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The Council of the European Union has agreed on the draft text of the EU Web Directive on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies this week. This legislation, which is comparable to Section 508 in the US, will require that public sector websites, mobile apps, and technology be accessible to users with disabilities.

This legislation uses the European Standard EN301-549 which incorporates the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 guidelines, which are the international voluntary consensus standards for accessibility.  The draft text references the principles outlined by WCAG:

The 4 principles of accessibility are: perceivability, meaning that information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive; operability, meaning that user interface components and navigation must be operable; understandability, meaning that information and the operation of user interface must be understandable; and robustness, meaning that content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.

Exclusions to the directive:

  • Websites and mobile apps of public service broadcasters
  • NGOs that provide services that are not essential to the public
  • Essential online administrative functions of schools do not have to be accessible on the facility’s website if the same content is accessible elsewhere
  • Archived apps and web pages no longer need to be accessible if the content is no longer needed or used by the public
  • Third-party and user-generated content not funded by the public sector is excluded

The directive uses the requirements of the EN 301 549 standard to define technical conformance. Member states may extend coverage of the directive to other bodies beyond those defined. The directive also charges member states with certain responsibilities:

  • Training and education
  • Promoting authoring tools that produce accessible content
  • Monitoring the websites of covered entities for compliance

Once the directive goes through linguistic finalization and is approved by the Council and then by the Parliament (expected in autumn 2016), Member States must bring into force the laws, regulations, and administrative provisions necessary to comply with the Directive within 21 months. From the date those provisions go into effect, public sector organizations will have between 12 – 24 months for websites and 33 months for mobile apps to bring those assets into conformance. You can read the full provisional text here (PDF).