
Awareness and promotion campaigns are carried out in many countries. At European level, awareness and promotion campaigns were launched at Ministerial conferences and related exhibitions (Riga 2006, Lisbon 2007 and Vienna 2008), and the 2008 e-Inclusion Award in which e-accessibility, including web accessibility, is one of 7 best practice award categories. Best practices in web accessibility are promoted through the ePractice portal.
However, there remains a lack of awareness and promotion of web accessibility issues. Results from the public consultation confirm this: a large majority of respondents (over 90%) are in favour of more schemes to train relevant bodies, exchange best practice and provide information and guidance to people with disabilities.
51 www.w3c.org/WAI .
52 Another study was done in 2007 by Cap Gemini as part of the e-Government benchmark into
availability of online public services. In that case the presence of a web accessibility compliance mark was measured. National level measurement activities are extensively reported in the web accessibility
3.2.2. Legislative approaches
a)At European level
There are no specific web accessibility legislative measures at European level. However, some of the legislation on e-accessibility mentioned in section 2.1.3 also applies to web accessibility.
b)At Member States and third country level
In Member States, accessibility of public websites has received policy attention in recent years. However, there is considerable variation in terms of the type and nature of policy approaches implemented. The study report on web accessibility mentioned in the introduction gives a detailed overview of the situation and identifies key differences between Member States, e.g. in terms of:
Type of approach:
Six Member States have direct legislation on web accessibility (AT, DE, CZ, ES, FI, IT, SK), while others have indirect legislation (e.g. equal rights legislation) on web accessibility (F, IE, MT, UK). Other Member States have addressed web accessibility through non-legislative approaches of various types.
The majority of Member States focus only on public websites in their direct measures on web accessibility. The available evidence indicates that the scope of coverage of public websites varies; some Member States include all levels of government and public entities, whereas others only directly cover central government. One country (DE) explicitly covers the intranets of public bodies. In the few cases where commercial websites are directly covered (DE, IT, PT), this tends to be done through ‘encouragement’ measures.
Timeframe for web accessibility:
About half of the Member States have implemented a specific timeframe within which web accessibility is be achieved, with time horizons ranging from 2005 to 2010. In some countries (NL, SK, UK) new websites are given an immediate deadline whereas existing websites are given some time to adapt.
W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 1.0) represent a major reference point in almost all Member States that have put in place some type of measure. A few countries have developed variants, based on national norms and/or the US section 508 standards (CZ, IT, NL, SE). Most countries refer to WCAG 1.0 single A and/or double A requirements; triple A requirements are referenced to a lesser extent. The forthcoming WCAG 2.0 guidelines seem to have been formally addressed by only one Member State (DE).
Support for web owners:
The evidence available suggest that the countries (AT, DE, DK, UK) that have adopted dedicated measures to support web owners in implementing accessibility-related policies focus on three key aspects: awareness rising, networking of relevant actors and organisational capacity building.
Enforcement is not very visible in the majority of countries. Where it is the case, it tends to be based on persuasion (e.g. through award schemes, “naming and shaming”). Penalties for noncompliance are only apparent in a few countries (ES, FR, IT, SK).
In the majority of countries conformity assessment schemes have not been put in place; only in three Member States have these schemes so far been set up as part of a dedicated government policy (AT, NL, IT). In some countries voluntary web accessibility labelling schemes have emerged, operated by NGOs or commercial parties.
Benchmarking of accessibility of web sites has been identified in less than half of the Member States; where it happens, annual benchmarking has remained an exception. The various monitoring efforts pursued so far vary greatly in terms of scope (e.g. number and types of websites sampled) and methods applied (e.g. accessibility criteria applied, self-evaluation vs. external evaluation); it is thus difficult to compare outcomes across countries.
As regards third countries, it is important to mention the USA: Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act specifically provides that federal agency websites must be accessible to federal employees and the general public. Federal contractors also are bound by this mandate. The obvious strength of Section 508 is its clear applicability to federal websites as provided by statute. Its weakness lies in the reliance on individuals with disabilities to bring about enforcement by filing complaints.
