Essentials of Web Accessibility Regulations for European Union

Web accessibility is now a global requirement in terms of website content development and usage, which aims at enabling easy access to website content to all including people with disabilities. To be more specific, web accessibility ensures that people with different abilities and disabilities also can perceive and understand the content and navigate through the web easily.

According to ‘UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ which has been accepted by the European Union, people with disabilities are those who suffer from impairment of normal physical, mental, sensory, or intellectual skills, which may hinder their interaction and active participation in the society as equal to the others.

Social interactions also cover the usage of the internet also whereas people with functional limitations have difficulties accessing the web content like others. Web accessibility regulations cover:

  • Those who suffers from temporary or permanent disabilities to physical, auditory, visual, and cognitive skills.
  • Older people.
  • Those with less literacy level.

Going a step ahead of the web accessibility requirements also cover the technology related limitations too as:

  • Cross-browser compatibility
  • Cross-device compatibility
  • Responsiveness, and
  • Environmental factors like illumination, place, noise, connection speed etc.

Requirements for EU websites

Across the EU, the public sector sites are needed to be accessible. As discussed at Siteimprove EU, The Action 64 of EU Digital Agenda is now focusing on mandating this need and makes all the public sector web content to be accessible to all including those who have disabilities.

On the other hand, there are no such requirements mandated for the accessibility of private websites now in the EU region. However, the UK is an exception where accessibility is followed by most of the websites as a mandate by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) under the Disability Discrimination Act. Outside the United Kingdom; however, many of the private organizations face no specific liabilities about the accessibility of their websites.

As per the EU mandates:

  • If there is any justifiable practical or technical reason for not being compliant with the WCAG 2.0 accessibility guidelines, these must be explained at the accessibility page.
  • All existing sites prior to WCAG 2.0 need to be compliant with it overtime and ensure minimum AA conform to these guidelines.
  • The pages must be designed to work across all available browsers, operating systems, devices, and variance of monitor color schemes and screen resolutions.
  • Websites have to be made based on the standards set by W3C and must be compliant with the HTML 4.01 and CSS 2.1 standards.
  • While the creation of the prototype of websites and during the content definition phase, WCAG 2.0 AA conformity should be ensured.
  • During the maintenance of a website, web accessibility compliance should be ensured at each update.
  • The websites which are fully compliant with the WCAG 2.0 level AA can also include compliance logo to publicize it.

However, it is a fact that the complete level AA compliance cannot be fully guaranteed even after continuous efforts towards accessibility. So, in case of any justified reason to be noncompliant with these guidelines, the Accessibility Compliance must explain such exceptions at the accessibility page.

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