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Home  »  Resource Center  »  Country Profiles  »  White Paper - Web Accessibility Policy Making  »  Country Profile - European Union

Web Accessibility Policy Making:
An International Perspective

This document is an excerpt from the G3ict White Paper “Web Accessibility Policy Making: An International Perspective,” (Revised Edition 2012) researched and edited by Nirmita Narasimhan of Centre for Internet & Society, India, in collaboration with accessibility and disability policy experts from around the world. The paper seeks to identify some of the initiatives and best practices which have been adopted by 14 countries and the European Union as a first step towards policy formulation for countries.

You can read the full report here. View the complete list of publications and reports here.

European Union

The EU has adopted a charter of fundamental rights and an action plan designed to protect the rights of persons with disabilities and extend accessibility of IT products and services including web accessibility. The EU has also issued communications and adopted resolutions as well as action plans with the aim of providing increased accessibility to public websites and content as well as increased availability of IT products and services to persons in the EU. While guidelines comply with WCAG, the implementation of the same is still in progress. Further, applicability is still restricted to public sector agencies, products and services. The EU community has signed and ratified the UNCRPD but has neither signed nor ratified the Optional Protocol.

1. Overview:

The EU has several provisions for ensuring the accessibility of its institutions and websites.

  • The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights makes reference to people who are disabled. Article 21 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability, among others, and Article 26 provides explicit recognition of the rights of persons with disabilities and the need to ensure their independence, social and occupational integration and participation in the life of the community. However, there is no direct link established with web accessibility.
  • eEurope Action Plan 2002:60 This was a wide-ranging initiative designed to speed up and extend the use of the internet to all sectors of European society. The action plan sought to bring European citizens on-line in all aspects of their lives, allowing them to participate in and benefit from the possibilities offered by digital technologies. These actions are in line with the aims of the principle of nondiscrimination set up in the Treaty on the European Union. The plan recommended that all member states adopt the WCAG for their public websites.
  • Communication eEurope 2002-Accessibility of Public Websites and their Content:

Issued in 2001, this was followed by a Council Resolution of 25 March 2002 on the ‘eEurope Action Plan 2002: Accessibility of public websites and their content,' which stressed on the need for web accessibility in European institutions.

  • eEurope 2005 Action Plan: Launched in 2002, this had an objective of providing all citizens of the EU an opportunity to participate in the global information society. The action plan aimed at "stimulating secure services, applications and content based on a widely available broadband infrastructure".

i2010 Strategy Framework:

Launched in 2005, this was the EU policy framework for information society and media and aimed at promoting "the positive contribution that information and communication technologies (ICT) can make to the economy, society and personal quality of life". This framework also comprised the European Commission's Communication on e-Accessibility, which proposed a set of policies to foster e-Accessibility and exhorted its members and stakeholders to take voluntary positive action for making ICT products and services accessible to persons with disabilities and older persons in Europe.

  • "Measuring progress of e-Accessibility in Europe":

Commissioned in 2007, this report assessed the then prevailing status of the e-Accessibility situation in the member states; state of development of the policy in member states; and the future needs of a new policy or enhancements into current policy. The report of the Meacc Study states that only a small fraction of EU wide public websites conform to WCAG 1.0

2. Compliance with WCAG:

The plan fully complies with the WCAG 1.0 Guidelines but has not yet been implemented.

3. Applicability:

The resolution and action plan are applicable to public sector websites and their content in European Commission Member States and in European institutions.

4. Protocol for evaluating and monitoring:

In connection with the implementation of the eEurope Action Plan 2002 in the area of "Participation for all in the knowledgebased society," the High Level Group on Employment and the Social Dimension of the Information Society (ESDIS), which was composed of representatives from all the Member States, was mandated to monitor developments in the area. An eAccessibility expert group was set up to support the work of the High Level Group. The eAccessibility expert group has provided written and oral input to a review of progress of the Member States' adoption and implementation of the WCAG. This review describes a variety of approaches, plans and methods for using the Guidelines. The eAccessibility expert group has also agreed to organize a monitoring exercise among the 15 Member States. The eAccessibility expert group has played a role in identifying examples of good practice. Examples of such practice can be cited in areas that relate to the development and dissemination of information, training of personnel, monitoring of websites for compliance with the Guidelines, the improvement of existing websites, promotion of best practice, and the provision of support and assistance mechanisms for Web content developers.

5. Links:
• Charter of the Fundamental Rights of the European Union- Relevant Sections:

• Council Resolution of 25 March 2002 on the eEurope Action Plan 2002: accessibility of public websites and their content (2002/C 86/02)

• eEurope - An Information Society For All - Action Plan
Prepared by the Council and the European Commission for the Feira European Council

• Web Accessibility