3.3. Further web accessibility actions
3.3.1. Rationale for further action on web accessibility
There is clear consensus on the importance of accessing the internet, the modest achievements to date as regards web accessibility, and the need for further action to improve the situation.
Since there are no EU legislative provisions on web accessibility, the main responsibility for improving web accessibility remains with the Member States and individual service providers. Nevertheless, as explained in the Communication “Towards an Accessible Information Society” further action can also be taken at EU level. The overall goal would be, by better coordinating Member States’ action, to reinforce, accelerate and extend existing efforts to remove accessibility barriers that prevent citizens, government and business in Europe from realising the full potential of the web.
The key objective would then be to accelerate web accessibility (in order to fulfil the Riga target of accessibility of 100% of public websites by 2010). A second objective would be to overcome fragmentation in web accessibility specifications caused by uncoordinated approaches in Member States over the years. In this respect the timing is right given the move to new web specifications. Specifically, two important future developments in web accessibility are the official adoption by W3C of WCAG 2.0, expected in the near future and the establishment of a European standard on web accessibility as an outcome of Mandate 376.
Preparing the ground for these — in a way that avoids the fragmentation of the past — would mean jointly anticipating compliance and preparing migration towards the modern technical requirements for accessible websites by Member States, website owners, authoring tools providers and providers of user agents. Currently the best reference point for these technical requirements — in absence of a European standard — is WCAG 2.0 as the guidelines are not
yet approved. 54
While binding web-accessibility legislation might be expected to have a stronger and more consistent impact across the Member States, for practical purposes such legislation would require the availability of the relevant standard. For this reason the schemes in the Communication, for which additional background is presented below, focus on the preparation for a swift implementation of the new standard.
3.3.2. Estimated benefits and costs of implementing web accessibility
There is no definitive picture available of the costs of web accessibility for websites owners. Part of the reason for this is that costs vary according to many different factors. However, it is generally accepted that costs are typically much lower at the design stage than the costs of retrofitting accessibility for existing websites. Costs are likely to increase with increasing size and complexity of websites, particularly for retrofitting existing websites. The evidence suggests that costs are often overestimated and they have tended not to be considered excessive by the courts when action is taken by disabled people on grounds of
inaccessibility 55 .
Despite the likely variability in costs according to the circumstances, the available evidence to date suggests that costs of accessibility would not represent an undue burden for web owners in most cases.
Alongside costs, benefits should also be taken into account. The study on ‘the accessibility to ICT products and services for disabled and elderly people’ (mentioned in the introduction) provides a detailed model of the cost-benefits of investment in web accessibility linked to transaction cost savings from citizens using eGovernment services. Based on the available evidence, the model takes a range of estimates for the additional costs associated with making public websites accessible in the Member States and examines how the cost-benefit implications vary with increasing ‘reach’ to the disabled and older people, who would otherwise be excluded through lack of accessibility.
The model makes a number of assumptions:
(1) The costs of annual spending on online public web sites are extrapolated from UK data from 2004 to 2007 and from the EU-25, correcting for the actual online public services availability of each country. The empirical data available on the additional costs for making a website accessible are limited. Therefore the model allows these costs to be taken as a variable (see the column headings in the table below, with additional costs varying from 2% to 30%).
(2) The additional costs are the same for all government websites (which is in fact very unlikely as it is estimated that at least 40% of current government websites may be quite close to being accessible and relatively easily made accessible so that even 20% would be a reasonable upper limit to costs at this point in time).
54 WCAG 2.0 was published as a W3C Proposed Recommendation on 3 November 2008.
55 For example, in Australia in the context of a judgment in favour of a complaint against the
inaccessibility of the Sydney Olympics website the courts brought in expert witnesses and a commission determined that it would cost relatively little (and a lot less than was originally estimated) to make the site accessible. The site’s creator estimated for instance that fixes would cost around US$2.2 million. Experts’ cost estimates were $29 450.00. C. f: Olympic Failure: Tom Worthington: A
Case for Making the Web Accessible.
(3) There is the same level of recurring costs per annum. This also is a conservative assumption as in many cases the costs of maintaining accessibility should be a lot lower than the initial (retrofit) costs, especially if good design principles are adopted at an early stage.
(4) Government cost savings per transaction of €18.22, which is a conservative estimate (based on data from the UK).
(5) On average an online citizen will use online government services (of any type) twice a year.
(6) Consumer benefits are calculated taking average time savings of 69 minutes by using online instead of ‘traditional’ services (data from EU-15, Norway, Iceland). Time savings are valued on the basis of actual consumer wages in each country. Consumer costs of PC and Internet connection are not taken into account (as these are likely not specifically incurred for consumers carrying out transactions with government).
The analysis shows that the overall cost-benefit return becomes increasingly positive as cost estimates for accessibility go down and additional reach percentages go up. Most cost/reach scenarios are positive for governments and only the highest cost and lowest reach ones are negative.
Reach Additional costs to achieve website accessibility
amongst Economic costs-benefit 2% 5% 15% 30%
target categories group government costs for e-accessibility -24,256,800 -60,641,999 -181,925,997 -363,851,994
government transaction cost savings 158,223,882 158,223,882 158,223,882 158,223,882
5% net government costs/benefits 133,967,082 97,581,883 -23,702,115 -205,628,112
consumer benefits 153,112,707 153,112,707 153,112,707 153,112,707
total cost/benefit 287,079,790 250,694,590 129,410,592 -52,515,405
government costs for e-accessibility -24,256,800 -60,641,999 -181,925,997 -363,851,994
government transaction cost savings 316,447,764 316,447,764 316,447,764 316,447,764
10% net government costs/benefits 292,190,964 255,805,765 134,521,767 -47,404,230
consumer benefits 306,225,415 306,225,415 306,225,415 306,225,415
total cost/benefit 598,416,379 562,031,180 440,747,181 258,821,184
government costs for e-accessibility -24,256,800 -60,641,999 -181,925,997 -363,851,994
government transaction cost savings 632,895,528 632,895,528 632,895,528 632,895,528
20% net government costs/benefits 608,638,729 572,253,529 450,969,531 269,043,534
consumer benefits 612,450,829 612,450,829 612,450,829 612,450,829
total cost/benefit 1,221,089,558 1,184,704,358 1,063,420,360 881,494,363
Table 1 Cost-benefit modelling for accessible eGovernment: net cost-benefit p.a. (in €, EU 25)
The overall cost-benefit (for governments and users) is only negative in the least favourable cost-reach scenario (30% additional costs for achieving web accessibility and 5% increase in reach). In the most favourable scenario (2% additional costs for web accessibility and a 20% increase in reach) the model suggests total estimated benefit of more than €1.2 billion.
In addition to the benefits of reaching core groups (people with disabilities and older people with functional limitations) there are also the benefits of reaching and/or providing better usage experiences for other groups, such as those using low bandwidth connections, using mobile phones or other small display devices and the like. Other tangible benefits can also be
achieved because accessible design requires attention to good design principles 56 . These
include increased search engine optimisation, enhanced usability for all users and technical benefits such as lower site maintenance costs, reduced server load, improved interoperability and preparation for advanced technologies. These benefits can result in substantial economic benefits in terms of increased business reach and direct cost savings through reduced personnel costs, amount of server capacity needed and avoiding the need for multiple versions
of a site for different user devices 57 .
3.3.3. Accelerating in a common way the realisation of modern web accessibility
A common approach for web accessibility at European level is supported by 96% of respondents to the public consultation. Success of a common European approach relies mainly on Member States, individual service providers and the Commission. A common approach should address accelerated and coherent (joint) preparation for the new international guidelines WCAG 2.0 and the outcome of Mandate 376 as well as awareness and promotion.
There is broad consensus that WCAG 2.0 guidelines are the technical specifications to be met for web accessibility. Once W3C reaches agreement on the guidelines, European Standardisation can be completed within the framework of Mandate 376.
To prepare for a swift incorporation of the new specifications into national rules and actively promote their implementation, Member States should take the following steps:
– Update the rules to take account of the new specifications (or adopt rules where accessibility requirements do not yet exist).
– Ensure the requirements are made public and visible (e.g. through a single contact point, see below).
– Translate the specifications and accompanying documentation to ensure a proper understanding and implementation at national level.
– Follow the same timeline for updating and publication, so that Member States are in a position to compare their choices for aspects of the WCAG 2.0 specification and Mandate 376 results and seek alignment in order to avoid fragmentation and reduce efforts (economies of scale).
To improve implementation of web accessibility, it is suggested that Member States set up a list of the websites from their national authorities that should be accessible by 2010. As soon as this list is available, the websites concerned can begin preparations. By comparing the lists fragmentation can be addressed. Together with this list Member States would be expected to set targets (such as the level of accessibility to reach) and milestones (i.e. deadlines). Again, this is also information that should be made public. By making their intranets accessible Member States also are in a better position to comply with the Employment Equality Directive, which requires employers to take reasonable measures to ensure employment of persons with disability in the cases where accessible intranets would be part of the accommodation required.
To better leverage awareness and information, Member States can play an active role by supporting training schemes which are essential for bodies such as websites designers, ICT
56 Shawn Lawton Henry (2006) Understanding web accessibility. In: Thatcher et al (2006) Web
Accessibility, Web Standards and Regulatory Compliance.
57 Customer Respect Group (2008): Accessibility and Business Value Study.
tools providers, web content providers, etc. In such training schemes direct involvement of persons with disabilities is desirable to understand their needs and expectations.
Member States can also encourage non public websites providing services of general interest to be made accessible. 93% of respondents to the public consultation agree that the common European approach should not merely address public websites but also other websites providing services of general interest. The aim here is to ensure that people with disabilities are not excluded from essential services (see the detailed explanation of services of general
interest in the related Communication 58 ).
In terms of supporting the exchange of practices, a role can be played by the ePractice portal as the one stop shop to exchange advice, experiences and events on practices of e Government, e-Health and e-Inclusion. ePractice offers the most complete information and exchange opportunities for these areas in Europe. Real life cases, insight and lessons learnt are shared. It represents a real bridge between these communities, as there is a wealth of interesting lessons to be learnt.
An important task is to improve the awareness and understanding of web accessibility. Problems of accessibility often stem from a lack of proper information. Member States can make sure that persons with disabilities receive sufficient and clear information on web accessibility. This should also include information on how to use assistive technology in relation to websites.
For better visibility and support, an accessibility statement on a website can provide useful information such as the accessibility policy of the website, compliance with relevant specifications and support for persons with disabilities. It can be presented in the way “privacy statements” or other “legal information” is available in many websites today. It can of course be linked to a certification and labelling scheme if that exists. The general level of agreement in the public consultation in favour of such a statement was 89%.
Reporting on web accessibility implementation is crucial to assess the situation and progress made and to decide on further steps. In order to reduce fragmentation Member States can work together to develop a common assessment and monitoring methodology. Assessment and reporting should then also concern compliance and costs for web accessibility. Likewise, collecting user input is key to comprehensively assess the situation and better understand their needs and expectations.
Lastly, a single national contact point has already been raised as a one stop shop to find web accessibility related information and a single entry point for stakeholders. It can simply take the form of a website.
The Commission uses an Information Provider’s Guide 59 which is mandatory for webmasters,
editors, content providers and others dealing with websites in the Commission. This set of standards and guidelines includes a chapter on e-accessibility that currently makes direct reference to WCAG 1.0 from W3C. Action from the Commission includes updating the Guide and strengthening the internal policy towards web accessibility.
Although Member States have the prime responsibility of ensuring swift implementation of modern accessibility requirements, this does not prevent the Commission from proposing legislative measures at a later stage where necessary.
58 COM(2007) 725 i.
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